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Given Claire McCaskill’s past behavior in regard to coal and the EPA, who’d have thought she’d come out on the side of the angels when the Senate voted on GOP legislation designed to block new regulations of toxic emissions from coal fired plants. Thanks to McCaskill and her like-minded colleagues, millions of Americans are less apt to die prematurely of asthma or other respiratory deiseases, cancer, and heart disease.

True, McCaskill is proposing to delay the implementation of the regulations in order to give the coal industry more time to comply. Nevertheless, in this case, her honesty about what is at stake is a world away from the nonsense coming from her GOP opposite numbers in Missouri.

Where McCaskill, right or wrong, retains some individual flexibility, her senate colleague from Missouri, Roy Blunt, is a lock-step GOP soldier. Blunt, who predictably voted to block the more stringent standards, is well-programmed when it comes to fighting “job-killing” regulations on politically friendly industries. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Blunt cited studies estimating a $10 billion cost for industries across the country to comply with the rule. He argued that it presents an undue burden on states like Missouri that rely heavily on coal to generate electricity.

Analysis (pdf) provided by the Congressional Research Service, however, suggests that industry assessments that inform Blunt’s cost numbers are inflated:

EEI, NERC, and other recent reports describe scenarios and potential impacts of EPA rules, including projected need for additional power plant capacity or potential reliability problems, that depend on a number of assumptions such as the stringency of the rules or expected tight compliance deadlines, many of which differ greatly from what EPA has actually proposed or promulgated. Also, because most of the reports try to look collectively at EPA rules, to the extent a proposed or promulgated rule differs from some of these assumptions, it can be difficult to separate out one rule’s projected impacts from the report’s overall conclusions about multiple rules

So once again, Blunt’s dire pronouncements about job losses are basically empty.

Nor does does Blunt seem to be aware of – or at least willing to mention – the report published by Earth Justice, the American Lung Association, and Clean Air Task Force, which asserts that the new regulations will give us $281 billion a year in health care savings. As far as I’m concerned, 281 of anything trumps 10 of anything, anytime – but particularly when the money saved is also associated with the prevention of as many as 35,700 premature deaths a year.

As for McCaskill’s wannabe November opponents , John Brunner is on the record that he’d repeal “job-killing” EPA regulations. Apart, however, from affirming his Republican orthodoxy, he doesn’t seem to have anything more substantive to say.

Sarah Steelman, however, never fails to delight lovers of the ridiculous. She doesn’t think that the actual, trained scientists at the EPA are up to snuff, commenting that their data is “debatable or inherently flawed.” So there you have it from Sarah Steelman, environmental scientist. The only thing sillier were the comments from Steelman’s other alter ego, the motivational psychiatrist, who remarked that

I believe that much of the environmentalists’ agenda has little to do with preserving nature and wildlife, and is actually more directed at regulating businesses and inhibiting economic growth.

Because scientists just inherently love inhibiting economic growth. Note also how the issue becomes “preserving nature and wildlife” with no mention of human life, which is what is actually at stake with the new EPA regulations? Steelman’s got that GOP talent for misdirection down pat.

The real winner, though, is Rep. Todd Akin. While Akin is most likely capable of knee-jerk opposition to just about any regulation imposed on the corporate bastions of “market freedom,” he is, when it comes to the EPA, probably more concerned right now with those pesky EPA spy drones that have been flying over Missouri agricultural operations, which, as he informed the EPA’s Lisa Jackson in a recent letter, are “deeply troubling.”