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As a pediatric pulmonologist treating children with lung diseases, I was dismayed by the guest opinion piece by Billings legislator Ed Walker.

Mr. Walker continues his attacks on clean air and water and defense of big polluters. This time, his target is the proposed mercury and air toxics rule under the Clean Air Act. His information is erroneous and ignores benefits already seen.

Mr. Walker doesn’t mention that Montana already has implemented limits on mercury emissions. Last December, several representatives from Montana’s utility companies spoke to the state Public Service Commission about potential impacts to industry from the mercury and air toxics rule. Contrary to Mr. Walker, none of them mentioned shutting down plants, loss of jobs or concerns about the reliability of power due to the rules. In fact, our air is healthier and installation of emissions control technology put people to work.

Implementing the new rule ensures that neighboring states replicate Montana’s actions. As Mr. Walker points out, mercury emissions can travel many miles, even across continents. Cross-state controls are thus not only fair, they are necessary to protect Montana’s air and water.

These rules ensure that Montana’s plants will finish the job of reducing other hazardous emissions such as lead, arsenic and dioxins that harm human health. These emissions standards are achievable with “shovel-ready” technology and have been part of the law for more than 20 years, but industry has delayed implementation.

Mercury, lead and arsenic are known toxins and lead to birth defects. Walker exaggerates the costs of implementing these long-delayed achievable standards, never mentioning the lives saved or medical expenses the public otherwise has to bear. Each year, this new rule will prevent 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, 120,000 childhood asthma attacks, and 12,000 hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

Paul G. Smith, Missoula

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