When it comes to clean air, we haven’t crossed the finish line yet

Dear Friend,

Yesterday, I joined Delawareans at one of my favorite annual events in the First State: the Caesar Rodney Half-Marathon. It was my 36th time running this race, but I never tire of celebrating the contributions of a former Delaware colonial president who once famously rode 70 miles through a thunderstorm to cast his tie-breaking vote in favor of independence. Fortunately, yesterday, we runners were blessed with much better weather than Mr. Rodney had that evening way back in July 1776.

Every year, the Caesar Rodney half marathon is not only a fun event for Delawareans, but one that also benefits the American Lung Association – a group that, like me, is passionate about finding public health solutions to protect clean air.

Last week, I testified at an EPA public hearing in Washington to defend a rule limiting toxic air pollution from power plants. Mercury and other air toxics, such as lead and arsenic, are hazardous to human health. These air toxics built up in our bodies and could lead to cancer, mental impairment and even death, and mercury pollution is especially risky for unborn children.

The “Mercury and Air Toxics Standards” – or “MATS” rule was established in 2012, and requires utilities companies to meet a 90 percent reduction of mercury pollution and a 50 percent reduction in other air toxic emissions. Today, every utility in the U.S. is in compliance. It was done faster than predicted, at a third of the costs. Consumer rates are lower than they were before MATS, and we’re already seeing the health benefits!

The MATS rule is particularly beneficial to Delawareans, as we live at the end of “America’s tailpipe.” Our state is the recipient of out-of-state coal emissions from old, dirty coal-fired power plants upstate in places like Ohio and West Virginia. The more those plants are allowed to pollute the air with harmful toxins, the more danger is posed to Delaware.

Unfortunately, EPA recently proposed action asserting it is no longer, “appropriate and necessary” to protect the public from one of our largest sources of mercury and air toxic emissions. This action effectively gut the legal underpinning of the MATS rule, opening the door for future lawsuits to vacate the rule entirely.

Fortunately, there is bipartisan concern about this. On the same day that I testified in front of EPA, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and I sent a letter, along with a number of Democrat and Republican senators from coal states and non-coal states, urging EPA to withdraw its dangerous proposal.

Every year, the Caesar Rodney race rejuvenates me, and helps me keep focused on what I’m fighting for in Washington. And the American Lung Association does such great work in making our air cleaner, but we’re not across the finish line yet. We can’t stop now.

I promise I will keep working in a bipartisan way to ensure clean air to breathe for every Delawarean and every American.