Vermont Senators Sanders, Leahy praise EPA on power plant pollution

first_imgUS Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) today praised the Environmental Protection Agency for forcing coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce emissions. Leahy Statement: “I commend the Environmental Protection Agency for doing the right thing, under tremendous special interest pressure, in standing up for the public’s interest.  The Utility Air Toxics Rule to control toxic air pollutants such as mercury is a health and environmental breakthrough for the American people, and especially for Vermonters.  Finally, after 20 years of dodging regulation, coal- and oil-fired electric power plants, the largest contributors of these toxics, will be held accountable for the pollution they emit, just as many other industries are.These controls are particularly important to Vermont, which is why I have long fought to reduce mercury pollution and protect public health.  Though we have no major sources of mercury, we are on the receiving end of much of the rest of the country’s pollution.  So much, in fact, that the mercury data crucial to the development of this rule came from the atmospheric monitoring station at Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center, for which I secured funding.  Unfortunately, deep budget cuts will hamper EPA’s data gathering from this location, making it difficult for the EPA to get the full swath of information needed to keep the public safe, and informed.In Vermont, the devastating effect of all this mercury pollution is most evident in our waterways.  While we celebrate greatly improved fishing on Lake Champlain, we also know that large game fish from every water body in Vermont, including Champlain, are so heavily contaminated with out-of-state mercury that Vermonters are warned against eating them. That needs to change, and these new actions will help.Pollution control technology is already widely available, affordable, and in use at many plants nationwide.  We cannot allow outdated technology to endanger lives and stifle the innovation, investment and productivity that new technologies offer.  It is time for those older power plants that have failed to install this life-saving technology to catch up with the 33 percent that already comply with all of EPA’s emission limits, and with the 60 percent that already comply with EPA’s mercury limit. Without these safeguards, the public would continue to shoulder the cost of dirty industries, with their health, their children’s health, and sometimes with their lives. These poisonous emissions lead to more than 17,000 premature deaths every year, and they compromise our children’s brain development.  But with clear and effective Clean Air Act rules, we see tremendous benefits: cleaner air, healthier and more productive citizens, and the creation of thousands of good-paying clean jobs.  Skilled laborers are standing ready to fill the 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs that the Utility Air Toxics Rule will create.  This is about five times more jobs than the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline would employ.  And unlike the pipeline, these clean air improvements do not gamble with the public’s health and our environment.For the hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering from heart attacks, bronchitis, asthma attacks and even worse, the EPA must act now to implement the Utility Air Toxics Rule.  We have the opportunity to create thousands of jobs that will make this nation safer and cleaner.  I look forward to fewer poisonous power plant emissions drifting over us to settle in Vermont’s backyards.” Sanders Statement: ‘I strongly support the Clean Air Act standards announced today that will slash toxic air pollution, such as mercury and arsenic, from our nation’s power plants,’ said Sanders, a member of the Senate environment committee. ‘We know from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that mercury can cause brain damage and is particularly harmful to infants and young children. We also know that installing the necessary pollution control scrubbers and equipment will create jobs as we update our power plants. This clean air rule is long overdue, and I commend EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for protecting our families’ health and wellbeing,’ Sanders added. Sanders and other senators sent a letter to the White House on December 16 urging President Obama not to delay implementation of the rule. Power plants that have not installed equipment to reduce emissions are the largest remaining source of uncontrolled toxic air pollution in the United States. The EPA rule would prevent the release of about 90 percent of the mercury in coal and cut emissions of other toxic substances, such as arsenic. Medical experts estimated that the rule would prevent 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year, prevent 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and result in about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. Enforcing the stricter rule, Sanders said, also would create an estimated 46,000 short-term construction jobs and result in 8,000 permanent jobs. 12.21.2011last_img read more

The Conservative Playbook for Keeping ‘Dark Money’ Dark

first_imgBy Robert Faturechi, ProPublicaHow do you stop states and cities from forcing more disclosure of so-called dark money in politics? Get the debate to focus on an “average Joe,” not a wealthy person. Find examples of “inconsequential donation amounts.” Point out that naming donors would be a threat to “innocents,” including their children, families and co-workers.And never call it dark money. “Private giving” sounds better.These and other suggestions appear in internal documents from conservative groups that are coaching activists to fight state legislation that would impose more transparency on the secretive nonprofit groups reshaping U.S. campaign finance.The documents obtained by ProPublica were prepared by the State Policy Network, which helps conservative think tanks in 50 states supply legislators with research friendly to their causes, and the Conservative Action Project (CAP), a Washington policy group founded by Edwin Meese, a Reagan-era attorney general.Dark money is the term for funds that flow into politics from nonprofit groups, which can accept donations of any size but, unlike political action committees, are not required by federal law to reveal the identities of their donors. The anonymity has been upheld by courts that cite as precedent a 1958 Supreme Court ruling that the state of Alabama could not demand that the NAACP turn over a list of its members.Since 2008, dark money groups have spent more than $690 million in federal races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A single group aligned with Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio helped buoy his standing in Iowa before Monday’s caucuses with $1.3 million in ads.The same story is playing out on the state level. During the 2014 election cycle, 40 nonprofits spent $25 million on TV ads about state races, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. That represented 3 percent of total ad buys, almost double the proportion that dark money paid for in 2010.This year, 38 states are considering bills relating to disclosure, according to a database compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some have already adopted rules. In 2014, California began requiring nonprofits that engage in campaign activity to live by many of the same disclosure regulations as traditional political committees. Montana decided last year that politically active nonprofits would have to disclose donors, and report any electioneering communications within 60 days of votes being cast.A memo distributed by CAP in January to conservative activists highlighted new disclosure rules being considered in Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington, as well as ethics bills in South Carolina and Texas that contain disclosure provisions.Groups that are throwing their resources behind stricter campaign finance regulation include Common Cause, which has offices in 36 states, and the Democracy Alliance, an invitation-only organization composed of wealthy liberal donors. According to CAP, though, the initiatives to require disclosure not only pose a threat to free speech but also to the very existence of the nonprofits.“This well-coordinated, well-funded effort to require conservative nonprofits like yours to divulge the names and addresses of your donors is all part of a plan to choke off our air supply of funding,” the group said in the memo.The memo was signed by many leading voices on the political right, including anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist; top officials at Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers political network; the Family Research Council; the Council for National Policy; and Heritage Action for America. It describes conservatives as “a persecuted class” and compares labeling private donations “dark money” to calling private ballots “dark voting.”The State Policy Network, which on its website calls pro-regulation activists “enemies of debate,” distributed its documents at a conference held last fall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The material includes a map of cities and states considering measures to “force disclosure of charitable giving” and a set of “questions that help people see the consequences of public disclosure.” Among them: “Do you think the government should be able to take down names and addresses of Americans and who they donate to? Do you think people should be targeted for expressing their opinions?”The organization also urges its supporters to choose the right phrases to color the debate, shunning terms such as “activist,” “anonymous” or “dark money” in favor of “private giving,” “censor” and “silencing dissent.” Under the header “Framing the Issue,” a man is pictured with tape over his mouth.Other documents give conservative activists tips on where to look for “efforts to stifle free speech,” for example in bills that deal with corruption or ethics, or that define electoral activity. “More than a dozen states have considered or passed legislation that changes the definition of electioneering communications to include the everyday activity of non-profit groups, like issuing a non-partisan voter guide,” one briefing says.Meredith Turney, a spokeswoman for the State Policy Network, said in an interview that along with the materials provided to members, the organization is alerting nonprofits regardless of political orientation that the proposals would interfere with privacy and free speech.“These laws will impact groups from Planned Parenthood to The Heritage Foundation and start-up movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter,” Turney said.Arizona Democratic state senator Martin Quezada, who has been pushing dark money disclosure legislation since last year, said his goal is to let voters know which special interests might have influence over a candidate.“My bill in no way limits anyone’s free speech. It doesn’t say they can’t spend that money. They’re free to spend that money all they want. It only requires that if you’re going to spend that money, you have to tell us who you are,” Quezada said.The CAP memo also warns activists to snuff out a burgeoning alliance in some states between liberal groups seeking more disclosure and Tea Party-like conservatives who often oppose the Republican establishment. “The Left has turned the transparency concept on its head to dupe conservative legislators and well-meaning Tea Party groups to help advance their initiatives,” the memo said, citing a 2014 Tallahassee voter campaign finance initiative that capped contributions in city races at $250 and established an ethics office.“Transparency is for government,” the group reminded conservative activists. “Privacy is for people.”Dan Backer, a lawyer who signed the CAP memo, said the group’s organizing should be a warning to advocates of stricter campaign finance rules that his side will use “a variety of means” including litigation to preserve the privacy of donors. Backer helped bring the 2014 McCutcheon case in which the U.S. Supreme Court removed aggregate limits on direct contributions, which along with the 2010 Citizens United decision set the stage for a new flood of money into politics. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter. Related stories: For more of ProPublica’s coverage of politics and lobbying, check out our ongoing series, The Breakdown.center_img Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York last_img read more