The U.S. Catholic bishops have given their support to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed standards to limit toxic pollution from power plants.
“Such standards should protect the health and welfare of all people, especially the most vulnerable members of our society, including unborn and other young children, from harmful exposure to toxic air pollution emitted from power plants,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in a June 20 statement.
The EPA proposed the standards in March 2011, saying they would keep 91 percent of the mercury found in coal from being released into the air and prevent nearly 17,000 premature deaths each year.
Since the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the EPA has been actively reducing mercury admissions from many of the highest-emitting sources. Until recently, however, this reduction effort did not include power plants.
Mercury can have many serious effects on the natural environment and on human beings. It is especially harmful to a child's developing brain, affecting memory, attention and motor skills. Toxic power plant emissions can also lead to heart attacks, bronchitis and asthma.
Bishop Blaire said the U.S. bishops supported the new standards because of the need to “care for God's creation” and protect the dignity of every human person, “especially the poor and vulnerable, from conception until natural death.”
Installation and operation of equipment needed to implement the proposed standards will create more jobs for American workers, according to the EPA. But the new standards will come at a cost to companies and consumers.
Bishop Blaire said that the short-term costs of implementation are outweighed by the significant health benefits involved.
He added that poor and vulnerable people should not bear “a disproportionate share” of the implementation costs, or the effects of toxic air pollution.