Communicating with Senate

About 50,000 people just communicated to their Senators that they've had it with coal companies polluting policymaking, and polluting their communities.

With their names on the petition, we dropped off a copy of the latest Harvard study on true cost of coal to every Senator's office.

We visited the offices of Senators from states devastated by coal mining, such as John Rockefeller and Mitch McConnell who represent West Virginia and Kentucky, where hundreds of Appalachian peaks have been leveled.

We visited the offices of Senators like Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) who take their cues from the polluter companies that paid for their election campaigns. We also dropped off the petition and Harvard study to Senators like Sherrod Brown (D-OH) who have been on the fence about whether carbon pollution from coal is dangerous enough to restrict now.

No Senator can honestly say that s/he doesn't know that coal may cost voters as much as $500,000,000,000 annually on top of the cost of electricity. Or that air pollution from burning coal kills up to 34,000 Americans every year.

For public health advocates this is going to be a busy two weeks of defense on Capitol Hill. We are faced with a government shut down on April 9th, when the 3-week budget extension expires. This affects anything the federal government funds, such as programs like Planned Parenthood, Food Stamps, and pretty much everything but national defense.

Leadership in both the House and Senate have vowed that the next budget bill will be good for several months at least. However, success means also defeating bills that may become riders being pushed by polluter-funded Senators and Representatives. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has promised votes this week on three such bills, all of which aim to keep EPA from doing its job to reduce pollution from coal.

Senator Inhofe wants to effectively abolish EPA as far as coal is concerned. If you know it was opposite day when he named it, Inhofe's CARE Act speaks for itself. Senator Rockefeller wants a two-year delay of restrictions on global warming pollution. He's pitching it as prudent, but the truth is that EPA is usually happy on its own to delay regulations.

EPA was told by the Supreme Court four years ago that the Clean Air Act obligates EPA to develop rules if greenhouse gas is deemed to endanger the public (as in causes catastrophic climate disruption). Rockefeller's bill to stall longer is really a foot in the door for a fossilized Congress to take back their vote on the Clean Air Act.