Polluters’ Ploys Presage More to Come
After victories, onslaught against Clean Air Act and EPA continues
Clean air advocates had four victories and one anticipated setback last week in Congressional skirmishes, votes that most say are the first chapter of an unfortunate, forthcoming, steady polluter onslaught on the Environmental Protection Agency’s work to protect clean air and water.
Senate Rejected Polluters’ Attacks
Senators defeated four amendments aimed at undermining the EPA’s management of its Clean Air Act responsibilities:
• The Baucus amendment, to exempt agriculture interests from reductions of greenhouse gas emissions (failed 7 to 93);
• The Stabenow-Brown amendment, to suspend enforcement on all stationary source greenhouse gas reductions for two years. Stationary sources include power plants, oil refineries and factories (failed 7 to 93);
• The Rockefeller amendment, to place a two-year moratorium on any EPA action to limit carbon dioxide or methane emissions from stationary sources (failed 12 to 88);
• The McConnell amendment, to totally prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and to reject the scientific finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare (failed 50 to 50; 60 votes were required for passage).
The House Acquiesced to the Polluter Lobby
In the House of Representatives, all House Republicans and a handful of Democrats passed H.R. 910, a bill pushed by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions to curb climate change. The vote was 254 to 170 on April 7.
Environmental Protections Injected into Budget Talks
Adding to the drama, the federal government edged to the brink of a shutdown because of some legislators’ insistence on gutting basic health and environmental laws stuck in a stopgap budget bill. Not only would a shutdown have closed federal offices, parks, refuges and other properties, it would have halted inspections of facilities and enforcement of rules to curb air and water pollution, control hazardous waste and manage other environmental efforts. Most of the EPA’s 17,000 employees would have been sent home.
“The Senate held firm in protecting the air we breathe,” said an NWF statement to press, “and stood up to polluters like oil and coal companies that want to spew filth into the air and water without consequence.
“Senator Harry Reid and President Barack Obama stood up to the polluters who tried to highjack an unrelated small business bill with their Washington insider maneuvers. Senator Reid and the President clearly support clean air, healthy kids and the great outdoors. They reaffirmed that they will fight ideological riders on budget bills. Congress should let the Environmental Protection Agency do its job.”
Groups Commend Leaders, Polls Show Support
A recent poll confirms that 77 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Republicans, believe that “Congress should let EPA do its job.” Only 18 percent believe that “Congress should block the EPA from updating pollution safeguards.”
Nearly 500 health organizations from all 50 states and D.C. called on Congress on April 4 to reject efforts to disable the EPA, saying that enabling EPA to do its job “is quite literally a matter of life and death for tens of thousands of people and will mean the difference between chronic debilitating illness or a healthy life for hundreds of thousands more.”
Nine state governors told Congress on April 5 that clean air, energy security and economic recovery are compatible goals and that the anti-EPA amendments would “subject Americans to dirtier air, undermine the investment in energy efficiency and cleaner technologies that provide much-needed jobs in our states, and increase uncertainty for business and industry.”