America's Health V. Polluters: Which Side Will the U.S. Senate Pick?

With the U.S. Senate poised to vote Wednesday on measures that could block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) updating of badly-needed Clean Air safeguards, hundreds of groups representing millions of Americans are urging federal lawmakers to stand up for the health of Americans by opposing the agenda of polluters.

This amazingly diverse cross-section of America consists of rural, minority, business, health and environmental groups and concerned individuals, including: 

  • Organizations representing millions of Latinos.  “In the U.S. today, one out of every 10 children are affected by asthma. Latino children fare worse being 60% more likely to develop asthma than non-Hispanic white children since they often live in geographic areas with the highest concentrations of air pollution.  Our health professionals experience firsthand the suffering caused by disease impacts, in doctor’s offices, emergency rooms and hospitals. Air pollution takes a toll on families that can be measured in lives lost, jobs lost, missed school days and severe financial hardship. Because so many Hispanics are under-insured or lack insurance altogether, these preventable illnesses can be devastating. The Clean Air Act was passed to protect the most vulnerable among us—those with asthma and other respiratory illnesses, children, older adults, and people with heart disease and diabetes—from the dangers of air pollutants, including threats posed by carbon dioxide pollution. Every year this important law prevents hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, heart attacks and other serious health problems.”
  • 44 investors with half a trillion in assets under management.   “We are 44 investors with $546 billion in assets under management writing to urge you and your colleagues to allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move forward with its greenhouse gas regulations and to oppose any constraints on EPA’s authority to do so. We agree with many Members in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that Congress should take the lead in addressing climate change by passing comprehensive climate and energy legislation. However, in the absence of such legislation in the foreseeable future, EPA must be allowed to move forward using its existing authority.  As investors we prefer long-term certainty on energy and climate policy to be able to predict investment risks and opportunities. While we realize that complete certainty is not feasible, inconsistent and volatile clean energy and climate policies have already resulted in capital moving overseas and job loss in the United States. Until the U.S. provides more reliable and positive signals to the market on regulation of greenhouse gases that can unleash investment in clean energy and low-carbon technologies, America will continue to fall behind other countries in creating a new energy economy.”
  • Leading respiratory, asthma and other health groups.  “ Our organizations are keenly aware of the health impacts of air pollution. The Clean Air Act guarantees all Americans, especially the most vulnerable, air that is safe and healthy to breathe. Despite tremendous air pollution reductions, more progress is needed to fulfill this promise. If passed by Congress, this legislation would interfere with EPA’s ability to implement the Clean Air Act; a law that protects public health and reduces health care costs for all by preventing thousands of adverse health outcomes, including: cancer, asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, emergency department visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths. A rigorous, peer-reviewed analysis, The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, conducted by EPA, found that the air quality improvements under the Clean Air Act will save $2 trillion by 2020 and prevent at least 230,000 deaths annually.”
  • Hundreds of environment-related business owners.   More than 300 members of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) wrote to the US Senate today:  “.. . proposals to block EPA’s authority to reduce carbon dioxide pollution are a step backward that we cannot afford. The growing clean energy sector represents our greatest opportunity to restore a robust economy and create new jobs. Investors and entrepreneurs in this sector are seeking to commercialize the innovations and technologies that will secure America’s position in the global economy.  Limiting carbon pollution sends a strong economic signal that will drive investments toward domestic clean energy industries, creating American jobs in the process. The expanding international market for energy represents a multi-trillion dollar opportunity: U.S. manufacturers can be the leading global suppliers of cleaner cars, cleaner fuels, and cleaner power, and of technologies that improve industrial, power plant and building efficiency. But U.S. businesses and investors depend on a clear market signal on carbon pollution for investment security and stability. Reversing course now by handcuffing the EPA’s ability to reduce carbon pollution would create market instability and only serve to delay major investment in low-carbon, energy efficient technologies, postponing innovation and technology upgrades nationwide. Instead of curtailing the EPA’s efforts, Congress should be embracing the progress underway to secure U.S. leadership in 21st century clean technologies.”
  • Wildlife and environmental organizations “Unfortunately, under the guise of cutting federal spending, the House passed what amounted to a bailout for polluters. Riddled with riders that create environmental loopholes that trash decades of bi-partisan protection for clean air, clean water and our natural resources, HR 1 is a serious threat to the health and well-being of American families, our economy and our way of life. That's why a broad coalition ranging from hunters and anglers to children's health advocates is strongly opposing the polluter bailout bill. “Today we call for mainstream lawmakers to stand up for mainstream values. Instead of slashing clean air, clean water and wildlife protections it's time for Congress to take aim at the billions in oil company subsidies. And instead of meeting the needs of polluters, it's time for Congress to pass a budget that reflects the needs and priorities of the American people.”
  • Leading small business groups with tens of thousands of members. “These amendments won't help small businesses and won’t create jobs. In fact, they'll leave small businesses – through factors such as higher employee health costs and productivity loss – to pay the price for dirtier air and will directly put jobs at risk. Over the past 40 years, the CAA has helped our economy create millions of new jobs and is one of the primary reasons for the dramatic growth of the U.S. environmental technologies industry and its workforce. Moreover, our research shows that the benefits of the CAA are wide reaching, and a diverse array of small businesses are eagerly looking to participate in a growing sustainable economy to boost their bottom lines. Given the negative impact on small business and environmental technology jobs that these amendments are bound to have, it is highly ironic that they would be attached to the reauthorization of the SBIR and STTR — programs that have been a key component of small business success. We urge the Senate to reject these amendments should they come up for a vote, and, instead, get back to providing support for programs like the SBIR that affect small businesses the most. Passage of either of these amendments creates a slippery slope towards undoing or delaying other critical protections under the CAA.”
  • Russell Train, former EPA administrator in the Nixon and Ford Administrations.  “Arguments that it should left to Congress solely to decide how to regulate greenhouse gas pollutants ring hollow, since Congress has consistently failed to take meaningful action in spite of the clear scientific evidence of the dangers these pollutants pose. Arguments that Congress did not mean to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act are inconsistent with the history of the law as it has been applied for the past 40 years and misrepresent Congress’ original intentions in passing the Act. Precisely because existing knowledge of air pollutants and their potential effects was so limited at the time, Congress did not enumerate the pollutants that should or should not be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Rather, Congress broadly defined the term “air pollutant” and relied upon on the scientific experts at EPA to evaluate individual pollutants to determine whether or not they were harmful and met the standard for regulation.”
  • Faith groups are also weighing in: "Unfortunately, having themselves failed to show responsible leadership to begin to overcome global warming, certain Members of Congress are attempting to pass legislation to either strip EPA's authority to regulate GHGs or delay its ability to do so. The House of Representatives has already passed the Upton bill striping EPA's authority. The same bill is being offered in the Senate by Sen. Inhofe (R-OK). In addition, Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) and possibly Sen. Baucus (D-MT) have bills to delay and/or weaken EPA's authority to protect human health by addressing climate change. All such efforts to prevent EPA from reducing global warming pollution must be opposed.
  • Organizations such as Ceres seeing to bring together business and environmental concerns.   “The February 2011 Ceres report New Jobs - Cleaner Air: Employment Effects Under Planned Changes to the EPA’s Air Pollution Rules -- prepared by Dr. James Heinz of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst -- details the jobs created through investments in pollution controls, new plant construction, and the retirement of older, less efficient coal plants as the country transitions to a cleaner, modernized generation fleet under new EPA clean air standards. Based on recent estimates that the power sector will invest almost $200 billion total in capital improvements over the next five years, total employment created by these capital investments is estimated at 1.46 million jobs, or about 290,000 jobs on average in each of the next five years. As the nation's economy struggles, the opportunity to improve public health while creating high-paying construction, installation, engineering and manufacturing jobs is too good to pass up.”

These are strong and diverse voices from across America.  The message is clear:  The U.S. Senate has a choice – the health of America and its economy … or the agenda of polluters.