WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to protect new air pollution rules targeting coal-fired power plants, rejecting an effort by Sen. Jim Inhofe to roll back limits on emissions of mercury and toxic chemicals.
Inhofe's bill failed by a vote of 46 to 53, after opponents argued that mercury and other air toxics posed dangers to pregnant women, children and the elderly.
“To Senator Inhofe and others, I say, respectfully, stop poisoning our children,” Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont Independent, said in a speech before the vote. “Let them grow up in a healthy way.”
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, has been working for weeks to secure enough votes to block the Environmental Protection Agency rules, which were finalized in December. Inhofe, a frequent critic of the agency, has charged that the rules are part of the Obama administration's “war on coal.”
After the vote, Inhofe said those who supported the EPA rule “are complicit in the millions of jobs that will be lost and the skyrocketing energy prices that will be forced on their constituents.”
The vote fell largely along partisan lines, though five Democrats joined with Inhofe, and five Republicans voted to oppose his effort. The White House opposed Inhofe's bill and warned of a veto.
The Democratic senators from West Virginia split on the vote, with Sen. Jay Rockefeller delivering stinging criticisms of the industry long associated with his state.