Opinion | Energy & Environment

Pro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

 

Today, over 145,000 pro-life Christians from across the country - including over 94,000 from states that voted for President Trump - are calling on the Trump administration to stop its efforts to dismantle protections that defend children in the womb from mercury pollution: the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS). Dismantling these protections is wrong, and it does not square with our faith or the faith of millions of pro-life Americans. 

Children in the womb are uniquely vulnerable to mercury - a potent neurotoxin - because a protective shield around the developing child's brain, called the "blood-brain barrier," is not fully formed until the first year of life.  Mercury passes across the mother's placenta, enters the bloodstream of her child and then into the developing child's brain, causing brain damage, developmental disabilities, neurological disorders, lowered intelligence and learning difficulties.

Defending "sensitive" populations such as children in the womb is precisely why Congress included provisions in the 1990 Clean Air Act to deal with toxic air pollutants like mercury. In its reaffirmation of the Mercury Rule in 2016, the EPA was quite clear that it understood Congress's intent; these provisions in the law exist, EPA said, to address "the risk to the most exposed and most sensitive members of the population."

But now the Trump administration's EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, is attempting to dismantle the policy that made this progress possible. What will be the end result? Mercury in our children's brains. This is the exact opposite of the mission of the EPA - to protect human health.  

To date, The EPA's mercury standards have been a resounding success. Mercury pollution from power plants has declined by at least 81 percent, while women with damaging levels of mercury in their blood has been cut in half.

The major utility groups, relevant unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce all support leaving the mercury standards in place, even sending a letter to the EPA urging the agency to leave the standards alone. Think about it, when have these groups ever joined forces? 

Moreover, a group of six key senators, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.0 and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), also sent a letter to Wheeler opposing "any action that could lead to the undoing of the Mercury Rule" and urging him to withdraw the proposal to dismantle these protections. 

So, why dismantle these lifesaving protections? The Trump administration is seeking to diminish the inclusion of so-called "co-benefits" or ancillary benefits in future cost-benefit analyses of proposed environmental protections. In the case of the mercury standards, the co-benefits included the reductions of soot and smog. This attempt to eliminate the consideration of co-benefits runs counter to guidelines to federal agencies issued by the George W. Bush administration in 2003, which states: "Your analysis should look beyond the direct benefits and direct costs of your rulemaking and consider any important ancillary benefits and countervailing risks."

As pro-life Christians, we believe that all human life is sacred; that each person conceived is of equal and innate value and dignity, and that all human life is worthy of protection. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14). The psalmist wrote, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13). 

Today is the last day for the public to comment on the proposed mercury rule, and we are submitting messages from 145,126 pro-life Christians asking Wheeler to keep these protections in place. The Trump administration can never, ever convince us that mercury in a child's brain is a good thing.

All of God's children deserve the right to "have life, and to have it to the full" (John 10:10), and we call on the Trump administration to repent by leaving our mercury protections alone.

Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox is president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network. Follow him on Twitter @mitch_at_EEN ‏.

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