Meet the Members of Congress Who Want to Force EPA to Lie to Us About Whether the Air is Safe to Breathe

What does it say about the character of a Congress that would compel government officials to lie to you and me about the healthiness of the air we breathe?

28 members of Congress [pdf] voted to do that last week when the House Energy & Commerce Committee passed the so-called Gasoline Regulations Act or Gas Act. That bill would force the head of EPA to adopt unhealthy clean air standards for smog pollution if someone decides it costs too much to set healthy standards. The legislation then would compel EPA to misrepresent those unhealthy air quality standards to Americans as sufficient to achieve "clean air."

This is no different from Congress forcing doctors to lie to patients about their correct diagnoses if some government bureaucrat or economist or insurance company says it costs too much to treat the honestly diagnosed illness.

For over 40 years the Clean Air Act has required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set honest air quality standards that are "requisite to protect the public health" with an "adequate margin of safety." [pdf] Clean Air standards must be honestly based on the best health science and medical understanding concerning how much pollution is harmful to humans. Standards may not be weakened or distorted by political or other non-medical factors.

Big polluters despise that protectiveness, honesty and health science foundation. For over a decade lobbyists for Big Oil and Big Coal have been fighting to weaken the Clean Air Act to eliminate clean air standards based on health science and medicine. Polluters want to force the acceptance of unhealthy air standards if the costs of cleaning up air pollution are undesirable.

Undesirable to whom? The corporate polluters that dirty our air and their shareholders, their hand-picked economists and lawyers, and politicians.

By severing clean air standards from science and human health, there is no end to the amount of political manipulation, deceit and corporate capitulation that would force Americans to breathe unsafe levels of air pollution.

Supporters of the GAS Act -- which the American Lung Assocation has rightly dubbed the GASP Act -- will deny that the legislation requires EPA to lie to Americans or accept unhealthy smog levels. But it is an inescapable reality that the legislation would force Americans to suffer unhealthy smog levels if honestly, accurately determined clean air standards fail the bill's politicized cost test.

The GASP Act requires EPA to set national air quality standards for smog at these unhealthy levels and then misrepresent to Americans that meeting these levels will provide clean, safe air. The bill knowingly compels unhealthy air if someone decides the costs are not worth it, with the science and medical studies identifying healthy air quality left on the cutting room floor.

Recognize that the Clean Air Act always has allowed costs to be considered when deciding how best to clean up unhealthy amounts of air pollution. Industry and government officials are allowed to select the most cost-effective, feasible methods for lowering smog emissions to levels that are safe. But cost never has been allowed to pervert the question of whether the air is safe to breathe. Insurance companies and bean counters don't get to make the medical diagnosis.

The full House of Representatives is expected to take up the GASP Act for a floor vote in the coming weeks. When that vote happens, I will update this post to identify all members voting to eliminate the Clean Air Act's health foundation.

But for now, let's meet the members of Congress on the Energy and Commerce Committee who voted last week to junk the over 40-year legal right to clean air in the United States based upon honest science and what is healthy for humans.

Fred Upton (R-MI)

Joe Barton (R-TX)

Cliff Stearns (R-FL)

Ed Whitfiled (R-KY)

John Shimkus (R-IL)

Joe Pitts (R-PA)

Greg Walden (R-OR)

Lee Terry (R-NE)

Sue Myrick (R-NC)

John Sullivan (R-OK)

Tim Murphy (R-PA)

Brian Bilbray (R-CA)

Steve Scalise (R-LA)

Bob Latta (R-OH)

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)

Gregg Harper (R-MS)

Leonard Lance (R-NJ)

Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

Brett Guthrie (R-KY)

Pete Olson (R-TX)

David McKinley (R-WV)

Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Mike Pompeo (R-KS)

Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)

Morgan Griffith (R-VA)

Mike Ross (D-AK)

Jim Matheson (D-UT)

John Barrow (D-GA)