Americans Oppose Upton and Gingrich-style Attacks on Pollution Safeguards

There has been a lot of talk - and bills - from politicians who think that the EPA shouldn't be allowed to do its job of protecting our health from air pollution. Last week, Newt Gingrich proposed eliminating the EPA and putting in its place a bureaucracy that would cater to polluters. Some in Congress want to eliminate the EPA's ability to update Clean Air Act standards in order to reduce life-threatening pollution like carbon dioxide, soot, smog and toxic pollution.

And today, one of the more anticipated bills is supposed to make its appearance: The Hill reports today that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton will unveil a bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting life-threatenting carbon pollution.

Thing is, Americans just don't support the Gingrich - Upton agenda. Public opinion polling released today by the Opinion Research Corporation finds that Americans don't want to eliminate the EPA as Gingrich suggests, nor do they want Congress to stop it from doing its job of protecting public health, as Chairman Upton and others want to do.

Health professionals take such proposals seriously. As Health Care Without Harm’s Climate Policy Coordinator Brenda Afzal, MS, RN, says:

“Chairman Upton’s bill, which is expected to block the Environmental Protection Agency  from updating the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution, puts our nation’s health at risk. Leading health organizations and experts consider carbon dioxide pollution to be a wide-ranging threat to public health, which contributes to the same air pollution problems that worsen asthma and other chronic respiratory illnesses that affect  millions of Americans and children. Our health should not suffer so that members of Congress can put corporate profits ahead of the public’s health.”

Here's the bottom line:

More than three out of four Americans (77 percent) – including a clear majority of Republicans (61 percent) – oppose efforts in Congress to block Clean Air Act updates for carbon, smog and other pollution, according to a national opinion survey by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) International for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

You can find the full report here. And here are some more details:

  • Americans want the EPA to do more, not less.  Almost two thirds of Americans (63 percent) say “the EPA needs to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water,” versus under a third (29 percent) who think the EPA already “does too much and places too many costly restrictions on businesses and individuals.”  Well under half of Republicans (44 percent), less than a third of Independents (29 percent) and under a fifth of Democrats (16 percent) think the EPA is going too far today.

  • Americans do not want Congress to kill the EPA’s anti-pollution updates.   Only 18 percent of Americans – including fewer than a third of Republicans (32 percent) -- believe that “Congress should block the EPA from updating pollution safeguards,” after being told:  “Some members of Congress are proposing to block the Environmental Protection Agency from updating safeguards to protect our health from dangerous air pollution, saying they will cost businesses too much money.”  By contrast, more than three out of four Americans (77 percent) -- including 61 percent of Republicans – say  “Congress (should) let the EPA do its job.”

  • The vast majority of Republicans – and all Americans – oppose the Newt Gingrich plan to dismantle the EPA.   Overall, only 25 percent of Americans agree with Newt Gingrich’s call to eliminate the EPA.  More than two out of three Americans (67 percent) oppose abolishing the EPA, including half (49 percent) who strongly oppose it.    Among those opposing the Gingrich plan:  61 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of Independents, and 79 percent of Democrats.

You can get the full news release and other materials here.

UPDATE: Apparently Gingrich's group American Solutions for Winning the Future was worried enough about today's press conference that they responded during our news conference to release the data. Kudos to them on speed. But I'd be embarrassed if it was me trying to respond to hard data with nothing more than wet noodles - as Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard points out,

"Not to be outdone, Gingrich's group American Solutions for Winning the Future released its own polling data in the midst of the NRDC's call with reporters. There was just one problem. Its data was from a 2007 survey that asked vague questions about whether America can have both economic growth and environmental protection, and whether innovation is a good thing. Not a single question dealt with extinguishing the EPA."

About the Authors

Pete Altman

Director, Climate & Clean Air Campaign, Climate & Energy program

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