Senator Brown Pretends Undermining the Clean Air Act Isn't Bad for People's Health

This week, the League of Women Voters launched an ad campaign holding Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill accountable for voting in April to block the EPA from updating clean air safeguards to limit carbon pollution.

The ads chastise the senators for supporting a bill that would have threatened people’s health.

It would have allowed Congress—for the first time since the Clean Air Act was passed 40 years ago—to ban the EPA from reducing a pollutant it concluded was a danger to human health and welfare.

Yet now Senator Brown is lashing out at the League of Women Voters for revealing the true consequences of his vote.

In an op-ed in the Boston Herald, he calls the ads “demagoguery.” I call them factual.

It is a matter of record that the EPA spent years reviewing the scientific data about how carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution alter human health. The evidence showed that these pollutants can cause death and illness as a result of more severe heat waves, more dense smog, and more intense weather events. More smog is particularly likely to lead to respiratory disease, similar to the one depicted in the ads.

These grave impacts are why so many health and medical organizations opposed the bill Senator Brown voted for, including the American Lung Association, the the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatricians, and the American Thoracic Society.

Senator Brown claims he voted for the bill to protect the business climate, not to harm children. Yet ignoring the health implications of his vote is equivalent to someone saying they voted to lower the age for buying cigarettes not because they want kids to get lung disease but because it’s good for commerce.

It appears that the businesses Senator Brown is most interested in helping are polluters. Not only does he want to refrain from asking them to do their part to protect our children from illness, but if the bill he voted for had become law, his vote would have stymied a critical part of the Massachusetts economy: clean energy. The state is home to a vibrant clean-tech research community, and renewable energy is the state’s fastest growing industrial sector, accounting for nearly 2,000 companies and generating more than 26,000 jobs.

Senator Brown cloaks his polluter-friendly stance by saying his vote would be good for small businesses. Yet many small business leaders disagree. In March, John Arensemeyer, the president of Small Business Majority, testified before Congress regarding the same EPA standards that Senator Brown wanted to stop. Arensemeyer said those standards “specifically exempt small business, so that there is virtually no cost offset to the tremendous innovation benefits and cost savings that environmental standards generate.”

Even after he tried to handcuff the EPA, the senator still asserts: “I support a clean environment.” Yet in March, he backed HR1, a bill that has been called the worst environmental bill in the past 40 years because of its 19 policy riders aimed at blocking protections required by the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and a host of other bedrock laws.  

Senator Brown may not like being caught in the League of Women Voters’ spotlight, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong there. This nonpartisan group—remember, they are also running ads blasting Democratic Senator McCaskill for her anti-Clean Air Act stance as well—is simply educating the public about what Senator Brown’s vote would mean for people’s health.

As the ads point out, clean air standards in Massachusetts have prevented thousands of cases of illness and death. Senator Brown’s vote to undermine the Clean Air Act and block the EPA from saving more lives is a vote against public health. There is simply no denying it.