After Pro-Life Rally, Rep. Johnson Blasts EPA's Life-Saving Mercury Rule

January 23, 2012 3:49 pm ET — Brian Powell

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) spent his morning Monday speaking at an anti-abortion rally on the National Mall, delivering a message about the importance of prenatal life. But Johnson spent the latter part of his day on the floor of the House, accusing the president of waging a "war on coal" and complaining about Environmental Protection Agency regulations that protect the health of the children and pregnant women he had previously defended. To add insult to injury, a quick look at contributions to Johnson's political campaigns indicate that he's a significant beneficiary of coal industry money, a fact that casts doubt on how his priorities are arranged.

From Johnson's floor speech:

JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, here's the simple truth. The Obama administration is driven by a far-left liberal ideology rather than the facts. This administration says it wants to put America back to work, but through its policies is doing right the opposite.

For example, because of the EPA's new train wreck of regulation, up to 160 direct jobs will be lost with the accelerated closure of Beverly, Ohio's Muskingham coal-fired power plant. This train wreck of regulation is the most expensive regulation that the EPA has ever mandated. These costs will ultimately be passed on to hard-working families in the form of higher utility rates. This new disastrous regulation will also cost southern Ohio many indirect jobs related to the coal industry.

No matter how you look at it, the president has declared war on the coal industry and the jobs that go with it. It's time for this administration to get serious about creating real jobs, creating an energy policy that puts America first, and end its war on coal.


In fact, the EPA regulations — which limit emissions of toxic substances like mercury, arsenic and cyanide, among others — were mandated by Congress a full 21 years ago. According to the American Lung Association, the rule will help save thousands of lives every year. From USA Today:

"We're delighted," says Janice Nolen of the American Lung Association. "After waiting 21 years, it looks like we may actually have a rule that will help to save 11,000 lives a year and reduce exposure all across the country to a bunch of really toxic substances."

"It's hard to overstate the significance of this rule," says John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. "This is a generational achievement that marks America cleaning up dirty power plants once and for all."

The EPA rules' implications for fetal health are a primary reason that scores of faith-based groups have voiced their support for the regulations, challenging the position of Republican Members of Congress on pro-life grounds.

But Johnson doesn't seem overly concerned about the lives the rule would save. And while Johnson voices concern about the alleged vulnerability of the coal business, which provided 45 percent of the nation's electricity in 2010, he also happens to be pocketing quite a bit of money from the mining industry. He's already raised tens of thousands of dollars from the mining and electric utilities industries in this election cycle, and the two groups are among his top five campaign contributors.