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Congress V. The Environment: Who Can We Trust?

Early last evening, Reps. Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield, along with Sen. James Inhofe, released a draft of the latest bill in Congress taking aim at air pollution protections.

Early last evening, Reps. Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield, along with Sen. James Inhofe, released a draft of the latest bill in Congress taking aim at air pollution protections.

This wasn’t a surprise, as they’ve been talking to press about their toils on legislation that would reverse current limits on carbon dioxide pollution. They are targeting the first-ever restrictions on CO2 on behalf of major polluting industries that until now have been able to spew this air pollutant unrestrained and at quantities unmeasured.

Volumes of current science show us that carbon dioxide pollution threatens our health. In addition to contributing to deadly heat waves and extreme climate conditions, it exacerbates smog pollution and worsens asthma and lung diseases.

Rep. Upton and his collaborators on this bill seem determined to wipe away these air pollution protections. But why? Like we keep saying, follow the dirty energy money in Congress to see who supports letting big polluters off the hook time after time.

But, much more important right now is recognizing and thanking those members of Congress who are fighting for the good of the public, working to protect us from harmful air pollution, and leading our country forward, not backward.

It’s heartening and encouraging to see many members of Congress rising above the fray and exhibiting real leadership and genuine service to the public.

Among those champions, Sen. Barbara Boxer is a leader. Earlier this month, aware of Rep. Upton’s play against these air protections, she declared, “I want to tell him that I will use every single tool available to me as chairman of this committee and as a senator from California to oppose any legislative efforts that threatens the health or the safety or the well-being of the people of this great nation.” Since, she has continued to speak out loudly against these efforts.

This week, four senators – John Kerry, Robert Menendez, Sheldon Whitehouse and Bernie Sanders-- released a strong statement against this wave of Dirty Air Acts.

“Voters last November did not vote for more pollution, but Republicans want to put the EPA out of business in order to roll back clean air protections, make us even more dependent on fossil fuels, and stop the United States from reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This bill must be stopped in its Big Oil tracks,” said Sen. Sanders.

Added Sen. Menendez: “Allowing polluters to set clean air policy would mean more asthma attacks for our children, higher lung cancer rates, more sick days, more premature deaths, and lower productivity. The health of our children must come before the interests of polluters.”

Others to thank are Sen. Tom Harkin ("If they want to repeal EPA [regulations] and stuff like that, I think we ought to go after them. I say, give them rope."), longtime environmental champ Sen. Frank Lautenberg ("What's the cost of a life? What's the cost of a disability? ... We're not going to cower in a corner."), Sen. Ben Cardin ("[We will] do everything we can to prevent the taking away of the responsibility of EPA to protect our environment and our health."), and Rep. Earl Blumenauer ("I am outraged that House Republicans are launching this attack on the most basic law that keeps our air safe to breathe.”).

Special mention also goes to Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, who, as Mother Jones reports, sent Upton’s bill draft to reporters last night, calling the bill draft an "assault on the Clean Air Act.” They wrote: “Gutting the Clean Air Act is only going to make our problems worse. This proposal threatens public health and energy security, and it undermines our economic recovery by creating regulatory uncertainty."

As the Clean Air Act attacks carry on, we’ll make sure to keep you posted on the champions in Congress standing up for clean air protections.