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Although the recent elections signal a return to more inhospitable times for environmental protection in Congress, we are sustained by two constants: the power of the law and the dedication of our supporters.

The law provides leverage for progress even when political winds shift, and our steadfast supporters have shown time and again that they trust in our ability to wield it for positive change, regardless of the prevailing politics.

There is no reason to beat around the bush: Tuesday's election results are a setback in our progress towards a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable planet.

At a time when the world desperately needs leadership from the United States, voters have installed in the House of Representatives those who have vowed to do all they can to obstruct progress in cleaning up dirty coal-burning power plants, reducing health-destroying and climate-disrupting pollution, and protecting wild places and wildlife.

Across the United States—from California's Central Valley to Chicago, Houston and New York—people are breathing polluted air and suffering. Asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, birth defects and even cancer are the prices paid by residents in scores of American communities where polluting facilities operate.

Joe Barton (R-TX) is proving that he has better things to do than apologize to Tony Hayward and BP. Now, he is trying to repeal energy efficiency standards that save American citizens billions of dollars every year. These standards, ironically, are among the few environmental policies made in eight years of Bush leadership. 

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of our nation's most successful and most protective laws, the Clean Air Act.

Commemorating the milestone anniversary with a full day of speakers, keynotes and panel discussions, the agency was joined by a host of industry leaders, business CEOs, clean air advocates and environmental champions to discuss just how far we've come in cleaning up our air and protecting people's lungs and lives from toxic and dangerous air pollution.

For proof on how far we've come, here's some of the pudding:

About 30 years ago, after some prodding from environmental groups, Jimmy Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. He gave a ringing speech at the time, hoping that this gesture would help build a solar revolution. He established a Solar Energy Research Institute and put Denis Hayes, the director of the first and subsequent Earth Days in charge.

In 2011, the EPA is expected to propose the first-ever limits on global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants—good news, considering these pollution giants are responsible for a third of CO2 emissions in the United States. To the industry lobbyists and their mouthpieces in Congress who are resorting to all sorts of fear-mongering to smother these critical efforts: take heed—the American public isn't on your side.

A new poll from the Benenson Strategy Group, commissioned by NRDC, polled 1,401 registered voters and found that 60 percent support the regulation of global-warming gases from power plants and refineries, another significant source of such pollution. And in a vote of confidence for the EPA, 54 percent expressed confidence in the agency's ability to control the emissions.

Along with a suite of other pollution control rules the EPA is and will be pursuing, the forthcoming rules to limit global warming pollution from coal plants provide a tremendous opportunity to protect our health and planet while building a clean energy future. Those on the payroll of big polluters will try to keep us stuck in the past, but a vocal American public that demands strong action on global warming from the EPA and the Obama administration can help carry us forward.
 

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