A proposal by a Republican senator from Oklahoma could overturn U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to tighten mercury pollution standards for coal-fired power plants.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is warning the move, spearheaded by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., would threaten human health and penalize companies that have invested millions in technology to reduce mercury emissions.
“At stake in this vote are thousands of lives that could be saved,” said Thomas Cmar, attorney for the NRDC, on Wednesday.
Cmar said the 144 coal-fired power plants in the Great Lakes region produced 7,000 pounds of mercury in 2010, representing 25 percent of the nation’s total mercury emissions.
The EPA’s plan, Cmar said, would reduce mercury by 90 percent by 2015.
Cmar said Inhofe’s proposal, “would unfairly penalize companies that have already taken action to modernize their plants,” while rewarding those who have not maintained current standards.
Inhofe’s proposal would have to come to a vote by June 18 in order to move forward. His office this week claimed he has the support of 46 senators, but did not name them.