Breaking: The Republican attack on clean air isn’t popular
Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Make no mistake about it: The Clean Air Act is under attack from Congress. Indeed, in the U.S. Senate voting is imminent on several amendments to a non-related small business bill that would ditch, delay, or dilute the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to update and enforce air pollution standards.
The good news is that those who pick polluters over the health of Americans are continuing to get pummeled on America’s newspaper opinion pages. These pieces say it best:
“An Assault on the Environment,” Albany Times Union editorial
The new House Republican majority likes to say that the American people spoke last year. If the GOP’s spending bill is any indication, it seems the American people are clamoring for more mercury in their fish, oil on their coasts and pollution in their drinking water. Those would be just some of the environmental highlights of a House spending bill to keep the government running through Sept. 30. Or perhaps anti-environmental highlights would be more apt. Anti-health, too.
“U.S. House Republicans swing a dangerous budget ax,” Detroit Free Press editorial
The budget passed by U.S. House Republicans — it got zero Democratic votes — early last Saturday morning is rash and dangerous. Designed to get the country through until Oct. 1, the House resolution slashes programs in midstream and ties the hands of several departments, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency.
“A Vote for the Environment is a Vote for N.H.,” Concord Monitor editorial
The Upton bill, and companion legislation in the Senate, would prohibit the EPA and the states from strengthening future vehicle fuel-efficiency and tailpipe air-pollution standards. It would block the agency from reducing emissions from power plants, refineries and cement kilns. Upton and his supporters argue that such regulation would hurt the economy. It’s the same line used in the 1970s when the government started requiring catalytic converter technology in cars to reduce air pollution and in the 1980s when the government attacked acid rain pollution. In fact, the air grew cleaner and new technologies sprung up to meet the challenge.
“Mercury Rising,” Raleigh News & Observer editorial
In one of history’s sorrier twists, Republicans in the U.S. House are down on the Environmental Protection Agency, way down. This week they’re trying to gut its powers to regulate pollutants in the air, on farmland and in water. Yet the national movement to protect our environment had its roots in the heyday of Republican Theodore Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon helped create the EPA. So why all the animosity now? Overreaching regulations that stifle business, agency opponents say. However, the EPA generally proposes rules that are required by law – and common sense. The more we know about ill-health in humans and ill-effects on the natural world, the more obvious it is that industrial processes must be regulated for the common good. Some pollution is inevitable, but the government is right to put a lid on it.
“EPA Under Attack,” Providence Journal editorial
Republicans in Congress, and some Democrats, are bent on blocking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from curbing greenhouse gases. For that matter, they would be happy to have the agency stand back in a number of areas, from safer toxic coal-ash disposal to improving the efficiency of industrial boilers and solid-waste incinerators. One reason they give is that regulation is bad for business. The main source they cite: senior business executives desirous of maximum short-term corporate profits, and thus maximum compensation for the execs. The other aspects of the equation – public health and welfare – are rarely mentioned. Indeed, the long-term health of the U.S. economy stands to benefit greatly from a shift to cleaner and more efficient energy.
“The Dirty Energy Party,” New York Times editorial
Yet even this retailored approach is sure to whip the Republicans into a fresh frenzy of opposition. They have already made clear their determination to cut off financing and otherwise undermine the Environmental Protection Agency, which plans to regulate carbon emissions from power plants and other industrial sources using its authority under the Clean Air Act. But basic scientific research? Energy efficiency? Cleaner fuels? The House Republican budget resolution gives the back of its hand to even these worthy and unobjectionable strategies, which until now have enjoyed reliable bipartisan support.
“Ignoring it won’t make it go away,” Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter editorial
Said Daniel Lashof, who leads the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center, “Apparently, the House majority does not want to see how pollution is affecting the climate.” That certainly appears to be the case, and our own Congressman Tim Murphy, who voted for the resolution, is part of the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil faction. But despite the politicians’ willful suspension of belief in facts and science, the reports of the many and varied threats to our environment will continue to be issued. Just in the past week, researchers appearing in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, predicted that 50 million “environmental refugees” will stream into the global north within the next 10 years because of climate change-related food shortages.
“Serving Ideology, Not Voters,” St. Petersburg Times
The House plan also takes aim at specific regulations that Republicans find politically objectionable. For example, it bars the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing limits on carbon dioxide pollution. Like a tea party manifesto, the plan strips funding from federal regulatory agencies that protect workers, food safety and the environment.
“Pennsylvanians didn’t vote for dirtier air,” Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News, Adam Garber and Dr. Robert Little
Why else would the U.S. House of Representatives have used a must-pass federal funding bill to launch what amounts to the largest assault on our health, clean air and clean water in recent history? The bill – H.R. 1, referred to as the “Continuing Resolution” – was a dangerous-enough attack on our health and environment when it was introduced. It threatened the health of Pennsylvania’s children, elderly citizens and other vulnerable populations by blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Air Act and cleaning up dangerous carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.
“Protect the EPA,” Santa Barbara Independent, Sean Carroll and Ana Mascarenas
During the EPA’s first 20 years alone, it prevented more than 200,000 premature deaths and almost 700,000 cases of chronic bronchitis by reducing dangerous air pollution. And gone are the days of rivers so polluted they catch on fire, and skies so polluted they block out the sun. Sadly, however, the job is far from done. Most notably, Californians and Americans across the country are still coping with unhealthy levels of air pollution. It is critical that EPA continue its work to protect our health.
“Killing regulation, not the deficit,” St. Petersburg Times, Robyn E. Blumner
The environment also got a huge whack, with Republicans seeking to cut $3 billion out of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental groups say it’s a blatant attempt to cripple the nation’s laws that protect air, water, wildlife, public lands and public health. Among the specific constraints, the EPA would be stymied from reducing carbon dioxide pollution, a policy that reflects how the Republicans are more focused on resisting the science of climate change than on reducing the federal deficit. Overall, their proposal is a polluters’ gift card with an unlimited balance.
“Fouling the Clean Air Act,” Miami Herald, Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang
But some of the nation’s biggest polluters have teamed up with the Republicans to try to stop progress – just as more evidence documents global warming: The 10 warmest years on record have all been since 1998; last year was tied with 2005 as the hottest. Together, they would turn the House into a special-interest court of appeals to circumvent the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that orders EPA to fight global warming. They would limit the clean air law’s provisions protecting us from power plant pollution and block several states from adopting tougher pollution controls than the federal government.
“What Follows the Money?,” The Hill‘s Congress Blog, Bob Edgar
Here in Washington meanwhile, the re-constituted House Energy and Commerce Committee has 27 members who received campaign contributions last year from Koch Industries employees or Koch-affiliated groups. Its new chairman, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., already has introduced an “Energy Tax Protection Act” that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. The Kochs’ disdain for such rules exceeds even their antipathy for public employee unions. It all sure looks like payback. At the very least, it’s powerful evidence of why we need strict controls on corporate and other special interest spending, including union spending, on our elections – nationally and in every state.
“House Republicans are cutting a lot more than the deficit,” The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, Bob Marshall
Many sections of the bill would prevent the EPA from enforcing any laws that restrict carbon pollution. Little or no savings would be realized, but the primary cause of the sea level rise swamping what’s left of our coast will go unaddressed. At the same time the bill does not reduce the $36 billion in tax breaks to be handed to the oil industry over the next decade, or close the loophole in offshore royalty payments costing the nation billions. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn big oil – one our most profitable yet heavily subsidized industries – doesn’t want to give up its freebies, and also has opposed carbon legislation.
“ECOVIEWS: Congress must not weaken environmental laws,” Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News, Whit Gibbons
One thing is certain – the congressional zenith of passing the environmental laws of the 1970s to protect our natural heritage will be hard to follow. But for other senators and representatives to weaken them would be to reach a congressional nadir. Let’s not stand for it. Let’s make it clear to all that to truly realize life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America, we must do so with clean air and water and with our biological communities and natural habitats intact.
“Environment can be GOP’s best friend,” The (Somerville, N.J.) Courier News, Dan Aronson
“… [T]he National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act and the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act (which utilized market mechanisms to reduce SO2 emissions at low cost) were all implemented by Republican presidents, and an inescapable conclusion follows: environmentalism is Republican. It’s not just moderate Republicanism, it IS Republican. It makes no sense, therefore, for some Republicans to espouse anti-environmental positions. Their strategy is working at the moment, but I’m old enough to have seen political fortunes (like American car sales) shift like the wind, and environmental obstructionism will cause support for the Republican Party to melt along with the polar ice caps.
“Support climate legislation,” Juneau (AK) Empire, Kate Troll
Addressing climate change is more than responding to one of our most pressing environmental challenges; it is a series of economic opportunities waiting to be seized. Alaska with its wealth of natural gas and renewable energy is primed more than any other state to reap these benefits. Unfortunately, as the Nation’s only Arctic state we also have the most at risk. As Shell and other industry leaders said in their letter to Obama, “It is time for Democrats and Republicans to unite behind bipartisan, national energy and climate legislation that increases our security, limits emissions, and protects the environment while preserving and creating American jobs.”
“A hell of a way to interpret the Constitution,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Reg Henry
In Congress, the people’s mandate for fiscally responsible change has been extended to include wholesale attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency for daring to insist on clean air. Thus it seems that even the historic idea of America the Beautiful has become victim to selective ideological amnesia — “O beautiful for spacious skies filled with pollution.”
“Survey Says … Dold Out of Touch on Environmental Issues in the 10th Congressional District,” Libertyville (Ill.) Tribune Local/Chicago Tribune, Kim Rodriguez
Peter Lehner, the executive director of the NRDC called the votes by Dold and his Republican colleagues “an unprecedented assault on public health, clean air, fresh water, open space and wildlife.” He said contrary to what Republicans say, “Americans want the EPA to be able to do its job. They don’t want the politicians in Congress making decisions about how and when to reduce pollution; they trust the scientists at the EPA to protect public health.
“Clamp Down on Coal,” Washington Post, editorial, March 24, 2011
Republicans — and some Democrats — in Congress are eager to kneecap EPA’s efforts. The House GOP attempted to gut clean-air rules in the seven-month continuing resolution it approved last month. In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is set to get a vote next week on an amendment that would strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) wants to delay the already slow pace of regulation by stopping it for another two years. Lawmakers should back off. Americans’ health will benefit, and, as the news from Japan, Europe and elsewhere shows, U.S. leadership is needed to discourage demand for dirty fuels outside the country as well as in. President Obama can provide such leadership only if the United States begins to provide a better example at home.
“Ruckelshaus, Whitman: Undoing 40 Years of Green Gains?,” St. Paul Pioneer Press, op-ed article, March 25, 2011
Amid the virulent attacks on the EPA driven by concern about overregulation, it is easy to forget how far we have come in the past 40 years. We should take heart from all this progress and not, as some in Congress have suggested, seek to tear down the agency that the president and Congress created to protect America’s health and environment. It has taken four decades to put in place the infrastructure to ensure that pollution is controlled through limitations on corporate, municipal and individual conduct. Dismantle that infrastructure today, and a new one would have to be created tomorrow at great expense and at great sacrifice to America’s public health and environment. The American public will not long stand for an end to regulations that have protected their health and quality of life. Our country needs today what it needed in 1970: a strong, self-confident, scientifically driven, transparent, fair and responsible EPA. Congress should help America achieve that. It should do so not with lowered sights but lowered voices that will result in an EPA fully capable of helping fashion a prosperous, healthy America whose environment continues to improve.
“EPA pursuit of cleaner air is under attack,” The Nashville Tennessean, editorial, March 25, 2011
The Clean Air Act mandates that the EPA set national air-quality standards for ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and lead – and for this, it is under attack, because these standards will cost money to the polluters to buy equipment to help clean up their emissions. Keep in mind, however, that these orders were given to the EPA to carry out in 1970 and updated in 1990, so that industries have had at least 20 years to prepare for this. Meanwhile, the pollutants have contributed to untold numbers of serious health problems, from respiratory illness to birth defects, developmental problems in children and increased risk of premature death in those with heart or lung disease. The chronic illnesses have helped drive up the cost of health care.
“Editorial: Kirk should back greenhouse gas regulation,” Chicago Sun Times, March 28, 2011
(U.S. Senator Mark) Kirk backs tax credits for renewable energy and doesn’t deny the risks of climate change, but environmentalists say he has been telling local groups that Congress, not the EPA, should address the problem. That’s not a good enough reason to vote for this bill. Prospects for meaningful progress on climate change are little to none in the current Congress, where Republicans seem more focused on deconstructing the EPA. Stripping the agency of its regulatory power over greenhouse gases would take away our only tool against a significant and worsening threat.
“EPA chief must push back against the fossil fuel caucus,” Newark Star Ledger, editorial, March 16, 2011
As promised, Republicans in Congress have launched an offensive against Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, drafting a bill that would force her to pretend climate change is a figment of the liberal imagination. The bill they are pushing would remove the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act. And that’s a tricky move because the act requires the EPA to regulate emissions that threaten human health. Jackson normally relies on her scientists to guide that sort of decision, but when it comes to climate change, Republicans are not big fans of science. They want Jackson to rely on their judgment instead, marinated as it is in money from the oil and gas industries.
“Editorial: At long last, cleaner air,” The Roanoke Times, March 30, 2011
When it passed major amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990, Congress mandated limits on these types of harmful emissions. It has taken this long — and several major court challenges — to get to this stage. But some members of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, angered at the EPA over unrelated regulations proposed for carbon emissions, are doing their best to weaken the agency. They will undoubtedly target these new rules, too. But the regulations are long overdue. They are reasonable and will protect the health of millions of Americans. They should go into effect as soon as possible.
“Cleaning our air is worth the cost,” Lexington Herald Leader, editorial, March 20, 2011
[A]fter 20 years of hemming and hawing, it’s time to start controlling the 386,000 tons of toxins that rain down on this country each year from coal-fired power plants, the No. 1 source of air pollution. It’s past time, really. A bipartisan majority of Congress in 1990 ordered the EPA to get to work on nationwide standards for toxic emissions from power plants. If people should be alarmed about anything, it’s that it’s taken so long and that the health of so many has suffered during the delay. As the crisis at the Fukushima reactors reminds us, invisible substances in the air can do grave harm to human health and lasting damage to the environment.
“Viewpoint: Is Upton’s receipt of $250,000 from oil and gas industry affecting his judgment?,” Kalamazoo Gazette, op-ed article, March 28, 2011
Koch Industries is a private energy conglomerate, based in Kansas, run by Charles and David Koch. They work with oil, chemicals and fertilizers. They are notorious for their political contributions and lobbying support for the fossil fuel industry. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, who represents Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District, was among the top 20 recipients in the U.S. House of oil and gas money in 2010 and has received almost $250,000 from the oil and gas industry during his career. Mr. Upton is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the 112th Congress. The Koch brothers have not only contributed to Mr. Upton, but also to several of the other committee members. In 1990, Mr. Upton supported the Clean Air Act amendments. Now he wants to stop the EPA from enforcing common sense safeguards to curb pollution under the act. Lisa Jackson, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, testified in a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee, “that Chairman Upton’s bill would, in his own words, ‘repeal’ the scientific finding regarding greenhouse gas emissions. Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question – that would be part of this committee’s legacy.” Have the Koch brothers provided Mr. Upton with scientific evidence that the harm that greenhouse gases do to the environment are a figment of scientist’s imagination?
The message should be clear: Congress needs to stand up for the health of Americans, not the agenda of polluters.