Yes, inhale those two all beef patties on a sesame bun alongside some buttery cookies and eggnog.
Rather, enjoy less mercury and other carcinogenic pollutants in your Big Mac, compliments of Congress and the EPA. The ridiculous back-and-forth over the payroll tax reduction extension has clouded a few notable victories for us spinach lovers.
One is compliments of the U.S. Senate. It’s not very often we thank the Senate, but this week, we should. Lost in the back and forth and back and forth over payroll tax reduction for two months vs. payroll tax for a year is the fact that the Senate managed to drop from its bill the provision indefinitely suspending any rule regarding pollution from industrial-sized boilers. That’s a big win (an 89-10 win to be precise), and one that hasn’t gotten much attention. You may be thinking, “Well, that’s great. Keystone is still in there.” And, you would be right. But, we still need to be grateful for each victory achieved–then press on to tackle those lingering beasts, like Keystone.
The other comes by way of the EPA and the EPA actually doing its job, despite the screaming of Republicans. Yesterday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the long-awaited utility MACT standard. This is one big MACT, all; thanks to the rule, utilities will finally have to meet certain pollutant thresholds for whole host of nasty toxins. If they don’t, they will have to install pollution controls (those usually take form of scrubbers). Those who can’t make the cut will get cut.
You will hear the utility companies and their well-paid allies scream that these rules will constrain their ability to provide power and that this will only hurt consumers they are trying to help. It’s almost funny (read: insulting) that they claim this. They have known about this rule’s forthcoming for more than two decades. They could have been planning for it, as two of our nation’s largest electricity providers—Old Dominion and Constellation—have been doing. Old Dominion and Constellation, recognizing that these rules were bound to take effect some day, installed controls on all of their plants. Impressive, huh? Yet, some groups chose to spend their money fighting, not complying. In fact, nearly 40% of plants in the country chose to disregard the possibility of this rule and have yet to install any form of pollution control. Let me repeat: a near majority of plants chose to ignore this rule for more than 20 years.
Their fighting comes at the expense of our health. The EPA estimates that this rule will prevent nearly 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year by 2016. While it may cost the industry an estimated $9.6 billion in compliance, it will ultimately reward the country with savings totaling $37 to $90 billion (think less health care costs, less missed days of work and school, etc.).
As for those plants taken offline, those are going to be the old plants where the cost of a new scrubber is more than the value of the plant. So from an economic perspective, it makes sense to take those plants offline (time for a long overdue update). Jackson estimates that in total, a mere 4.7 gigawatts of our nation’s 1,000 gigawatt capacity will have to shut down as a result of this rule. For those doing the math, that’s not quite one half of one percent.
Moral of the story: Don’t feel bad for the polluters as they whine, cry, and hate on the EPA and Congress. They’ve been coddled plenty throughout this whole process. It’s time for them to be big kids and clean up their mess.