Scott Brown's Attack on the Truth

I haven’t met Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and I am sure he is a nice man but he is definitely on the wrong track in attacking EPA and now the League of Women Voters.  Back in April, Senator Brown voted for an extreme measure that would have put Congress, for the first time in the forty year history of the Clean Air Act, on record as forbidding EPA to regulate a pollutant that the agency had found posed a clear threat to public health and welfare.  Just as egregious, the amendment Senator Brown supported put elected politicians in the position of repealing a scientific finding of harm made by government scientists.  And EPA’s scientific conclusion was not some whim of appointed officials; it was based on peer-reviewed scientific publications and scrutinized in a thorough public comment process.

That’s right; the amendment he voted for tried to repeal a scientific finding.  Did you know Senators were so powerful that they could repeal facts? If they get on a roll perhaps Senator Brown and his like-minded colleagues will attempt to repeal the conclusion that cigarettes cause cancer.  This is so much easier than actually coming up with solutions to facts they don’t like, isn’t it?

Now the Senator has taken aim at the League of Women Voters for calling attention in a TV ad to Senator Brown’s indefensible vote.  In an op-ed in the Boston Herald Senator Brown attacks the League as misrepresenting his vote, engaging in “demagoguery,” and going “into the gutter.”  What a shame that the Senator has resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the book: when the facts are not on your side, attack the messenger.

Perhaps Senator Brown is unaware of the League’s role as a defender of the Clean Air Act.  The facts are that the League has a long and distinguished record of helping to inform the public about the importance of the Clean Air Act and shining a light on polluter proposals to weaken that Act over the years.  For more than three decades I have been privileged to work with the League as it has carried out this work that is so important to American families.  The League was a charter member of the National Clean Air Coalition since the 1970’s and has helped educate families since then about the importance of letting elected officials know how vital the Clean Air Act is to their health.

As to Senator Brown’s justification for his dirty air vote, it is thin gruel indeed.  He claims his vote was to prevent “giving unelected and unaccountable agencies like EPA the power to bypass Congress.”  With all due respect to the Senator, that is nonsense. 

The Clean Air Act signed into law by President Nixon was written by Congress and as the Supreme Court has held, that law laid out the authority for EPA to act to control harmful pollutants like carbon dioxide.  Ironically, the case is called Massachusetts v. EPA, because, the very Commonwealth that Senator Brown is supposed to represent went to court to protect its citizens by requiring EPA to curtail that pollution, consistent with the law.  Following that decision, EPA, under the direction of President George W. Bush, undertook a thorough inquiry into the scope of the threat caused by carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gas” pollutants.  The results of that study were made available for public comment and EPA responded to all of those comments.  Is that how Senator Brown describes “unaccountable”? 

The truth is that EPA is acting under the letter and spirit of the law passed by Congress and is accountable for every step it takes in attempting to carry out that law.  The larger truth is that setting sensible limits on these harmful pollutants will protect the families the League of Women Voters is educating about the issue and will do so without harm to our economy.  Senator Brown should be joining the League in its effort to speak truth to dirty power, not attacking it for trying to clear the air.

About the Authors

David Hawkins

Director, Climate program

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