Part II: EPA Health Protections Under Assault - The Backlash on America's Editorial & Op-Ed Pages

Last week, I pulled together an overview of recent editorials condemning the U.S. House of Representatives for its unprecedented clean air health protections at the Environment Protection Agency. There has also been quite a furor brewing over in the op-ed columns. As promised last week, here are just a few of the recent op-ed highlights that have caught my eye:

Pennsylvanians didn't vote for dirtier air, Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News, Adam Garber and Dr. Robert Little

Why else would the U.S. House of Representatives have used a must-pass federal funding bill to launch what amounts to the largest assault on our health, clean air and clean water in recent history? The bill — H.R. 1, referred to as the “Continuing Resolution” — was a dangerous-enough attack on our health and environment when it was introduced. It threatened the health of Pennsylvania’s children, elderly citizens and other vulnerable populations by blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Air Act and cleaning up dangerous carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.

Protect the EPA, Santa Barbara Independent, Sean Carroll and Ana Mascarenas

During the EPA’s first 20 years alone, it prevented more than 200,000 premature deaths and almost 700,000 cases of chronic bronchitis by reducing dangerous air pollution. And gone are the days of rivers so polluted they catch on fire, and skies so polluted they block out the sun. Sadly, however, the job is far from done. Most notably, Californians and Americans across the country are still coping with unhealthy levels of air pollution. It is critical that EPA continue its work to protect our health. 

Killing regulation, not the deficit, St. Petersburg Times, Robyn E. Blumner

The environment also got a huge whack, with Republicans seeking to cut $3 billion out of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental groups say it's a blatant attempt to cripple the nation's laws that protect air, water, wildlife, public lands and public health. Among the specific constraints, the EPA would be stymied from reducing carbon dioxide pollution, a policy that reflects how the Republicans are more focused on resisting the science of climate change than on reducing the federal deficit. Overall, their proposal is a polluters' gift card with an unlimited balance. 

Fouling the Clean Air Act, Miami Herald, Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

But some of the nation's biggest polluters have teamed up with the Republicans to try to stop progress - just as more evidence documents global warming: The 10 warmest years on record have all been since 1998; last year was tied with 2005 as the hottest. Together, they would turn the House into a special-interest court of appeals to circumvent the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that orders EPA to fight global warming. They would limit the clean air law's provisions protecting us from power plant pollution and block several states from adopting tougher pollution controls than the federal government. 

What Follows the Money?, The Hill’s Congress Blog, Bob Edgar

Here in Washington meanwhile, the re-constituted House Energy and Commerce Committee has 27 members who received campaign contributions last year from Koch Industries employees or Koch-affiliated groups. Its new chairman, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., already has introduced an “Energy Tax Protection Act” that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. The Kochs’ disdain for such rules exceeds even their antipathy for public employee unions. It all sure looks like payback. At the very least, it’s powerful evidence of why we need strict controls on corporate and other special interest spending, including union spending, on our elections – nationally and in every state.

House Republicans are cutting a lot more than the deficit, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, Bob Marshall

Many sections of the bill would prevent the EPA from enforcing any laws that restrict carbon pollution. Little or no savings would be realized, but the primary cause of the sea level rise swamping what's left of our coast will go unaddressed. At the same time the bill does not reduce the $36 billion in tax breaks to be handed to the oil industry over the next decade, or close the loophole in offshore royalty payments costing the nation billions.  You shouldn't be surprised to learn big oil - one our most profitable yet heavily subsidized industries - doesn't want to give up its freebies, and also has opposed carbon legislation.

ECOVIEWS: Congress must not weaken environmental laws, Tuscaloosa (AL) News, Whit Gibbons

One thing is certain — the congressional zenith of passing the environmental laws of the 1970s to protect our natural heritage will be hard to follow. But for other senators and representatives to weaken them would be to reach a congressional nadir. Let’s not stand for it. Let’s make it clear to all that to truly realize life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America, we must do so with clean air and water and with our biological communities and natural habitats intact.

Environment can be GOP's best friend, The (Somerville, NJ) Courier News, Dan Aronson

“… [T]he National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act and the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act (which utilized market mechanisms to reduce SO2 emissions at low cost) were all implemented by Republican presidents, and an inescapable conclusion follows: environmentalism is Republican. It's not just moderate Republicanism, it IS Republican.  It makes no sense, therefore, for some Republicans to espouse anti-environmental positions. Their strategy is working at the moment, but I'm old enough to have seen political fortunes (like American car sales) shift like the wind, and environmental obstructionism will cause support for the Republican Party to melt along with the polar ice caps.

Support climate legislation, Juneau (AK) Empire, Kate Troll

Addressing climate change is more than responding to one of our most pressing environmental challenges; it is a series of economic opportunities waiting to be seized. Alaska with its wealth of natural gas and renewable energy is primed more than any other state to reap these benefits. Unfortunately, as the Nation’s only Arctic state we also have the most at risk.  As Shell and other industry leaders said in their letter to Obama, “It is time for Democrats and Republicans to unite behind bipartisan, national energy and climate legislation that increases our security, limits emissions, and protects the environment while preserving and creating American jobs.”

A hell of a way to interpret the Constitution, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Reg Henry

In Congress, the people's mandate for fiscally responsible change has been extended to include wholesale attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency for daring to insist on clean air. Thus it seems that even the historic idea of America the Beautiful has become victim to selective ideological amnesia -- "O beautiful for spacious skies filled with pollution."

Survey Says…Dold Out of Touch on Environmental Issues in the 10th Congressional District, IllinoisLibertyville (IL) Tribune Local/Chicago Tribune, Kim Rodriguez

Peter Lehner, the executive director of the NRDC called the votes by Dold and his Republican colleagues “an unprecedented assault on public health, clean air, fresh water, open space and wildlife.” He said contrary to what Republicans say, “Americans want the EPA to be able to do its job. They don’t want the politicians in Congress making decisions about how and when to reduce pollution; they trust the scientists at the EPA to protect public health.