A group that is usually a staunch supporter of Republican initiatives is throwing its weight behind new regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
An alliance of Catholics and evangelical Christians are coming out in support of new regulations limiting the emission of mercury into the atmosphere. Research suggests one in six U.S. babies are born with dangerously high levels of the neurotoxin and the Christian groups are linking that with their staunch support of the unborn to encourage elected officials to back the EPA's effort.
"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," said a woman identifying herself as 'Pastor Tracey' in an ad that aired in Tennessee.
The same ad was aired in multiple states with the same woman reading the same speech, except for slight modifications for the local senator and such.
The ads were produced by Rev. Mitchell Hescox's Evangelical Environmental Network.
He said 100 other faith leaders, plus the National Association of Evangelicals and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have joined him. Hescox and colleagues have visited dozens of members of Congress in recent years.
"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?" he said.
He also worries about the rising pollution in the country's lakes and rivers. Some 40 percent of the country's water ways are contaminated.
"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," he said.
Many utilities have already invested in equipment to scrub mercury from their emissions and the EPA said new rules would eliminate more than 90 percent of what remains.
But many utilities, including a group calling itself American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, are saying not so fast.
"This is the most expensive rule the EPA has ever written for power plants. According to the EPA's own analysis, this one regulation could coast as much as $130 billion," the wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama, published in the Washington Post. "The EPA doesn't have to destroy more jobs, unnecessarily increase energy prices and jeopardize electric reliability to make the air cleaner."
The group would rather see an industry-driven solution that allows power plants to be upgraded on their own timetable.