A version of this post originally appeared on Compass, a Sierra Club blog.
As the director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, I have to do a lot of traveling, which means spending more time than I would like away from my 2-year-old daughter, Hazel. Just the other day, I got home from a trip to find Hazel and her dad pretty exhausted after three days without Mom. I hope that someday, she’ll understand that I had to be away sometimes because I was working hard to protect her from the pollution that is a very real threat to her future.
For Hazel, I hope when she’s my age that the air and water are clean and safe, the mountains of her home state of West Virginia are still standing, and the threat of climate disruption has passed. I think that future is within our grasp, thanks to the work we are doing to move America beyond coal.
In the past year, we celebrated a historic victory that brought us much closer to that cleaner, safer future, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first-ever national mercury standards for coal-fired power plants. Believe it or not, while coal plants are our nation’s No. 1 source of mercury pollution, until this year, there were no national mercury standards in place for coal plants. None at all! Coal plants could just spew 100 percent of their toxic mercury into the air, which then made its way into our waterways and the fish that we eat.
These protections are long overdue, and will safeguard our families. According to the EPA, every year over 300,000 babies are born exposed to high enough levels of mercury to put them at risk of developmental problems, like lowered IQ and delays in walking and talking — problems that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Babies come into contact with this toxic mercury if their mothers eat a lot of certain species of fish, even before they become pregnant.
I was one of hundreds of thousands of moms and dads who worked hard to secure these new mercury protections, which were finalized in January. Now these safeguards are under attack, and we have to defend them.
Unfortunately, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is preparing to file a measure in Congress that would not only stop these mercury protections, but would also prevent the EPA from ever taking action on mercury again. Yes, you heard that right.
This Mother’s Day, my wish is that you will join me in taking action to defend these crucial mercury protections. I know all you moms and dads out there are busy, so we’ve made it simple for you — just click here to send a note to your senator. Our kids are counting on us, so it’s time to speak up in defense of these long-overdue safeguards from toxic mercury pollution.
Thank you. And happy Mother’s Day!