Because all lives are precious, evangelical Christian opposes weakening mercury rules

The clock is ticking, and it’s time for Sen. Graham and Scott to stand up to the reckless actions of the Trump administration’s EPA that harm our children, both pre-born and born. On Feb. 7, a proposal to gut the highly successful Mercury and Air Toxic Standard, or MATS, by the Environmental Protection Agency was published in the Federal Register giving us until March 25, to comment on this foolish attempt to harm our kids.

Under MATS, South Carolina has realized an 83 percent reduction in mercury emissions. Mercury is a neurotoxin that, when ingested by pregnant women, crosses the placenta and results in irreversible brain damage in unborn children. The same impacts occur even after birth as mothers can transfer mercury through breast milk. There are no known safe levels of mercury, and even with the current success brought about by the MATS rule, our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans still contain harmful levels of this heavy metal.

Coal-fired electric utilities are America’s largest source of mercury. When emitted, the mercury deposits in our water bodies, is consumed by fish and enters our food stream. South Carolina’s waters are filled with mercury and there are fish consumption warnings in almost all our waters. The threat to our children is very much alive.

As an evangelical Christian, I believe that all human life is sacred; that each person conceived is of equal and innate value, and that all human life is worthy of protection. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to do all we can to protect unborn children from mercury poisoning. It is a pro-life concern, plain and simple.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has tried to downplay the changes, yet faith groups like ours, public health groups like the American Lung Association and even the utility industry are not fooled. With 99.9 percent of American utilities already having operational mercury removal systems, the utilities see a high dollar amount of stranded assets that will not be recoverable if the rule is gutted.

Perhaps the most damaging element of the whole effort, though, is that the proposed changes would exclude co-benefits or ancillary benefits from the rule’s cost-benefit analysis. This contradicts guidelines to federal agencies issued by the George W. Bush administration in 2003, which state: “Your analysis should look beyond the direct benefits and direct costs of your rule-making and consider any important ancillary benefits and countervailing risks.” If they are excluded in MATS, this would set a very damaging precedent.

Mr. Wheeler’s MATS revision does not square with our faith or the faith of millions of pro-life Americans. All God’s children deserve the right to “have life, and to have it to the full” (John 10:10). If Mr. Wheeler continues to undermine the mission of the EPA to protect human health, then we ask senators on both sides of the aisle to reject his nomination as EPA administrator.

Jeremy Summers of Clemson is chair of the board of The Evangelical Environmental Network.