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Imperium Watch: Warming Denier Defeated

The EPA will have its chance to get mercury out of the air.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

You remember James Inhofe, the U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. Inhofe is the fellow who said global warming was the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.

Now, as the West burns up in forest fires and corn farmers in Iowa are desperate for rain, Inhofe is cranking up media appearances for his new book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. If you're worried about how global warming itself threatens your future, why, you're just "arrogant," according to Inhofe.

"My point is, God's still up there," Inhofe told an interviewer during a discussion of the book. "The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."

But the man who is arguably Capitol Hill's loudest climate change denier—and whose donations from the oil and gas industry by now have topped $1.3 million (aren't these stories all alike?)—got a kick in the seat of the pants last week as fellow senators voted down his proposal to deny the Environmental Protection Agency the right to regulate a toxic cocktail of mercury, arsenic, formaldehyde, chromium, nickel, acid gases and other air pollutants.

Five Republicans joined 48 Democrats to kill, 53 to 46, a resolution Inhofe had offered that would have invalidated the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard the EPA had finalized last December. As part of the process of developing the standard, more than 900,000 people or organizations commented on the proposed new rules; most favored reducing pollution. Four of the Republican senators voting against Inhofe's resolution were from the Northeast: Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. The other Republican who joined Democrats to defeat the resolution was Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney engaged in the same chameleon act he pulled with health care, opposing the EPA's new rules (while not explicitly supporting Inhofe's amendment), though as governor of Massachusetts he had supported anti-pollution measures similar to those in the new standards.

The EPA says the new rule would eliminate between 4,200 and 11,000 premature deaths, 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks and 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits a year nationwide. That's a large saving in human suffering, and in money laid out for health care. Harder to quantify is the benefit of reducing the amount of mercury that falls into our waterways, making prime food fish unsafe to eat.

Both the EPA and the Department of Energy agree that the new rules, which give power plants three years to comply with emission standards and four in special cases, will not cause a shortage of electricity in any part of the country. In the Valley, the new rules would apply to the Mt. Tom power station in Holyoke and the West Springfield Generating Station at 15 Agawam Avenue in West Springfield. The EPA estimates that the rules will prevent 130 deaths a year in the commonwealth.

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