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Waging War On Health And The Environment

There’s no doubt that this House of Representatives has amassed the most anti-environmental record in history. According to the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the House voted more than 300 times “to block environmental regulations, weaken environmental laws, and stop environmental research” since January 2011.

In a very, very bad year, the “single worst anti-environmental bill” introduced by the House hits the floor this Friday. Officially (but ironically) titled “Stop the War on Coal Act,” H.R. 3409 actually represents the House leadership’s own elaborate and well-funded war on longstanding protections of clean air and water enjoyed by all Americans. In the guise of saving King Coal, Rep. Upton (R-MI) leads a charge up Capitol Hill to shred the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, enthusiastically eviscerating health and environmental safeguards.

H.R. 3409 contains five of the most-anti-environmental bills previously passed by a House distinguished by its radical anti-health anti-science bias. The bill boldly denies climate science and eliminates controls on carbon pollution; blocks rules to clean up the nation’s dirtiest power plants; overturns longstanding Clean Water Act protections, and prevents the Department of the Interior from protecting streams from coal mining. Lastly, over half of the 80-page “Stop the War” legislation consists of Title IV—a version of the McKinley bill (H.R. 2273), which prohibits EPA from regulating the second largest toxic industrial waste stream in the nation.

Title IV of H.R. 3409 fits in well with the four other radical measures. Title IV is identical to S.3512, introduced in the Senate last July by Sens. Hoeven (R- SD), Conrad (D-SD) and Baucus (D-MT). Specifically, the Title repeals EPA’s authority to ensure the safe disposal of coal ash from power plants. It ensures that the deadly threats posed by coal ash ponds will not be remedied—and consequently leaves thousands of communities unprotected by toxic waste and potentially unstable massive impoundments, like the pond that collapsed in Kingston, TN in 2008.

Title IV would block existing federal authority to ensure coal ash is properly disposed of and would delegate that responsibility to the states. Unlike other federal environmental statutes with state delegation, Title IV does not hold state programs to a standard of protection for human health and the environment, require adequate controls on waste dumping, ensure public participation in permit decisions, or guarantee meaningful EPA oversight. Title IV also does not address inactive or closed dump sites, nor does it set adequate standards for the control of toxic dust or the timely closure of dumps that are contaminating drinking water with arsenic, lead and other toxic chemicals.

With its five radical provisions rolled into the Act, the House leadership throws a sucker punch, showing American families that their health and safety is not worth protecting if it interferes with industry’s right to pollute. We trust reasonable minds in the Senate will put a brake on this clown-car legislation and attend to the real and urgent business that matters to the nation in the remainder of this 112th Congress.

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