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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Evangelicals, Catholics Back Mercury Limits

Air Date: Week of December 16, 2011

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The Evangelical Environmental Network is running a campaign to limit mercury and the damage it causes to unborn babies. (EEN)

Mercury from power plants can be harmful to developing fetuses. In an unusual alliance that has the potential to shift pollution politics, Catholics and evangelical Christians opposed to abortion are joining forces with child health advocates to lobby for stricter limits on mercury pollution. Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: Well, for 20 years the EPA has been wrestling with regulating mercury. Most of the mercury in the environment comes from coal-fired power plants - and today one baby in six in the U.S. is born with dangerously high levels of the neurotoxin. Now the EPA is at last launching its new standards and a religious coalition is adding its voice to the debate. Living On Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports.

LOBET: An alliance of Catholics and evangelical Christians opposed to abortion has been pressing EPA to set limits on mercury to protect the neurological development of babies in utero. It’s airing ads like this in seven states.

[TV AD, PASTOR TRACEY: Coal burning power plants in our region have helped raise mercury levels in our waters, threatening the unborn with permanent brain damage. That’s why I am counting on Senator Alexander to defend the EPA’s ability to protect the unborn from mercury pollution.]

LOBET: The ads were produced by the Evangelical Environmental Network. Reverend Mitchell Hescox is president. He says 100 other faith leaders, the National Association of Evangelicals and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have signed on. Reverend Hescox and colleagues have visited the offices of dozens of members of Congress in recent years to lobby on the issue saying:

HESCOX: If their faith is important to them, and life is important to them, shouldn’t you be concerned about what mercury does to our unborn children?


Rev. Mitchell Hescox, now president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, at a National Day of Prayer in Washington.

LOBET: The issue of fetal health is not the only reason they’ve become involved in the mercury issue. The fact that 40 percent of the country’s lakes and rivers are contaminated with mercury, which rains out of the atmosphere and is taken up by fish, is also moving people.

HESCOX: So we’re just poisoning our God’s creation and we’re taking away the things like family fishing, recreational activities that many of us have enjoyed who are natural outdoors people.

LOBET: Many coal-fired power plants have already invested in the equipment that removes mercury from their emissions. The EPA says new rules would eliminate more than 90 percent of what remains. And an alliance of Evangelical and Catholic voters with children’s health advocates is a development that could prove formidable in pushing for action on pollution issues. For Living On Earth, I’m Ingrid Lobet

GELLERMAN: You can hear the full interview with Mitchell Hescox at our website LOE dot ORG.

 

Links

WEB EXTRA: Click here to listen to the full interview.

Evangelical Environmental Network TV, Radio Ads

Industry Study: Utilities Able to Comply with Mercury Rule

Open Letter by Utilities Who Oppose Mercury Limits

 

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