Tuesday, October 25, 2011

American Lung Association: Schuette’s action lets polluters off hook, puts Michigan kids at risk

LANSING -- The American Lung Association recently lambasted Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette for standing up for big polluters in litigation aimed at blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward on updated standards to address toxic, life-threatening power plant pollution.

"The decision by Attorney General Bill Schuette and his counterparts in other states to stand up for polluters and to ignore the health of Michigan’s children is quite shocking," said Peter Iwanowicz, assistant vice president for the American Lung Association. "The job of an attorney general is to protect and advocate for the residents they serve. Attorney General Schuette has done the exact opposite by siding with big polluters over the health and well-being of our children and other vulnerable residents."

Earlier this month Attorney General Schuette joined attorneys general in 24 other states in demanding that the federal court prevent the EPA from enacting life-saving regulations designed to protect the public health. The group has asked for a one-year delay in the finalization of the EPA’s Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Rule. The rule, proposed by the EPA in mid-March 2011, was issued in response to a court decision compelling the agency to abide by the requirements set in the Clean Air Act. As part of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, Congress directed the EPA to set limits on power plant mercury and air toxics.

The EPA estimates that the regulations will "prevent serious illnesses and health problems for thousands of Americans, including: up to 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 asthma attacks, 12,200 hospital and emergency room visits, 4,500 cases of chronic bronchitis and 5.1 million restricted activity days."

"As a nurse, I’ve see firsthand how harmful pollution endangers lives," said Mary Scoblic, who has a master’s degree in pediatric nursing and has served on the ALAM (American Lung Association in Michigan) board since 1975. "There is nothing that rings the wake-up call louder than seeing a child gasping for breath because his lungs have been damaged by pollution. It’s the EPA’s job to protect all of us from dangerous pollution, and it’s our attorney general’s job to look out for our best interests."

Attorney General Schuette’s action comes as a report released by the Great Lakes Commission shows that mercury contamination in the Great Lakes is more widespread than originally thought, which presents a serious health issue in Michigan. The report underscores the need for moving ahead with the EPA proposal to reduce mercury and air toxics from power plants.

"There is no disputing that pollution and neurotoxins such as mercury have a devastating effect on children’s health," said Jan Roberts, a registered nurse and certified asthma educator. "Attorney General Schuette is turning back the clock on progress made to improve the air that fills our children and grandchildren’s lungs. Clean, healthy air is a necessity for all of us."

Editor's Note: The Sierra Club is asking concerned citizens to sign a petition to Attorney General Schuette and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow to ask them to protect families' health, not polluters' profits. Click here to sign the petition, which will be delivered in Lansing this Thursday, Oct. 27.

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