By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Republican U.S. voters oppose congressional efforts to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution rules, according to a survey conducted by two pollsters released on Wednesday.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have fought against EPA rules on emissions of everything from mercury to greenhouse gases, saying the regulations will kill jobs and saddle heavy industry and power plants with billions of dollars in costs at the worst possible time.
Former pizza executive Herman Cain, who polls show in second place in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has said he would eliminate the EPA and start it over.
When Republican voters were asked in the survey how they felt about a proposal in Congress to stop the EPA from enacting new limits on air pollution from power plants, 58 percent said they opposed the effort, along with 88 percent of Democratic voters.
The poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic pollster, and GS Strategy Group, a Republican pollster. It was paid for by CERES, a Boston-based coalition of environmentalists and institutional investors.
It also found 51 percent of Republican voters did not want Congress to delay the air pollution rules.
"The research clearly demonstrates Republican voters are willing to support new rules to reduce harmful emissions in order to improve public health," said Greg Strimple of GS Strategy. "Republicans like clean air too."
The online national survey of 1,400 voters conducted between August 31 to September 7 showed 67 percent of voters from both parties supported the EPA's Cross State Air Pollution Rule, that would cut smog and soot from coal-fired plants to protect people downwind from them. The survey, which was unique in its specificity about particular EPA rules, e-mailed the questions directly to participants.
Some 77 percent of voters also supported the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule that would reduce emissions of mercury, which accumulates in fish and can harm the nervous systems of babies who drink the milk of mothers who consume the contaminated fish.
On September 23 the House passed the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation, or Train Act, that would delay both of those rules.
The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate and the White House has said President Barack Obama would veto it.
Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, has said the rules will save billions of dollars more in healthcare costs than they will cost heavy industry and power generators. In addition the rules will create jobs in pollution control technologies, she has said.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Christopher Wilson)