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Sierra Daily

Jun 20, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

Elle portrait_052OK, it was an unfair competition. On the one hand you have supermodel/supermom Elle Macpherson posting an op-ed on CNN.com in support of the Obama administration's new air-toxics standards that would cut mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants by 90 percent. She writes:  

Although I do my best to be sure my two sons grow up healthy, strong, independent and responsible, I cannot control what is in the air they breathe. Right now, millions of kids across this country breathe in pollution pumped into the air by coal-fired power plants. This can impair a child's development and cause asthma attacks,the No. 1 reason kids miss school.

Macpherson concluded with an urgent political pitch:

Unacceptably, however, these landmark protections are under attack in Congress. On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on whether to overturn the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.This shortsighted legislation goes so far that it would prevent the EPA from ever acting on this issue again.


Behind those attacks was Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. As Macpherson noted, his proposed "Congressional Review Act" would have not only blocked implementation of the new air safeguards, but would have permanently barred the EPA from addressing the issue in the future. Nearly 100 U.S. mayors wrote in support of the mercury standards, which the EPA projects will prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths.

This morning, senators faced the choice between siding with Macpherson or the curmudgeonly Inhofe. Only 46 voted against the new standards, while 53 supported them. Among those supporters was West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller, who has in the past opposed regulation of coal-plant emissions. "Wonder if Elle MacPherson was key to convincing Rockefeller to vote against Inhofe on mercury?" tweeted Charleston Gazette columnist Ken Ward, Jr. (@Kenwardjr). Whatever works, I say.

Macpherson photo by Regan Cameron. Inhofe photo courtesy inhofe.senate.gov

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

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