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

Make no mistake about it: The Clean Air Act is under attack from Congress. Indeed, in the U.S. Senate voting is imminent on several amendments to a non-related small business bill that would ditch, delay or dilute the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ability to update and enforce air pollution standards. 

The good news is that those who pick polluters over the health of Americans are continuing to get pummeled on America’s newspaper opinion pages. Back in late February, I did roundups of editorials and op-eds opposed to those in Congress who would trash needed updates to America’s clean air laws. Here, in Part III, I have pulled together a few pieces that say it best:

Clamp Down on Coal, Washington Post, editorial, March 24, 2011

Republicans — and some Democrats — in Congress are eager to kneecap EPA’s efforts. The House GOP attempted to gut clean-air rules in the seven-month continuing resolution it approved last month. In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is set to get a vote next week on an amendment that would strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) wants to delay the already slow pace of regulation by stopping it for another two years. Lawmakers should back off. Americans’ health will benefit, and, as the news from Japan, Europe and elsewhere shows, U.S. leadership is needed to discourage demand for dirty fuels outside the country as well as in. President Obama can provide such leadership only if the United States begins to provide a better example at home.

Ruckelshaus, Whitman: Undoing 40 Years of Green Gains?, St. Paul Pioneer Press, op-ed article, March 25, 2011

Amid the virulent attacks on the EPA driven by concern about overregulation, it is easy to forget how far we have come in the past 40 years. We should take heart from all this progress and not, as some in Congress have suggested, seek to tear down the agency that the president and Congress created to protect America's health and environment. It has taken four decades to put in place the infrastructure to ensure that pollution is controlled through limitations on corporate, municipal and individual conduct. Dismantle that infrastructure today, and a new one would have to be created tomorrow at great expense and at great sacrifice to America's public health and environment. The American public will not long stand for an end to regulations that have protected their health and quality of life. Our country needs today what it needed in 1970: a strong, self-confident, scientifically driven, transparent, fair and responsible EPA. Congress should help America achieve that. It should do so not with lowered sights but lowered voices that will result in an EPA fully capable of helping fashion a prosperous, healthy America whose environment continues to improve.

EPA pursuit of cleaner air is under attack, The Nashville Tennessean, editorial, March 25, 2011

The Clean Air Act mandates that the EPA set national air-quality standards for ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and lead — and for this, it is under attack, because these standards will cost money to the polluters to buy equipment to help clean up their emissions. Keep in mind, however, that these orders were given to the EPA to carry out in 1970 and updated in 1990, so that industries have had at least 20 years to prepare for this. Meanwhile, the pollutants have contributed to untold numbers of serious health problems, from respiratory illness to birth defects, developmental problems in children and increased risk of premature death in those with heart or lung disease. The chronic illnesses have helped drive up the cost of health care.

Editorial: Kirk should back greenhouse gas regulation, Chicago Sun Times, March 28, 2011

(U.S. Senator Mark) Kirk backs tax credits for renewable energy and doesn’t deny the risks of climate change, but environmentalists say he has been telling local groups that Congress, not the EPA, should address the problem. That’s not a good enough reason to vote for this bill. Prospects for meaningful progress on climate change are little to none in the current Congress, where Republicans seem more focused on deconstructing the EPA. Stripping the agency of its regulatory power over greenhouse gases would take away our only tool against a significant and worsening threat.

EPA chief must push back against the fossil fuel caucus, Newark Star Ledger, editorial, March 16, 2011

As promised, Republicans in Congress have launched an offensive against Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, drafting a bill that would force her to pretend climate change is a figment of the liberal imagination. The bill they are pushing would remove the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act. And that’s a tricky move because the act requires the EPA to regulate emissions that threaten human health. Jackson normally relies on her scientists to guide that sort of decision, but when it comes to climate change, Republicans are not big fans of science. They want Jackson to rely on their judgment instead, marinated as it is in money from the oil and gas industries.

Editorial: At long last, cleaner air, The Roanoke Times, March 30, 2011

When it passed major amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990, Congress mandated limits on these types of harmful emissions. It has taken this long -- and several major court challenges -- to get to this stage. But some members of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, angered at the EPA over unrelated regulations proposed for carbon emissions, are doing their best to weaken the agency. They will undoubtedly target these new rules, too. But the regulations are long overdue. They are reasonable and will protect the health of millions of Americans. They should go into effect as soon as possible.

Cleaning our air is worth the cost, Lexington Herald Leader, editorial, March 20, 2011

[A]fter 20 years of hemming and hawing, it's time to start controlling the 386,000 tons of toxins that rain down on this country each year from coal-fired power plants, the No. 1 source of air pollution.  It's past time, really. A bipartisan majority of Congress in 1990 ordered the EPA to get to work on nationwide standards for toxic emissions from power plants. If people should be alarmed about anything, it's that it's taken so long and that the health of so many has suffered during the delay. As the crisis at the Fukushima reactors reminds us, invisible substances in the air can do grave harm to human health and lasting damage to the environment.

Viewpoint: Is Upton's receipt of $250,000 from oil and gas industry affecting his judgment?, Kalamazoo Gazette, op-ed article, March 28, 2011

Koch Industries is a private energy conglomerate, based in Kansas, run by Charles and David Koch. They work with oil, chemicals and fertilizers. They are notorious for their political contributions and lobbying support for the fossil fuel industry. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, who represents Michigan's Sixth Congressional District, was among the top 20 recipients in the U.S. House of oil and gas money in 2010 and has received almost $250,000 from the oil and gas industry during his career. Mr. Upton is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the 112th Congress. The Koch brothers have not only contributed to Mr. Upton, but also to several of the other committee members. In 1990, Mr. Upton supported the Clean Air Act amendments. Now he wants to stop the EPA from enforcing common sense safeguards to curb pollution under the act. Lisa Jackson, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, testified in a hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee, “that Chairman Upton’s bill would, in his own words, ‘repeal’ the scientific finding regarding greenhouse gas emissions. Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question – that would be part of this committee’s legacy.” Have the Koch brothers provided Mr. Upton with scientific evidence that the harm that greenhouse gases do to the environment are a figment of scientist’s imagination?

I could go on and on here, but the message should be clear: Congress needs to stand up for the health of Americans, not the agenda of polluters.