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Mr. KERRY. Madam President, I talked about this phenomenon yesterday on the Senate floor, and today we have even more evidence of what I was talking about: a reckless assault on our environment given new life by the resolution before the Senate today. We are being asked to sacrifice the health of men, women, and children, all for the sake of the coal industry, a move that makes people sicker, denying Americans their right to a healthy environment to live in and raise their children.
No one who cares about the health of our citizens, the health of our economy, and the health of our planet should support this resolution. They should be outraged that we are even having this kind of debate. The Congressional Review Act resolution before us would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency's mercury and air toxics standards, or MATS, for powerplants. Let's be clear what that means. It means the EPA would be prevented from adopting meaningful replacement standards to protect Americans from mercury and some 80 other toxic air pollutants that cause cancer and other health hazards. Let me repeat. These pollutants are known to cause cancer and other health hazards.
The science is unequivocal and has been for years mercury is a known neurotoxin that can have a devastating effect on the brain and nervous system of a developing child, reducing IQ and impairing the ability to learn.
We know the effects of mercury, and we know its source. Coal and oil-based powerplants constitute the largest manmade source of mercury emissions in the United States--they are responsible for half of the mercury emissions in America. They also emit more than 75 percent of the acid gas emissions and 25 percent of toxic metals lead, arsenic, chromium, nickel. We are talking about some really toxic pollution that is known or suspected to cause cancer and cardiovascular disease, damage to the eyes, skin, and lungs. It can even kill.
Under EPA's MATS, utilities will be regulated for mercury and these other toxics for the first time in our Nation's history. These standards are more than a decade overdue, so it is way past time to end the free ride the polluters have been enjoying. Now, I understand my colleagues are peddling the message that the EPA is waging a ``war on coal.'' But they are just trying to distract us from the facts, and the fact is the EPA is simply doing its job and following the law. It is no more complicated than that. There is no conspiracy and no secret agenda. Their job is to protect Americans, and that is exactly what they are doing.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to regulate emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. The EPA employs a process that requires the use of ``maximum achievable control technology.'' In other words, the standards are feasible, they are based on what industry leaders are already doing. EPA estimates more than half of coal-fired units have equipment installed that can help meet the standards. Roughly 55 percent of our electricity is from nuclear, natural gas, and renewable energy sources, and they are not subject to the rule's provisions. And for those that need more time to comply, EPA allows them up to 4 years. It is beyond reasonable.
And this is hardly a ``war on coal.''
MATS will reduce mercury emissions from powerplants by more than 90 percent, acid gases by 88 percent, and reduce emissions of more than 80 air toxics. It will also significantly reduce particulate matter, or PM, emissions that can trigger asthma attacks and damage the lungs. In fact, the combined health benefits are staggering. Beginning in 2016, EPA estimates that the standard would prevent each year 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, 5,700 hospital and ER visits, and 540,000 missed work and school days.
Let me bring these numbers a little closer to home. EPA estimates MATS would prevent 130 premature deaths each year and up to $1.1 billion in health benefits in 2016.
In total, annual estimated benefits are $37 to $90 billion compared to compliance costs of $9.6 billion. That is an amazing return on investment--for every dollar spent, we will realize $3 to $6 in health benefits.
As a member of the Senate, it is my responsibility to make sure that the children of Massachusetts begin life with a fair shot, and it is my duty to protect the most susceptible, including the 128,000 kids and 531,000 adults with asthma in my home State. To put this issue in focus, one of my constituents, the mother of an asthmatic girl, has said: ``Any person who would say that EPA should be eliminated or its ability to regulate reduced should have to sit in the emergency room holding the hand of a child who can't breathe.''
Some Senators argue that the EPA standard is a job killer. Not true. The fact is it will create 46,000 short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term jobs in the utility sector to help build, install, and then operate emissions control equipment.
Some Senators say the rule requires too much, too fast. Not true. Look, the rule has been more than a decade in the making. Any shrewd businessperson would see the writing on the wall and develop their business plan accordingly. And many utility companies already have acted accordingly.
Some Senators say it costs too much to comply and will shut down powerplants, that these rules combined with others will threaten the reliability of the energy grid and dramatically increasing energy costs for consumers. Not true. Numerous reports from EPA, DOE, and CRS state otherwise. According to CRS, ``almost all of the capacity reductions (from the rule) will occur in areas that have substantial reserve margins..... The final rule includes provisions aimed at providing additional time for compliance if it is needed to install pollution controls or add new capacity to ensure reliability in specific areas. As a result, it is unlikely that electric reliability will be harmed by the rule.''
And in terms of the rule's actual impact on the economy, it is likely to be extremely limited. The retail price of electricity is on average estimated to increase about 3 percent, mainly due to the increase in demand for natural gas. This seems a small price to pay for the massive health and economic benefits I have already highlighted.
We should understand that if we pass this CRA today, we are not guaranteed a do-over. The CRA explicitly prevents EPA from developing a rule to regulate mercury and air toxics from powerplants that is ``substantially the same'' as the invalidated rule. Translation: It would be nearly impossible for EPA to develop another rule to regulate these pollutants. Industry would have you believe otherwise so that you can vote to pass the CRA with a clear conscience. It is a disingenuous effort, and I sincerely hope that my colleagues will see through it.
Mr. President, it is tragic that polluters want to deny a right as basic as clean, healthy air. And it is tragic that anyone, especially a member of the Senate, would refuse to protect even children and the unborn from poisons. I urge the Senate to turn back this political assault on our environment and support standards that will do so much good for so many Americans. Anything else would be turning our backs on the people we are here to serve.
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