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Clean Air Means Health, Jobs for Americans

EPA chief Lisa Jackson was on Capitol Hill today to testify before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On topic was a bill from Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the committee, that would prevent the EPA from taking action on climate change.

Lisa Jackson rightfully acknowledged in her opening statements, however, that Upton’s bill is really just one piece of a “broader effort in this Congress to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public.”

This broad effort includes Rep. John Carter’s anti-health resolution that would block the EPA’s limits on cement plants’ toxic air pollution. It also includes similar attempts to thwart health protections against industrial boilers' emissions of mercury, acid gases and other harmful pollutants. These and other safeguards will save lives and money and protect Americans’ right to breathe.

Jackson noted:

Last year alone, EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saved more than 160,000 American lives; avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits; prevented millions of cases of respiratory illness, including bronchitis and asthma; enhanced American productivity by preventing millions of lost workdays; and kept American kids healthy and in school.

But for some in Congress, like Rep. John Carter, these tremendous health benefits to our society apparently aren’t good enough. As we’ve mentioned before, in order to build support for his resolution to block the EPA’s emission limits for cement plants, Rep. Carter has marshaled a range of misleading and factually inaccurate claims about the economic impact of the health protections. The Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice thoroughly debunked these claims, using economic projections from the Portland Cement Association itself.

There’s plenty more evidence that clean air and economic prosperity can be had in the same breath. Jackson said: “Yesterday, the University of Massachusetts and Ceres released an analysis finding that two of the updated Clean Air Act standards EPA is preparing to establish for mercury, soot, smog, and other harmful air pollutants from power plants will create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years.” This is the study we referenced yesterday.  (full copy available here.)

And in a letter to Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jackson again extolled the health benefits that clean air protections provide—and their capacity to stimulate the economy. For example, “Data from the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers indicates that the number of boilermakers in the United States increased by 6,700—or 35 percent—from 1999 to 2001 as a result of the EPA's standards to implement the Clean Air Act.” (Read the rest of Jackson’s letter to the congressmen.)