Clean Air Act Foes Target EPA Funding

Budget proposal sparks fresh attacks

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Yesterday, a new political theater opened in the battle over whether the Clean Air Act should be used to reduce global warming pollution. At issue is a request contained in the Obama administration’s 2011 budget proposal that $56 million—$43 million of it new—be directed to the EPA for use in efforts to cut global warming pollution from mobile sources like cars and stationary sources like coal-fired power plants.

The allocation is less than one percent of the total proposed budget for EPA (which hovers just above $10 billion) and less than 0.01 percent of the total federal budget proposal of $3.69 trillion. Which is to say that the request is less significant than the ideological divide illustrated by the Congressional proponents and opponents of the allocation’s mere existence. Since Congress ultimately cuts the checks, the skirmishes that happen in those hallowed halls are critical.

The New York Times reports that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who wields power as chairwoman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, supports the allocation, as do some regulators with state environmental agencies. But, those opposed to using the Clean Air Act to reduce global pollution are active and vocal.

Regular readers of unEarthed are likely aware of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s machinations. If not, brush up on her attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act here and here. Not surprisingly, Murkowski’s spokesperson criticized the EPA funding request, saying "we shouldn’t be going down this path to begin with." The Senate’s presiding global warming skeptic, Sen. Jim Inhofe, also questioned the funding.

But as Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen has pointed out, the Clean Air Act is a powerful and popular law that has successfully reduced harmful pollution in the past, and its capacity to do so in the future should be preserved and strengthened.

In this political tug of war, the real question remains which side will the decision makers who haven’t yet taken a position pull for?

Sam Edmondson was a campaign manager on air toxics issues from 2010 until 2012. He helped organize the first 50 States United for Healthy Air event. His desire to work at an environmental organization came from the belief that if we don't do something to change our unsustainable ways, we are in big trouble.