By Fighting EPA Rules, Congress Valuing American Lives At Less Than $3,800

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Since they were first proposed nearly a year ago, Republican lawmakers have relentlessly attacked the EPA’s new power plant emissions standards.

Even this week, Senate Republicans introduced legislation that would not only roll back the new standards but, according to The Hill, would make it nearly impossible for the EPA to rewrite the rules for power plants. Though they claim the new legislation is “bipartisan,” only one Democrat signed onto it: Senator Joe Manchin from the coal state of West Virginia.

To put the EPA’s rules succinctly, these health and safety measures require existing power plants to reduce emissions with carbon capture technology, or by reducing total output. New power plants will be required to be built with technology that reduces emissions.

The Republicans object to these standards because they claim that they will destroy the coal industry and put thousands of Americans out of work, causing a devastating ripple effect throughout the national economy. It’s an age-old industry argument that never comes true, from the days when we abandoned whale oil, removed lead from gasoline or required seat belts in cars.

And a new report turns the Republicans’ “job killing EPA regulations” argument on its head. Think Progress explains:

Researchers at private consulting firm Industrial Economics and the University of Maryland-based Interindustry Economic Research Fund credit efficiency improvements and lower electricity bills with adding about 273,000 jobs over the next 26 years. The analysts project that the plan will add 74,000 jobs by 2020. The findings support the EPA’s contention that the Clean Power Plan will not hurt the economy.

The real reason for the objection from the GOP is that it will cost the coal industry a little bit of money. And if the industry has to spend money making their power plants less lethal, it might not be able to match the $5.6 million in campaign contributions that they gave to Republicans in 2014, or even the $7.7 million that they gave to Republicans in 2012.

Those campaign contributions come to a little more than $13.3 million in the last four years, and apparently that amount of money is worth more to the Republican Party than the collective lives of more than 3,500 American citizens. That’s how many lives a new study claims can be saved by implementing the new standards.

The New York Times has more on the new study, which was a joint effort between Harvard University and Syracuse University:

The health benefits of the rule would be indirect. While carbon emissions trap heat in the atmosphere, which contributes to a warming planet, they are not directly linked to health threats. Emissions from coal-fired power plants, however, also include a number of other pollutants, such as soot and ozone, that are directly linked to illnesses like asthma and lung disease.

Researchers calculated that the changes in the E.P.A. rule could prevent 3,500 premature deaths a year and more than 1,000 heart attacks and hospitalizations from air-pollution-related illness.

The Republican Party has put the value of an American life at less than $3,800. That’s the total amount of their recent campaign contributions from the coal industry divided by the number of lives that could be saved by these new rules. If you happen to live near a power plant, you should know how much your life is worth to your elected officials.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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