On way out of town, House votes industry a free pass to pollute
It's been a long two years with the 112th Congress. In that time, House leadership has often tried to "help the economy" by wiping away our basic public health and environmental protections—in the process putting thousands of Americans at risk of disease and death from exposure to toxic chemicals and carcinogens in our air and water.
And today, as a final departing gift before recessing for the fall, House leaders put through H.R. 3409—a toxic sell-out bill that decimates our fundamental public health protections with the pretext of addressing the "war on coal." The House passed the bill by a vote of 233 to 175.
To wit: H.R. 3409 includes provisions we believe will:
- Block and stall all significant clean air protections, at a potential human cost of 19,300 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, and 5,700 more hospital and emergency room visits
- Block the Department of Interior from its Congress-appointed duty to protect streams from harmful coal mining activities
- Override an array of credible science and overturn federal action and federal court decisions on climate change pollution
- Prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulatin hazardous and cancer-causing coal ash waste, leading to possible water contamination at more than 1,000 aging coal ash storage sites around the country
- Strip the EPA of its authority to require that states follow federal water quality standards
What House leaders aren't saying is that the coal industry suffers not because of a political agenda or "war" against it, but because of marketplace competition from energy sources like natural gas and warmer winters, and because it dumps on the communities in which they operate. The coal industry's "right to pollute" isn't what is standing in the way of its ability to succeed in the marketplace.
It's sad that the House leadership's sense of debt to their industry friends is greater than their sense of debt to the American people. They know this bill won't clear the Senate or make it to the president's desk. They want to send a message to America that living with toxic pollution is just the cost of doing business with the coal industry.
If our leaders are unable to show the American people that we can stimulate the economy, create jobs and build a prosperous future without asking us to sacrifice our health or our family's well-being, we need to demand more from our leadership.