Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, joined by 40 of her Democratic women colleagues, on Wednesday released the following letter to President Barack Obama urging him to support the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed standards to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants, which the agency is expected to finalize next week.

The members highlighted the impact toxic air pollution, specifically mercury, has on women and children. According to the EPA, as many as 1 in 6 American women are at risk from toxic mercury that is released into the air by coal-fired power plants.

“With this letter, we’re sending a strong message to the White House,” Capps said. “The EPA’s proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards answer the demand of mothers and grandmothers like me who want safeguards in place to protect our kids — and future generations of kids — from toxic air pollution. For decades, big polluters have fought against Clean Air Act requirements to clean up their facilities. But our kids shouldn’t have to wait any longer for cleaner and safer air to breathe. The EPA is taking the right steps to protect our women and children’s health from harmful mercury and toxic air pollution, and the president should continue his support for these lifesaving efforts.”

The “Support Clean Air” campaign delivered to Capps’ office on Wednesday morning 19,000 postcards from constituents in nine states urging their members to support the EPA’s clean air rules. In addition to the record number of public comments sent to the EPA in support of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the postcards are another indication of the overwhelming public support for clean air protections.

Text of letter sent to President Obama:

December 13, 2011

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As women members of Congress, we write today in strong support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards to limit toxic air pollution from power plants. EPA is expected to finalize the standards this month.

For too long, mercury and other toxic air pollution has gone unchecked. Coal-fired power plants continue to be the largest source of mercury and other toxic air pollution in the United States. The hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollution these plants emit into the air every year pose severe risks to American families. These pollutants are linked to cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death. Mercury pollution is especially dangerous to young children, nursing mothers and women of childbearing age, affecting a developing child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn.

EPA’s proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are one of the most significant improvements in public health safeguards since the passage of the Clean Air Act amendments in 1990. These standards will prevent 91 percent of the mercury in coal burned in power plants from being emitted to the air. By 2016, these standards will save as many as 17,000 American lives every year and prevent up to 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma every year. In addition, these standards will help to avoid more than 12,000 emergency room and hospital visits and prevent 850,000 lost work days each year, once implemented. Americans across the country support cleaning up these plants and improving the health and lives of our children.

We can’t wait, Mr. President. These standards are urgently needed. It is time to require power plants to clean up the pollution that is inflicting such devastating damage to our health.

We urge you to move forward and support strong Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

— Ashley Schapitl is press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.