Written by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All, and Ben Jealous, President of NAACP

As Senators enter the final rounds of negotiations on the climate and energy bill, big utility companies apparently are making unconscionable demands that threaten the health and safety of all Americans.

For example, The Hill reports: “Power company officials are now asking for relief from upcoming EPA restrictions on pollution the agency has long regulated under the Clean Air Act, including ozone, particulate matter and lead.” Other stories also suggest that big utilities want the United States Senate to somehow bargain away EPA’s authority to protect America from dirty air and water.

These demands are unacceptable.

The American people deserve a climate and energy bill that not only improves air quality, but also creates jobs that will help pull the economy out of recession. This bill is in danger of doing neither. In spite of this, we are hopeful that there is a better, more equitable approach to this legislation. We believe that American policy can be smart enough to protect both our children and our grandchildren.

The Gulf oil spill, the coal mine explosion in West Virginia–these are just the most recent in a long line of disasters that prove our current dirty energy economy is broken. Our reliance on these fossil fuels endangers the lives of countless Americans. We believe that Americans should not have to choose between personal safety and putting food on the table for our families.

There is only one federal agency standing between our communities and even worse degradation: the Environmental Protection Agency. If the bill limits the ability of the EPA to enforce greenhouse gas regulation, or worse limits the agency’s ability to enforce regulation of mercury and ozone, the American people will suffer immediate and long-term health consequences, from asthma to early death.

If the Senate can get this right, this historic climate and energy bill will maintain our clean air protections, while opening the door to a new era: one in which our nation is no longer addicted to dirty, dangerous fuels; no longer dependent on overseas supplies of oil; and finally able to put millions to work in clean, new industries.

Take action now.