Drayton's Gazette discusses social and political issues happening around the globe through the eyes of the African American, minority and disaffected communities.

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U.S. House Makes Underhanded Attempt to Gut Clean Air Protections

February 18, 2011 | Posted by Steve Cochran in Clean Air Act

The U.S. House of Representatives is continuing its assault on public health by denying funding for the enforcement of longstanding protections against toxic air pollution. The funding bill and several amendments set to pass the House later today would effectively take the public health cops off the beat.

Under this bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state air pollution agencies would no longer be able to enforce critical programs that protect the public.

Some of the more egregious examples include:

  • No funding for enforcement of limits on mercury pollution from cement kilns. Mercury pollution causes brain damage in young children.
  • An outright ban on any EPA regulation of methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, carbon dioxide or perfluorocarbons from stationary sources for whatever reason, including their impact on public health and ozone.
  • A sweeping prohibition on all work by the EPA to address carbon pollution, including a critical public right to know program that was set to give communities their first practical tools for identifying the biggest polluters.

This wholesale stripping away of EPA’s power to implement and enforce the Clean Air Act with respect to the most significant environmental challenge is unprecedented and underhanded. Recognizing that the public would reject an open repeal of core Clean Air Act provisions, and would not allow Congress to adopt a statute that told EPA “stop doing anything about climate change,” Congress is trying to do the same thing via language buried in a spending bill.

In language sweeping in scope and effect, Section 1746 of the appropriations bill would tie EPA’s hands and legally bar it from spending any money to do anything “due to concerns about possible climate change.” Think of it. What if Congress passed a law barring the Securities and Exchange Commission from regulating securities? Or required the Food and Drug Administration to approve unsafe drugs. Or kept USDA from inspecting meat?

These would be outrageous laws, but no more outrageous than this attempt, in an appropriations bill, to obstruct EPA from carrying out its statutory obligation to protect human health and the environment.

A closer look at Section 1746 reveals that it would:

  • Punch a gaping loophole into vital clean air protections that took effect in January, putting a hiatus on the requirement for new large emitters to incorporate cost-effective greenhouse pollution reduction measures into their construction blueprints.
  • Undermine the public’s right to know by precluding EPA from requiring the nation’s largest emitters to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas pollution, including establishing a prohibition on EPA enforcement of long-standing program adopted as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments requiring the public disclosure of greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s fossil fuel fired power plants.
  • Put in place a stop work order on EPA’s consumer-based ENERGY STAR line of together with an array of effective voluntary partnerships to cut dangerous pollution such as the Natural Gas STAR program, the Methane to Markets program, and the coal-bed methane outreach program.
  • Place a gag order on all EPA activities “relating to” greenhouse gas pollution including scientific research, press releases, public statements, web site, work to advance new technologies, collaborative stakeholder processes to find common sense solutions, etc.
  • Put the brakes on EPA’s national emission standards being developed now for proposal in July that would be designed to deploy cost-effective, proven technologies to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s largest polluters — fossil fuel power plants and refineries.

In addition, Sections 1742 and 1743 appear to be a major assault on state and tribal grant funding to carry out these vital clean air protections.

This bill is an all-out assault on the Clean Air Act and the longstanding public health protections it has provided for 40 years.

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