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In U.S. House, Clean Air is a Dirty Word

Quick! Somebody tell Tipper Gore that "clean air" and "public health" are now considered dirty words. Well, at least in the U.S. House of Representatives. If the House had a swear jar, I'd bet such utterances would be as punishable as your garden variety expletives.

Here's why: The House is voting this week on two bills that will trample clean air and public health if passed. H.R. 2250 and H.R. 2681 exempt industrial boilers, incinerators and cement plants from the Clean Air Act and actually encourage many such facilities to burn industrial garbage—think tires, scrap plastics, used chemicals and other waste—without controlling, monitoring or reporting the air pollution that results.

Imagine if you came home from work one day to find your neighbor setting fire to a heap of garbage in the backyard, fumes drifting over the fence into your yard and your home. You'd be outraged, no doubt, and rightfully so. Should the reaction be any different if the neighbor just happens to be a cement plant, a chemical plant or some other big industrial facility?

Absolutely not. The supporters of H.R. 2250 and H.R. 2681—let's call them the dirty burning bills—are attempting to make it legal for those industrial neighbors to burn their trash in secret, and there's nothing you'd be able to do about it. Fortunately, there's still time before the votes to ask your representative to vote no on the dirty burning bills. Please send them an email today.

For millions of people who live near such facilities, the dirty burning bills could be a matter of life or death. Pollution from industrial boilers and cement plants causes between 3,400 and 9,000 preventable deaths every year. It sickens tens of thousands more with exacerbated asthma, heart attacks, bronchitis and other ailments. And yet the supporters of dirty burning say these bills are good for the country and the economy. Tell me, how are policies that kill and sicken tens of thousands of people every year good for the country?

Apparently, the Obama administration is asking the same question. Yesterday, it announced that it will veto both bills if they make it to the president's desk. This is great news, and we commend the administration for taking a firm stand to protect the millions of Americans who want and need a safe place to live, breathe and raise their children. The dirty burning bills are part of a larger agenda to erode our clean air laws, and we hope the administration will continue to defend the right to breathe by opposing all efforts that aim to undermine it.

Please contact your representatives today and remind them that clean air is no dirty word.

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