House Passes Its Polluter Protection Act

Passes wrongheaded bill to stop EPA action on climate change.

The U.S. Capitol building at dawn.
The U.S. Capitol building at dawn. The House passes a wrongheaded bill to stop the EPA action on climate change. (Photo by Architect of the Capitol)

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Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Polluter Protection Act (H.R. 3826). This bill stops the EPA from setting modest, sensible limits for climate change pollution and allows big polluters to continue to freely dump unlimited carbon pollution at the expense of public health.

When the EPA proposed its new rule to bring the worst of the worst climate polluters in this country under control and for the first time hold them accountable, more than 4 million public comments were submitted in support of this move. Yet, in its 144th vote this Congress against public health, the House turned against those public comments and voted to handcuff the EPA. In an era of climate change, it can be hard to understand why our Congress would pass a bill that flies in the face of overwhelming science and reason.

You don’t have to look any further than campaign contributions to understand why such a climate- and science-denial bill passes a body of elected officials who are expected to keep up with facts and science. Our friends at the Center for American Progress Action Fund tallied the career dirty energy contributions (oil, gas, and coal) for today’s vote, and according to CAP Action analysis, the 229 members who voted for the bill have taken over $45.7 million in career dirty energy contributions, which is over 8 times what the 183 members who voted against the bill took—$5.4 million. Of the members who voted for the bill, 123 have publicly denied climate change. When it comes to mystifying climate denial, just follow the money.

Many people aren’t surprised by this, but an even stranger thing happened today. The supporters of the Polluter Protection Act defied their own spin today in a vote on an amendment to this bill. The bill’s sponsor Rep. Ed Whitfield has said that the bill is about getting the EPA rules right and keeping EPA from running amok on the limits it sets, but today a vote on an amendment proved otherwise. By and large the same people who voted for the Polluter Protection Act also exposed themselves as obstructionists in a vote on an amendment by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). The Schakowsky amendment affirmed that climate change is happening, so in their vote against it, they made clear that today’s House proceedings were not about getting the EPA rules right, but instead fundamentally about denying climate action and arresting any and all EPA efforts to rein in the biggest polluters

In short, the Polluter Protection Action repeals all current and pending EPA proposals for carbon pollution standards for gas and coal-fired power plants. This is a direct attack on the President, his Climate Action Plan and on EPA’s role in it. We’ve seen attacks on EPA that include threats to these rules, but this is the first attack with climate controls directly in the crosshairs. The Polluter Protection Act also sets up impossible hurdles for the EPA to move forward with limiting the climate pollution of the biggest source of climate pollution today: existing coal-fired power plants.

This is more than a chilling effect on pollution controls to subject them to the whims of a future Congress, it is essentially an impossible test for the agency to pass. To see how your representatives voted, go here. A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for climate pollution and climate denial, and a ‘no’ vote is a vote for reasonable actions to combat climate change. Please write and phone your elected representatives and thank them or hold them accountable.

This bill should be dead on arrival in the Senate, and we urge the Senate to make it so.

We are well past debate on modest climate actions at this point. The only question for the Senate should be how to act faster and do more to protect American communities from the worst impact of climate change.

From 2001 to 2019, Sarah was on Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team, working on Capitol Hill at the intersection of agricultural policy and climate policy and promoting a food system that is more resilient and just.

Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.

Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C., office works at the federal level to prevent air and water pollution, combat climate change, and protect natural areas. We also work with communities in the Mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere to address severe local environmental health problems, including exposures to dangerous air contaminants in toxic hot spots, sewage backups and overflows, chemical disasters, and contamination of drinking water. The D.C. office has been in operation since 1978.