Polluting Democracy

Coal Plays Dirty on the Hill

Publication - July 18, 2011
This report provides a sampling of the actions of a bipartisan cadre of 15 politicians, who are among those in the House of Representatives working for America’s dirty and decrepit coal-fired power industry. These 15 members have tried to stop EPA from modernizing standards for pollutants that come predominantly from coal-fired power plants, including mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, greenhouse gases, and coal ash. Except for the one fresh- man, these members of Congress are in the top 25% of those receiving money from the fossil fuel industry. Many are in leadership positions within Congress. The actions reviewed for these 15 politicians were opposed to the health of people in their own districts.

The majority of the ancient US coal fleet has not installed easily available technology that could reduce mercury pollution by 90%. Coal combustion is responsible for most US mercury pollution. Mercury contributes to thousands of deaths annually and may adversely affect the development of over 400,000 babies per year. Mercury exposure is a serious problem for the lungs, brain, heart, stomach, kidneys, and immune system. Much airborne mercury often falls back to the ground and waterways within only 100 or so miles, but it can be re-emitted into the air, float down streams, and accumulate in animals since mercury cannot be digested.