Clean air isn’t a partisan issue, although that’s admittedly easy to forget if you’re following the ongoing congressional clash over clean air protections (which sometimes seems as wide as the gap between the Grand Canyon’s north and south rims). The American public certainly isn’t so divided. A large majority—which includes citizens who identify as Republican, Democrat and independent voters—wants clean air health protections.
A recent op-ed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune serves as a good reminder that clean air is important no matter which side of the political divide you happen to walk on. In the Star-Tribune piece, David Durenberger, a former Republican U.S. Senator who voted in 1990 along with 88 of his colleagues to pass strong amendments to the Clean Air Act, refers to the Act as “one of the great public-health achievements of American history—especially for kids.”
Indeed, President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act into law in 1970 with strong bipartisan support. And the amendments to which Durenberger lent his support in 1990 were similarly popular. These cooperative efforts between our elected Democratic and Republican leaders exemplify good governing and an accomplishment that has made the lives of all Americans better.
Durenberger continues: “Today, the EPA is in the process of acting on recent scientific findings to update and modernize air pollution standards as we envisioned over two decades ago.” Durenberger is referring, for example, to the EPA’s recent announcement (long-overdue) that it will finally clean up the emissions of mercury and other health-damaging toxic pollutants from power plants, unquestionably the largest source of toxic air pollution—386,000 tons annually—in the country. He’s also alluding to the EPA’s efforts to cut down on the carbon dioxide pollution that is driving the warming of our atmosphere.
But the cooperative spirit Durenberger recalls just isn’t manifest today. Rather, there is a large scale effort driven by ideological extremism to dismantle and block the very health protections that Durenberger and his colleagues set in motion 20 years ago. Americans deserve these protections. They will save lives, reduce asthma attacks and other respiratory disease and purge the air of tons upon tons of toxic chemicals that cause cancer and other serious illnesses. It’s unconscionable and downright shameful that some of our elected leaders are so gallantly standing in the way.
“My understanding of recent public opinion,” writes Durenberger, “is that Americans—Democrats, independents and Republicans—all support a strong Clean Air Act. This Congress is out of step with both public opinion and history.”
You can weigh in by expressing your support for the EPA’s recently proposed health protections against power plants’ toxic air emissions. Tell the EPA you support their efforts to protect our right to breathe.