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House Tees Up Toxic Agenda For America

This week, President Obama has conducted a bus tour through my home state of Virginia and North Carolina. The tour focused on job creation and the state of our economy.

Unfortunately, Republican leadership in Congress thinks weakening our clean air and water protections is the foundation of economic renewal.

Since returning from August recess, the House of Representatives has passed some of the most anti-environmental and anti-public health legislation in its history. These bills—which indefinitely delay air pollution standards for power plants, industrial boilers/incinerators and cement plants—passed as key provisions in Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s “Jobs Agenda.”

It’s estimated that passage of these pro-polluter bills would lead to the premature deaths of nearly 175,000 Americans. Additionally, a bill passed to prevent national standards for the handling and disposal of toxic coal ash (the result of burning coal at power plants). All too often this ash seeps into drinking water and endangers entire communities.

Yesterday, President Obama addressed a crowd in Jamestown, NC as a part of his bus tour and called out the Cantor Agenda, noting, “You can't pretend that creating dirtier air and water for our kids … is a jobs plan."

Taking the president’s admonishment further, we can’t pretend that allowing Americans to die prematurely and live sicker lives is testament to our national competitiveness. An educated, skilled and healthy work force is the foundation of a strong economy. For example, the economic benefits from public health protection under the Clean Air Act have greatly outweighed the costs. From 1990–2020 alone, the monetized health benefits of the Clean Air Act exceed costs by a factor of more than 30 to 1.

With such a huge return on the investment, President Obama summarized the Cantor agenda as saying “what's standing between us and full employment is that we're preventing companies from polluting our air and our water too much.”

Today, I ask each of you to write to your senators and representatives in Congress to pursue policies that will expand cleaner industries and create jobs that don’t require human sacrifices—literally.