I had a very disturbing conversation with one of the aides of Sen. Pat Toomey. I had called to express my disagreement with the senator's vote on a measure to strike down the Environmental Protection Agency's new rules on toxic smokestack emissions. The senator voted to prevent the implementation of the rule. It was not surprising for a senator who is a corporatist and one who had been employed as the chief cheerleader for the Wall Street crowd that gave us the economic mess out of which we are still trying to work. Fortunately, five Republican senators and all but five Democratic senators voted to protect our health. I was told that the senator felt that the rule would hurt Pennsylvania businesses. There was no expression of concern about the effect toxic pollutants have on the health of Pennsylvanians. There was also no expression of concern the effects that mercury has and will have on future Pennsylvanians. One-in-6 women of childbearing age have dangerous levels of mercury. One-in-10 babies is born with high levels of mercury. Thousands of people die prematurely as a result of air pollution. Acute attacks of asthma are also a result. This pollution costs us an estimated $78 billion a year in health care costs alone!
I was also presented with the canard that the bill would reduce jobs. Actually the opposite is true. Someone has to build, install and maintain the pollution control systems. It is also a distraction from the central issue of these new rules, the health of our fellow citizens.
I was told that the senator votes his conscience. This is the most disturbing thing I was told. This focuses on the matter of values. It is clear that the senator values corporate profits over public health. Companies are free to make a profit, but they should not be free to make a profit by externalizing their costs and spreading toxics into the environment. Yes, jobs are important, but they should not come at the expense of someone's health.
Jack D. Miller,