The Asthma Aggravation Act of 2011

Well, for the moment “the most anti-environmental bill to come before Congress in the last 40 years” has run into trouble: the bill that the American Lung Association called “toxic to America’s health” didn’t attract enough votes to pass through the Senate today, which means that the fight over the federal budget and efforts to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency using riders and budget cuts will continue.

Meanwhile, another drama fills the stage this morning as the House Energy and Power subcommittee takes up Fred Upton’s bill to stop the EPA from updating clean air safeguards to protect public health from dangerous carbon pollution.

Let’s just call it the Asthma Aggravation Act of 2011. Much as some members of Congress would like to pretend otherwise, continuing to allow power plants and other polluters to dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air will – among other things – aggravate asthma by making smog pollution problems worse and by raising pollen levels.

I’ve already pointed out that Fred Upton’s own constituents don’t like his proposal to block the EPA, and that the constituents of many of his own committee members don’t either.

Nevertheless, Upton and his band of asthma aggravators seem pretty determined to ignore the will of the people, not to mention the science and the health impacts.

But we’ll be watching the proceedings this morning anyway, just to see what happens and what they really do. So stay tuned for some live blogging and tweeting (look for "@NRDClive") as we get ready for the first stage of the Asthma Aggravation Act of 2011. May it run short of breath soon.


Mr. Whitfield's opening comments overlook public and health opposition to HR 910.

And China may be slow in cleaning up their dirty power, but they are way ahead when it comes to building out new clean energy.

9:39 am: Doyle calls the Republican bluff: Job-killing gas price claim is BS: The Clean Air Act is one of the best investments ever. As my colleague Laurie explains, by 2020 the Clean Air Act will have returned $30 for every dollar invested in cleaning up our air since 1990.

9:40: Inslee calls out the Republican allergy to science. "This bill leaves our kids naked to health problems." RIght on Mr. Inslee: 7 milion american kids already suffer from asthma, which carbon pollution will make worse. why would anyone tell the EPA NOT to protect public health?

9:42: Hey Rep Scalise, News Flash: opponents have already tried to make the claim that EPA protecting public health is the same as cap and trade. Their best lawyers made the case before the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC and the court didn't buy it. Neither should you.

9:44: Rep Pompeo invokes small businesses as his rationale for support the Asthma Aggravation Act. But guess what? Small businesses are glad the EPA does its job.

9:46: Go Rep Capps! Way to outline what's really at stake: Public health groups oppose efforts to block EPA from protecting public health from dangerous carbon pollution.

947: Rep Barton says CO2 is a natural product of our bodies so it isn't dangerous. Quick: how many natural byproducts of our bodies can you name that you consider 'safe' when dumping 7 billion tons of it a year?

9:50: Mr. Bilbray: Uh, you would like us to go after methane? Ok. Then oppose HR 910.

9:51: Mr. Barton: the Asthma Aggravation Act (HR910) is as much a logical reaction to the need to reduce global warming as saying a driver shouldn't use his brakes on an icy, windy, downhill road.

9:53: Gas Price Red Herring Alert! Hey Chairman Upton - if you are worried about gas prices and oil dependence, you should reject your own bill. H.R. 910 would stop future clean car standards, locking Americans into paying billions of dollars more at the pump and the nation as a whole into greater dependence on foreign oil.  Current car standards are already saving money and reducing oil dependence. Handcuffing future progress hurts Americans, sends dollars to hostile regimes.

9:56: Rep Olson - pollution doesn't create jobs, it creates death and disease. GIving it a free pass just puts our health at risk.

9:58: Breaking news: House committee prepares to vote to allow unlimited carbon pollution from power plants and other industrial sources.

10:05: Kids say the darndest things, as Art Linkletter used to say.  House Republicans deny the science and blame any bad thing that ever happened to a company in your own state on the EPA.  Gas prices are governed by world oil prices.  EPA is helping, not hurting, consumers deal with increasing gas prices.  How?  By setting clean car standards that will save consumers billions of the dollars at the pump.  But the bill will *block* those standards, both now and in the future.  Bright idea.

10:12: a few minutes ago,Reps Bilbray and Barton said carbon pollution isn’t pollution under the Clean Air Act.  Wrong.  Since 1970 the Clean Air Act has told EPA to deal with new pollution threats to our health and environment.  Hey:  the bill specifically lists “adverse effects on … climate” as one of the things EPA is supposed to protect.  That’s what the Supreme Court decided in 2007, when it ordered EPA to follow the science and act.

10:15: For those who like to claim that safeguarding our air is bad for jobs: Chew on this: The Clean Air Act has yielded great returns on investments to clean up the air - as much as $30 in health benefits for every $1 spent to make our air safe.

10:27 Mr. Bilbray & Mr. Shimkus: when you talk about climate change, you are talking about public health: Thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals say the EPA must be allowed to protect our health. And the American Medical Association is doing continuing education courses focused on climate and health.

10:30 Kudos to Rep Engel, who cautions against the committee taking the step of overruling the scientific assessment of thousands of EPA and other experts. The public clearly trusts EPA experts to make decisions about when and how to regulate pollution, not the politicians in Congress. As the ALA found, 69% of voters think that scientists should set pollution standards rather than Congress.  

10:33: Just to be clear, support for the EPA making pollution decisions crosses party lines:

Public support for Congress Letting EPA do its job of protecting public health from pollution

10:35: Rep Markey makes clear that the Asthma Aggravation Act of 2011 will put our nation's security at risk. US Vets agree: check out their ad exposing Chairman Upton's Oil Addiction Disorder.

10:39: Way to Go Rep Dingell! He gets Committee Counsel to admit there are no taxes related to this bill, calls for truth in labelling.

10:41: Rep Doyle reminds the committee that protections against high costs are built into the Clean Air Act; industry claims of falling skies just don't hold water. In fact, cleaning up pollution creates jobs developing and installing new technologies - over 3 million americans have jobs in environmental cleanup.

10:49: Listening to Rep Barton's comments, I can't help but contemplate that he lives downwind of some of the nation's biggest coal plants, which emit thousands and thousands of pounds of neurotoxins including mercury. Barton's exercise in imaginary impacts of EPA's protection of our health ignores the agency's 40 year track record of cleaning up pollution, protecting health all while our economy has grown by 207 percent.

10:57: The logic of opponents of EPA action is melting faster than our ice sheets.

11:00 am: Looks like the committee is going to keep going on this, and I've gotta jet. So stay tuned at