Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is teaming up with House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to introduce a bill to allow America’s biggest polluters to continue dumping unlimited amounts of carbon emissions into the air. It’s not that surprising that Inhofe is pushing this in the Senate. After all, Inhofe has always prided himself on being a little “out there” in a distinctly Charlie Sheen “wild man” kind of way.

But what is going on with the formerly-known-as reasonable Rep. Upton?

Just about every major health group in the United States is now telling Upton that he is putting the welfare of millions of Americans at risk who suffer from asthma (that’s 24 million people right there — including 7 million children!) and other respiratory diseases.

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Consider this from the American Lung Association:

The enactment of Chairman Fred Upton’s bill would strip away Clean Air Act protections that safeguard Americans and their families from air pollution that puts their lives at risk. The protections against the health harm from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution are essential to public health and must be preserved. — Charles D. Connor, president and chief executive officer

And it’s not like people back home in the Michigan sixth congressional district are exactly clamoring for more pollution. The American Lung Association estimates [PDF] that over 225,000 Michigan children have asthma, a condition made worse and more dangerous by air pollution.

Perhaps not surprisingly, our Feb. 2011 survey [PDF] conducted in Upton’s congressional district found:

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  • 62 percent of Upton’s constituents oppose a bill he is sponsoring to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide and other pollutants;
  • 67 percent — including 60 percent of Republicans — agreed with the statement that “Congress should let the EPA do its job,” as opposed to the minority who believe that “Congress should decide” what actions are taken to curb carbon pollution;
  • 61 percent say that “the EPA needs to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water”;
  • 57 percent favor “the EPA setting new standards with stricter limits on air pollution.”

If you were a member of Congress would you look at the following chart and assume that your constituents are best served by handcuffing the Environmental Protection Agency in its efforts to keep our air as clean as possible?

Most of Congressman Upton's Constituents Think Congress Should Let the EPA Do Its JobClick for a larger version.

Of course, the easy Washington answer here is to say “follow the money.”

And it’s worth noting that over the course of his career, Upton has taken over $750,000 from polluters. But, in some ways, that’s too easy and too cynical an answer. After all, it’s not like all polluters are looking to dismantle the EPA.

As PoliticoPro [$ubreq] reported yesterday:

Top power company CEOs rained on the Republican parade Tuesday as Congress eyes legislation forcing an outright halt to EPA climate change rules.

The leaders — from American Electric Power, NextEra Energy, Southern Co., and Dominion Resources — said to varying degrees that they support allowing the EPA to proceed on a “reasonable” time frame on greenhouse gas rules for power plants, petroleum refiners and other major stationary sources.

They also didn’t sound so thrilled with the draft bill preempting the EPA that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) plans to start moving later this spring.

“I think that’s probably a bit strong,” said Michael Morris, president and CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based AEP, in an interview at an energy industry conference in Washington. “Congressman Upton is a dear friend and a very strong leader and a visionary elected official, but I think even he knows that that probably isn’t going to happen.”

“I don’t support complete preemption,” Lewis Hay, chairman and CEO of NextEra Energy, a Juno Beach, Fla.-based power company, told Politico. “When I look at what EPA has done so far and the position they’ve taken on greenhouse gases, I think it’s actually been pretty moderate.”

So just why is Fred Upton waging this war against 24 million American asthma victims?