Until very recently, MoveOn.org held the dubious honor of having produced the vilest enviro attack ad. In early 2010, the far-left political advocacy group ran a television spot insinuating that three Members of the Senate (including two Democrats who are also mothers) were forcing cigarettes upon pregnant women. Their crime was to have voted to rein in the EPA’s global warming power grab.
Move On was knocked off its perch upon the sleaze heap on October 12, when Environment Ohio issued an ad suggesting that Rep. Steve Stivers (Ohio) FED A BABY WITH A GERBER JAR FULL OF MERCURY. I’m not kidding! See for yourself.
According to Environment Ohio, Rep. Stivers’s wrongdoing was to vote for legislation that would “gut” the Clean Air Act. Presumably, Environment Ohio is referring to Rep. Stivers’s ‘yea’ vote for the excellent TRAIN Act, to which was included an amendment to delay the EPA’s pending mercury rule.
Does Environment Ohio’s allegation hold true? Is Rep. Stivers’s vote for the TRAIN Act—and, by extension, his vote against the mercury rule—akin to poisoning babies?
That’s what the EPA might allege, but such a claim is far-fetched. Emissions of inorganic mercury from coal-fired power plants are not a direct threat. To effectively endanger human health, these emissions first settle onto a body of water. Then, through an organic process called methylation, these deposited mercury emissions are converted by aquatic anaerobic bacteria into methylmercury. This toxic compound, in turn, gets incorporated into the food chain, where it bioaccumulates from plankton to fish to McCormik & Schmicks. Too much methylmercury can inhibit neurological development, which is why pregnant women are advised to eat no more than 2 portions of salmon per week.
To be sure, I’m no methylmercury expert. I got most of the factual information in the preceding paragraph from Wikipedia. However, I did read the EPA’s Technical Support Document, in which the agency explains why it is “necessary and appropriate” to issue the mercury rule, one of the most expensive regulations, ever. According to the EPA, mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants pose a threat to…America’s supposed population of pregnant, subsistence consumers of fish caught at inland freshwater bodies. And not just any pregnant, subsistence fisherwoman—the EPA only identified a mercury threat to a subset of this diminutive demographic:
- The top ten-percent hypothetical consumers;
- who only eat the top 25 percent largest fish (generally, the larger the fish, the greater the methylmercury bioaccumulation);
- and who also ignore state and local warnings posted along American rivers, about the dangers posed to pregnant women by self caught fish.
Unfortunately, the EPA doesn’t actually identify any such victims. Rather, their existence is assumed. The EPA states that, “we think that they [EPA assumptions about purported population of voracious, picky, pregnant fisherwomen] are reasonable and that fishing populations with these attributes are likely to exist and be active to some extent (p 2 of the mercury TSD).”
Hmm…”likely to exist” and “to some extent” are not terribly definitive. The EPA would have a much more compelling case if it could prove the existence of even one such person. I don’t think that’s too much to ask before the agency imposes a regulation that would cost scores of billions of dollars. If the agency were to locate this subset of America’s population of pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen (which is highly unlikely) then it would undoubtedly be scores of billions of dollars cheaper to provide (all three of) them with food stamps to Red Lobster.
Absent any concrete evidence that regulating mercury from U.S. coal fired power plants would actually help real human beings, I’m not inclined to buy Environment Ohio’s sleazy assertion that Rep. Stivers is feeding babies mercury.