News from and about Indiana this past week should scare its citizens and the nation straight about the quality of leadership produced in the Hoosier state, and what role it should play in America's future.
A Jan. 26 study from the nonprofit group Environment America ranked Indiana fifth nationwide in the release of mercury into the environment. Two days later, CBS News reported that the first political ads of the 2012 presidential race will air during the NFL Pro Bowl game this weekend to promote Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
"Indiana has 19 coal-fired power plants that released 6,046 pounds of mercury into the environment in 2009."
If Indiana is the model -- or even a model -- for America’s future, the citizenry should be prepared to suffer. Mercury in the rain and snow is but one consequence of the Daniels brand of leadership. Or, for that matter, of fellow Republican Congressman Mike Pence, who this past week launched a campaign to replace the term-limited Daniels in 2012.
Or former Democratic governor and senator Evan Bayh, who chose to lobby for Wall Street over running again for governor.
Poisoning children is a bipartisan, Indiana tradition.
Some of this tradition’s consequences are underscored in the following excerpts from the Environment America report, “Dirty Energy’s Assault on our Health: Mercury.”
“In 2000, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council presented a study to Congress on the health effects of mercury exposure. The scientists conducting the study found that the neurological disorders associated with mercury exposure likely result in more children who struggle in the classroom and who must attend remedial classes or special education.”
"A study published by Health and Place, using data from the Texas Education Department and the EPA, found an association between environmentally released mercury, special education, and autism rates in Texas. In short, rates of special education students and autism rates increased in association with increases in environmentally released mercury."
Mercury, the report says, “is long-lasting and accumulates faster than it decays in the body.”
Dirty Energy’s Assault says Indiana has 19 coal-fired power plants that released 6,046 pounds of mercury into the environment in 2009.
"Rates of special education students and autism rates increased in association with increases in environmentally released mercury."
Texas led the nation with 16,350 pounds, followed by Pennsylvania with 15,550, Ohio with 9,518 and West Virginia, with 6,795. Kentucky ranked sixth with 5,930 pounds.
The Rockport Power Plant on the Indiana side of the Ohio River, one county east of Evansville, ranked 19th in the nation, reporting 1,226 pounds of mercury released, the report said.
Eight other plants operating within two counties of the Ohio River, from Mount Vernon on the west to Lawrenceburg on the east, reported another 2,556 pounds of the potent neurotoxin released. Ten of Kentucky’s coal plants are situated in river counties, across from Indiana.
In the 19 Indiana counties that lie two-deep along the Ohio River, one in five public school students was enrolled in special education during the 2008-09 school year, according to data compiled by the Indiana Department of Education. Statewide it was one in six, roughly equal to the national average.
But in Evansville, the state’s third largest city and school system, the rate was more than one-in-five -- 22 percent.
And in the Mount Vernon and New Harmony school districts, one county to the west of Evansville, 26 and 27 percent of students are in special ed.
Mitch Daniels and Indiana Republican leaders, however, are moving forward with plans to build more coal-burning power plants.
One will be yet another polluter in Rockport, this one designed to convert coal into a synthetic gas, which Indiana citizens will be required by a Daniels-signed law to purchase, regardless of market value for competitive fuels, like natural gas. It's Chinese-style, totalitarian capitalism.
"In the 19 Indiana counties that lie two-deep along the Ohio River, one in five public school students was enrolled in special education during the 2008-09 school year."
Another is under construction north of the Ohio Valley on the White River in Edwardsport, which would burn coal to create a synthetic gas, which would be burned to produce electricity. This $3 billion-and-rising plant, originally estimated at $1.6 billion in 2006, is being built with ratepayer money, with ratepayer-funded guarantees similar to Rockport’s.
Contrary to a shamefully misinformed statement made in the Environment America report, Daniels has been a party to one of the most massive toxic exposures humanity has ever confronted. (Human exposure to mercury is not “almost entirely through consumption of mercury-contaminated fish.”)
The former head of George W. Bush’s first Office and Management and Budget has leveraged his power and fortune representing the interests of Eli Lilly & Co. The Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical manufacturer developed, distributed and/or profited from mercury-containing vaccinations injected into the developing bodies of children born from the 1940s to this day.
Daniels worked as a Lilly vice president for 11 years, just prior to his 2001 move to Washington and his first run for governor three years after that.
CBS News and others report that a group called Students for Mitch Daniels will run the first ad of the 2012 presidential campaign during this week’s NFL Pro Bowl and will target the early presidential test states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
"Mitch Daniels and Indiana Republican leaders, however, are moving forward with plans to build more coal-burning power plants."
Students for Mitch Daniels is a political action committee founded by Yale student Max Eden, a former supporter of Barack Obama, CBS says, and it features a young woman touting his “fiscal responsibility.”
The woman is of childbearing age, which means, according to the EPA, that she should limit her consumption of fish because of mercury contamination.
“Additionally, when consuming fish caught locally, Americans should first refer to local fish advisories,” the Environment America report says.
Indiana’s annual Fish Consumption Advisory, published by the state departments of health, natural resources and environmental management, says women of child-bearing years should not eat any fish caught in Indiana waters due to mercury and PCB contamination.
At the end of the Students for Mitch Daniels ad, the narrator says, "Mitch Daniels did not approve this message. Tell him to."
Do so, America, at your children’s peril.
Steven Higgs can be reached at .