Dirty Air Proposals Put Profits before People

Most of us are pretty sick of watching all the dirty politicking taking place in Washington these days. If these same politicians have their way, soon this dirt will make its way directly into our lungs, courtesy of some U.S. House and Senate bills released recently on Capitol Hill.

Several leaders in Congress, shepherded by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), have commenced an all-out attack on the laws that protect our health. With big polluters backing them, these politicians are trying every trick in the book to make sure the Environmental Protection Agency can’t protect us from life-threatening pollution like carbon dioxide, smog and toxic air pollution.

In the Senate, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and seven other Republican senators introduced the “Defending America’s Affordable Energy and Jobs Act,” which aims to reverse any progress made on controlling dangerous carbon pollution. And Sen. Jay Rockefeller, (D-W.Va.), has proposed a bill that would block EPA from issuing new pollution standards for power plants and oil refineries: the top 2 dirty carbon polluters in the nation.

Adding to the polluters’ choir was Newt Gingrich, who proposed eliminating the EPA and putting in its place a bureaucracy that would cater to corporations and boost their already record profits.

While this might sound like a bunch of hot air, it’s not. If these politicians have their way they will put corporate polluters ahead of our clean air and well-being, resulting in some very real impacts to our health and the health of our children.

As the mother of a child who has asthma, I know the desperation of having your child wheeze to get the oxygen he needs. Sadly, my child is in good company these days since nearly 1 of every 10 children in the U.S. suffer from asthma.

Scientists have known for decades that air pollution causes acute and chronic health problems. Contaminants in our air can cause premature death, lung cancer, exacerbation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, as well as exacerbated bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.

The Clean Air Act became law in 1970, requiring the EPA to set air quality standards for a variety of pollutants in order to protect the health of the general public, as well as that of sensitive populations like children and the elderly. Thanks to tougher limits on air pollution set by the EPA, the amount of dangerous air pollutants, like particulate matter (specifically PM 2.5) and ground-level ozone, have decreased across the country. And as these standards got tougher, more counties came into compliance with national pollution standards in 2008 compared with previous years, according to a recent CDC report.

Proponents of these dangerous bills in Congress claim that stronger EPA pollution standards would hurt the economy and impose burdensome requirements on scores of facilities. The trouble is, we’ve heard this song before. Remember the claims that requiring cars to have seat belts would cause the collapse of the auto industry? With millions of lives saved throughout the country, no one would dare to argue today that such a safety law was a bad idea.

We’ve heard their Chicken Little outcry before and as living, breathing Americans, we need to see these efforts for what they are: shameless attempts to protect big corporate polluters, while forcing the rest of us to pay more in health insurance, lost work days and--in some tragic cases--our lives.

We deserve a government that safeguards the lungs of our children, not one that drags us into the dirt.