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Showing a Father's Love by Protecting Our Children's Health

Whether we are Democrats, Independents, or Republicans, we're still fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. So let us continue to lead the way by following that Golden Rule every day and let us work together across our nation to keep the Clean Air Act resilient and strong.
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Over the years, I've had a lot of different jobs -- newspaper boy, dish washer, naval flight officer, Amtrak board member, Governor and chairman of the National Governors Association -- just to name a few. But my most cherished job -- and frankly my most important job for that matter -- is being a father. I have been blessed with three wonderful sons who make me proud and thankful every day. As we celebrate this Father's Day, I've been thinking that "father love" isn't talked about often as "mother love" -- but it is just as powerful. Like many dads I know, I've long been motivated in all aspects of my life by my love for my children -- and my desire to make the world better a better place for them, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren .

Unbeknownst to a lot of us, our children actually listen to just about everything we say and, even more so, watch everything we do. They notice the choices we make and the company we keep. They hear us talk about playing by the rules and about treating others the way we would like to be treated, but they watch carefully to see if we actually practice what we preach -- and notice if we play fair and really do follow the Golden Rule. They hear us talk about chores, homework, and responsibility, but they watch to see if we actually pitch in and do our fair share.

It strikes me that much of our country's ongoing efforts to clean up air pollution is about playing fair, and doing our share. In my home state of Delaware, we've done our homework and worked hard and, as a result, we've made great strides in cleaning up our own air pollution. Unfortunately, a number of the upwind states to the west of us have not made the same commitment to reducing harmful pollution by investing in cleaner air. Some of those states have even built taller smokestacks so their pollution would fall -- not on them -- but on downwind states like us, keeping their air clean while making our air dirty, polluting our environment and making our children sick. In fact, 90 percent of Delaware's air pollution comes actually from our neighboring states. This pollution is not only dangerous to our hearts, lungs and brains but it costs us a great deal in hospital bills. And some of this air pollution -- like poisonous mercury -- settles into our streams and our fish not only for this generation, but for generations to come. That doesn't sound much like the Golden Rule to me, because even though we're doing our part to protect our air and public health, our neighbors are not, yet we're the ones who end up suffering due to their actions.

Fortunately, we have federal clean air protections -- established by the Clean Air Act -- that were forged through a strong commitment by both Democrats and Republicans who believed that playing fair and doing our share when it comes to cleaning up America's air was profoundly important. The Clean Air Act, signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970 and updated in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, was approved each time by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. This landmark law to protect public health and the environment has proven time and again to be a success. In fact, I'm told that our federal clean air law delivers $30 of health savings for every dollar our nation invests in clean air. Not a bad return on our investment. Moreover, the Clean Air Act has led to the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs in new technologies, developing clean air solutions that American businesses are exporting to other nations around the globe. And, the bipartisan vision embodied in the nation's clean air laws has been translated into healthier, longer and more productive lives for hundreds of thousands of children in Delaware and millions more across America.

While much of the Clean Air Act has been in place protecting and improving the health of Americans for years, some key aspects of the law have never been implemented because of ongoing court battles, including requirements to reduce deadly mercury and other toxic air emissions. Last December, after decades of delay and the failure of Congress to act, the Environmental Protection Agency finally implemented Clean Air Act protections to require dirty coal power plants to clean up their mercury and deadly air toxic emissions through something called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule.

By targeting our nation's largest sources of mercury emissions, this regulation addresses the primary source of the problem by requiring large polluters to curb mercury emissions by 90 percent. This step will reduce the mercury that contaminates our streams, lakes, and oceans, pollutes our fish and is harmful to public health, especially our children's health. In implementing these long overdue regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency has provided a reasonable and achievable schedule for our power plants to reduce these harmful emissions.

Delaware's power plants already meet these standards and so do half of the power plants in this country. Most communities will see great benefits from these rules. In fact, nationally we will see up to $90 billion in public health benefits. As someone who has tried for years to work across the aisle to find a way to clean up our nation's power plants, I welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to finally act to address these harmful emissions.

Regrettably, some of my colleagues don't share my appreciation for the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to protect public health and the environment, and they want to act to prevent these efforts from moving forward -- despite court orders requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to do just that. I find it amazing -- as well as misguided -- that some in Congress would seek to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from following through on a law passed by Congress 22 years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency is merely doing what we in Congress told them to do -- over two decades ago -- and their efforts will reduce harmful pollution that will improve not just our health but our children's health and that of our children's children.

In the next week or so, I expect my colleagues in the Senate who disagree with the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to reduce harmful mercury and toxic air emissions will insist on holding a vote to prevent the Agency from moving forward with this clean air provision. I will strongly oppose this last ditch effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job and moving forward to reduce these deadly emissions. My decision to oppose this effort isn't solely based on the fact that I'm a father, but knowing that the implementation of this rule at long last will positively impact the lives and health of my sons and that of their children weighs heavily on my mind.

This weekend, as we're celebrating Father's Day, I'm sure a number of us will ask: 'What is father love?' For me, 'father love' means not having to say to the next generation of Americans, "We're sorry. We let you down." Instead, it means leaving a legacy that ensures my sons, their children, and their children's children will have cleaner water to drink, cleaner air to breathe and a healthier environment in which to enjoy the blessings of our liberty.

Our children really do hear us talk to them and to others but, more importantly, they're watching us to see if we also walk the walk. Whether we are Democrats, Independents, or Republicans, we're still fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. So let us continue to lead the way by following that Golden Rule every day -- treating our neighbors as we would want to be treated -- and let us work together across our nation to keep the Clean Air Act resilient and strong. Our children -- and their children -- are counting on us.

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