Protecting American Families and the Environment from Mercury Pollution

President Barack Obama announced new standards Wednesday that will cut mercury emissions from oil and coal-fired power plants by 90 percent. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized the first-ever national standards to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions – like arsenic, acid gas, and cyanide – from power plants, which are the largest sources of this pollution in the United States.

This crucial step forward will bring enormous public health benefits. By substantially reducing emissions of toxic pollutants that lead to neurological damage, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and other serious health issues, these standards will benefit millions of people across the country, but especially children, older Americans, and other vulnerable populations. Cumulatively, the total health and economic benefits to society could reach $90 billion each year.

When fully implemented, these new standards will, on an annual basis, help prevent:

  • Up to 11,000 premature deaths;
  • 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis;
  • 4,700 heart attacks;
  • 130,000 asthma attacks;
  • 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits; and
  • 540,000 days when people miss work or school.

At the end of the day, President Obama and Democrats believe that Americans have waited long enough for these common-sense standards and that it is now time to do what is right for the country.

Energy Committee Clears Bingaman Bill to Help N.M. Cleanup Abandoned Uranium Mines

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman has announced that legislation he introduced to allow New Mexico to spend federal funds to cleanup abandoned uranium mines has been approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That move clears the bill for full Senate consideration.

Under the existing Abandoned Mine Land (AML) program, the U.S. Department of Interior is authorized to collect revenue from coal companies for a fund that cleans up abandoned mines. Each state receives a share of the AML fund, but the Interior Department currently restricts the ability of states to use some of that funding to clean up non-coal mines. As a result, New Mexico has not been able to focus the funding on one of its priorities – to clean up uranium mines.

Bingaman’s legislation, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Tom Udall, makes clear that those funds can be used for non-coal cleanup, paving the way for New Mexico to tap into its $21 million over the next few years to clean up abandoned uranium mines.

“This bill would make it possible for New Mexico to tap into federal funds to clean up abandoned uranium minds in our state. I’m glad this bill has cleared its first hurdle and is now ready for approval by the full Senate,” said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and scheduled today’s vote.

“Many of these uranium mines were abandoned long ago but continue to have a big impact on the environmental health of our state and the physical health of its people. It is only right that New Mexico be able to use its share of funds from this program to address priority areas, and I am pleased to see this important bill gaining traction,” Udall said.

Also the Energy Committee approved legislation that Bingaman introduced that reauthorizes a program that allows federal land management agencies to sell surplus public lands and to reinvest those funds to purchase environmentally-sensitive lands.