Court Blocks Bush Policy that Could Cause Neurological Injuries in 60,000 Newborns Each Year

A federal appellate panel found last week that the Bush Administration’s policy on relaxing controls on power companies would cause neurological injuries in 60,000 newborns a year. The unanimous panel (including Republican appointees) took the relatively rare step to strke down the EPA plan on mercury pollution as inimical to public health. The ruling also shows the real consequences to citizens in the Bush policies that consistently favor industry interests over public health interests.

Three years ago, the Bush EpA attracted considerable criticism for its emissions trading process under which some plants could avoid installing the best mercury control technology available by buying pollution credits. The Bush Administration insisted, implausibly, that it was not caving again to industry but was actually improving the environment. Notably, seventeen states joined environmentalists to fight the policy. Power plants are the biggest source of releases of mercury, which has been found to migrate through the food chain and cause damage to developing brains of both fetuses and young children. Mercury is a neurotoxin and has been found in dangerous levels in about 8 percent of U.S. women of childbearing age. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 60,000 newborns a year are at risk of learning disabilities due to the pollutant.

The media has largely ignored the ruling. The question is why so many self-professed “pro-family” members supported this and other policies that cause injury to children. There is also the question of why so many states stayed silent as seventeen states fought to protect their citizens. The states that fought this policy were New Jersey in the lawsuit were: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Is your state on the list? If not, why not?

This is only the latest judicial rebuke to the Bush Administration’s refusal to protect the health of citizens in its rush to yield to industry demands. The Supreme Court recently found that the Administration had improperly blocked efforts to deal with greenhouse gases and the Administration lost its efforts to block fuel emission reductions. The Administration has not given up on the policy and has fought earlier efforts by the court to force it to put public health first, click here

In this case, the Administration sought to protect industry from having to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent. Under the cap-and-trade approach, the industry would only have to capture 70 percent of emissions by 2018.

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