Guest Post: Pennsylvanians Don’t Have a Friend in Senator Toomey

NWF   |   March 7, 2012

Ed Perry is an aquatic biologist who retired in 2002 after a 30-year career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, where he supervised the section responsible for protecting streams and wetlands. Since 2007, has traveled across Pennsylvania as an advocate for the National Wildlife Federation’s global warming campaign, educating hunters, anglers and conservationists about the effects of climate change on Pennsylvania’s fish and wildlife.

Last Thursday, I was joined by a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, a life member of the National Rifle Association, a young woman being home-schooled, a fly fisherman, the director of the Lackawanna River Corridor Association, Penn Future, and members of Occupy Scranton at a rally in front of Sen. Patrick Toomey’s (R-PA) district office in Scranton.

Ed Perry and Pennsylvania sportsman Ed Zygmunt rally outside Sen. Toomey's office (John Doneghy)

We were there to protest the senator’s unflagging support for the fossil fuel industry. In the two years Sen. Toomey has been in office, he has repeatedly voted against the interests of his own constituents.  For example, last November he voted to gut provisions of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would curb smog and particulate-forming pollution from power plants in 27 states in the eastern half of the country.  Since air pollution is a significant health threat to Pennsylvanians, and we live downwind from hundreds of coal and oil-fired power plants, you would think he would have joined other moderate Republicans to support this rule.  But once again, the senator supported the fossil fuel industry.

He also cosponsored a bill that would have prohibited EPA from ever taking action on climate change.  He supported this bill despite a letter to congress from the prestigious National Academy of Sciences pointing out that climate change was real; we are the cause of the increased temperatures above natural levels; and there is an urgent need for action.

The senator even objects to EPA’s plan to reduce mercury emissions from cement plants, the third largest source of mercury pollution.  You know, it’s hard to believe anyone would be opposed to reducing mercury in the atmosphere.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is carried by the wind, rain, and snow to all points of the globe, where it has been found in everything from salamanders to polar bears.  Once it’s deposited in lakes and streams, microorganisms convert it to methylmercury, a highly toxic form which bioaccumulates in aquatic life.  Eventually, upper levels of the food chain, like walleye, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, rock bass, and largemouth bass accumulate mercury in their tissues to unsafe levels.

Unfortunately, upper levels of the food chain includes us, and eating fish is the way most of us are exposed to mercury.

Mercury is so pervasive that 1 in 6 women of childbearing age has blood mercury levels that exceed those considered safe by the EPA for a developing baby. This amounts to approximately 630,000 babies born every year at risk of developmental problems because of prenatal mercury exposure.

Pennsylvania is fortunate that Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) has joined with other senators to block these attacks on sensible rules to protect our health and environment.

If you go to Sen. Toomey’s web site, you’ll see a button asking you to let him know if you’ve Had Enough, and asking for stories about government over-regulation.  Let’s inundate the senator with comments about how we’ve Had Enough of him supporting the fossil fuel industry and how we’ve Had Enough of him voting against regulations that protect our health and environment.