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Dirty Air Act Passes Through House Energy and Commerce Committee

Polluter-Aid bill gets green light from House committee; Senate now debating companion legislation
March 15, 2011
Washington, D.C. —

Today the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY) to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from limiting the carbon dioxide pollution of the nation’s biggest polluters. The bill will make its way to the House floor for a full chamber vote in the coming weeks.

Rep. Upton worked with Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) to draft a nearly identical companion bill for the Senate. Today, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered Sen. Inhofe’s version as an amendment to a small business bill that the Senate is now debating. He is pushing for a Senate vote on that amendment as soon as tomorrow.

In addition to blocking limits on climate change pollution, both of these bills aim to prevent EPA from even requiring reporting of climate change pollution from most industrial polluters, reversing a requirement that Congress itself imposed several years ago. Also, the two bills would block future updates to the climate pollution limits for automobiles—updates that could further decrease the amount of costly gasoline on which Americans are dependent. The current vehicle standards cover cars through 2016 and are estimated to save Americans 44 percent in gas costs. The bills would also block California from adopting stronger motor vehicle emission standards for greenhouse gases.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that that greenhouse gases are covered by the Clean Air Act, and the EPA is required to regulate them under this Act if found to endanger public health and welfare. In issuing the subsequent 'endangerment finding' of 2009, the EPA relied on decades of evidence, research by hundreds of the world’s leading scientists, and numerous other sources, all captured within a 200-page synthesis of major scientific assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the National Research Council, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, and numerous other U.S. government and scientific research agencies.

The following is a statement by Earthjustice Associate Legislative Counsel Stephanie Maddin:

“Today’s vote in the Energy and Commerce Committee is hugely disappointing. The science shows us that the government should be protecting Americans from dangerous and harmful levels of carbon dioxide pollution, but we still see some politicians insist upon ignoring the science, clearly brushing the inevitable suffering and hardships of the American people under the rug as something that doesn’t even matter.

"It is disheartening that right now it is easier for some politicians to cast their votes in favor of the influential and wealthy polluter industries than choose to protect the American people from something we know is harming us and costing our health, our businesses, and the natural resources we depend on.

“It’s also disappointing to see Sen. McConnell (R-KY) push a nearly identical bill in the Senate, another Dirty Air Act authored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), that will cost Americans at the gas pump and cost our health, while bailing out big polluters from responsibility for their excessive carbon dioxide pollution.

“The EPA has a plan to limit the carbon dioxide pollution of only the nation’s biggest polluters, who until now have been free to pollute carbon dioxide into the air without any limits whatsoever. Getting in the way of these science-based and reasonable limits on the nation’s biggest polluters isn’t helping anyone but the big-polluting corporations who are backing this Dirty Air Act and the politicians who are pushing it. Sens. McConnell and Inhofe, Reps. Upton and Whitfield, and all the House committee members who voted for this bill today are on the wrong side of history.

“If there was one redeeming event in today’s terrible vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, it is that we saw some of our elected representatives stand up for our health and our well-being. It certainly isn’t easy to stand up against powerful corporations who want a free pass from pollution controls and who have the means to influence votes in Congress, but today we saw several elected representatives stand up for these protective public health limits on carbon dioxide pollution by offering amendments that prove the tragic folly and wrongful thinking that drives this Upton-Whitfield Dirty Air Act, and Sen. Inhofe’s version in the Senate. We commend these champions for our health and environment for providing the nation the kind of leadership we need to move us forward, not backward, to a safer, healthier, and more secure future.”

Contacts

Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.