Will Reps. Upton & Whitfield Try to Take Away Americans' Right to Clean Air?

For over 40 years the Clean Air Act has granted every American the right to breathe clean air.

Clean air based on what is healthy to breathe according to science and medicine. Not according to what is barely tolerable to polluters and politicians, accountants and economists.

Now lobbyists for industrial polluters want to take that clean air right away from all of us.

Lobbyists for the American Petroleum Institute, American Chemistry Council, the Business Roundtable and others have mounted a furious lobbying push to stop EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson from delivering on the Clean Air Act's promise of clean air to all Americans. They want Jackson to maintain an unprotective standard on smog pollution that the Bush administration set after defying the unanimous recommendations of EPA's expert science advisors to substantially strengthen the standard to protect all Americans.

Politico's Morning Energy reports that these lobbyists are taking their bare-knuckled political case today, Friday July 22nd, to House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman, Fred Upton (R-MI), and Energy & Power Subcommittee Chairman, Ed Whitfield (R-KY).

This follows on the heels of these same lobbyists last week first appealing to Jackson, then urging the president personally to quash Jackson's responsibility to follow the law and science. The lobbyists must anticipate the president will decline the invitation to break the law, so now they are turning to House Republicans do the dirty work.

As I've written before, national ambient air quality standards are the linchpins of the Clean Air Act. They define the line between safe and unsafe air quality, based upon the best scientific evidence known to us. Primary standards must protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. Secondary welfare standards protect things like visibility, crops, vegetation and buildings.

When polluter lobbyists seek to deny our very right to breathe healthy air, there can no more blatant example of narrow corporate interests opposing the good of all Americans.

But if you will allow me some grade school civics class nostalgia, members of Congress are supposed to represent Americans, not corporate lobbyists.

Overwhelming bi-partisan majorities in Congress passed the Clean Air Acts of 1970, 1977 and 1990. Two Republican presidents and one Democrat signed the laws. Every version of the law has preserved the core feature granting all Americans the right to clean air.

To my knowledge, no prior Congressional legislation has ever tried to eliminate that clean air right. (Rep. Flake (R-AZ) introduced a dirty amendment [pdf, p.23] to the pending EPA-Interior budget bill that comes closest. It blocks EPA for one year from adopting protective standards against soot pollution based on science and the law. The amendment and spending bill passed the House Appropriations Committee last week with zero support from the Democratic minority; it will face a vote on the House floor this week.)

Congressmen Upton and Whitfield chair the key environmental and clean air committee and subcommittee, respectively, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

We soon shall find out whether they want the legacy of their tenure to be a shameful attempt to eliminate Americans' right to clean air.

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