Taking the Asthma Story to Fred Upton

If you haven’t seen this story on a billboard near you, it’s because you are not in the Michigan 6th Congressional District represented by Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

As I wrote yesterday, Chairman Fred has been taking the heat from his constituents for his attacks on the Clean Air Act.  You can get a sense from this story in today’s St. Joseph (Michigan) Herald-Palladium about just how tough the questions are that are being faced by Upton. Yesterday, I quoted from in a story titled “U.S. Rep. Fred Upton defends positions on environmental issues during Portage stop”:

Upton also defended his positions on the environment, especially against criticism over a bill he sponsored that would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emission from power plants and refineries. Carbon dioxide emissions from human activity is a major contributor to global climate change.

"It doesn't undermine the Clean Air Act," Upton said of his bill. "We won't let them regulate what they can't legislate."

… one audience member asked if Upton would listen to his constituency, which according to polling by environmental groups, supports EPA regulation of greenhouse gases.

As if tough newspaper and radio stories in his own District weren’t enough for Chairman Fred, the American Lung Association is running the above billboard in the 6th District in Michigan.  As today’s Daily Caller notes:

The American Lung Association, a leading opponent of efforts on Capitol Hill to repeal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, has plastered one Republican lawmaker’s district with a particularly provocative ad.

Residents in Michigan’s 6th District are being introduced to an ALA campaign that features billboards specifically targeting their congressman, Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who also happens to be the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton has also been instrumental in congressional efforts to rein in the EPA’s regulatory authority and authored a bill that would do just that.

So, why exactly is the ALA running the ads in Chairman Fred’s backyard?  The respected organization puts its concern about the issues at stake this way:

The American Lung Association is working to protect the public health from air pollution. We are defending the Clean Air Act to ensure that all Americans can have air that is safe and healthy to breathe. The Clean Air Act has provided the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority and the responsibility to protect and clean up the nation’s air since 1970. Thanks to that law and later amendments that strengthened it, people throughout the nation breathe cleaner, healthier air.

But, the work is not done; millions of Americans continue to breathe unhealthy air. Polluters and some members of Congress want to interfere with EPA’s ability to protect public health. Most Americans believe that the Clean Air Act needs protecting. We are fighting hard to prevent anyone from weakening or undermining the law or the protective standards the law provides. We are fighting to ensure EPA has the legal authority and necessary funding to continue to protect public health.

More specifically, in a March 15, 2011 letter to Chairman Upton, the leadership of the American Lung Association spelled it out in even starker terms:

Dear Chairman Upton: 

The American Lung Association strongly supports the Clean Air Act and requests that you halt your efforts to undermine and weaken the act. The Clean Air Act is a landmark public health statute responsible for dramatic reductions of air pollution resulting in tremendous health benefits. A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020 found that cutting pollution through the Clean Air Act prevented 160,000 premature deaths in 2010.

In addition the report found that the law prevented more than 1.7 million asthma attacks last year. Specifically we oppose your legislation, H.R. 910 the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which will rollback Clean Air Act protections that are in place to address the health impacts of carbon dioxide pollution and other greenhouse gas pollution, including protections upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill blocks EPA, California, and other states from setting automobile greenhouse gas pollution standards. The bill would repeal at least eleven final actions taken to protect health and the environment under the Clean Air Act. 

We are also deeply disappointed by your votes for amendments to H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 that would block implementation of the Clean Air Act and its lifesaving protections. These amendments would prevent EPA from updating and enforcing standards for the cleanup of toxic mercury, soot, carbon dioxide and other air pollutants. These provisions, if enacted into law, would result in millions of Americans—including children, seniors, and people with chronic disease such as asthma—being forced to breathe air that is unhealthy. Breathing air pollution can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and shorten lives.

Mr. Chairman, moving forward in the 112th Congress, we urge you to reconsider your efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act and to use your leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee to support and strengthen the nation’s air pollution protections provided by the Clean Air Act.

I’m just happy to see that the U.S. House’s primary architect of the attack on the Clean Air Act is being challenged to face up to the reality of his actions. 

I’m sure that I would get an “amen” on that score from the more than 81,000 adults and over 19,000 kids in Upton’s district who have asthma, a condition which is aggravated by the very air pollution that Chairman Fred wants to see go unchecked.