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Lethal Legislators and Dirty Secrets Behind Clean Air Attacks

Pete Altman

Posted September 22, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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As early as this Friday, the US House is expected to vote on a bill that could cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives and cause hundreds of thousands of children to suffer from more frequent and more severe asthma attacks.

The bill in question, the TRAIN (Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation)  Act would indefinitely delay clean-up of dangerous power plant air pollution, including mercury, soot, cancer-causing dioxins and acid gases. The minimum delays mandated by the bill would put on hold until at least 2013 two critical Clean Air Act updates: the Cross – State Air Pollution Rule and Mercury and Air Toxics standards for power plants.  

The bill started out with a more innocuous goal of creating a new government review panel to slow down the EPA’s efforts to reduce pollution. But thanks to amendments added by Reps Bob Latta (OH-5) and Ed Whitfield (KY-1) the bill takes direct aim at Americans’ lungs. As my colleague John Walke describes it:

TRAIN already was the most irresponsible dirty air legislation ever to be brought to the House floor. But two Republican amendments to the bill quietly introduced last night contain far more extreme attacks on health protections that take us into reckless territory never before seen in Congress…. The bill would cost a minimum of 34,000 lives, with indefinite delay allowing over 25,000 additional deaths every year.

A reasonable person might ask: “Why would members of Congress vote to increase pollution that will kill tens of thousands of Americans?” But it turns out that sadly, a lot of members have been throwing their support behind measures that would put kids and lives at risk.

For example, according to the website DirtySecrets.org, 37 states have Lethal Legislators who have already demonstrated an appetite for bills like TRAIN that would leave behind a legacy of death and illness throughout the nation.

Texas leads the pack with 21 Lethal Legislators, followed by Pennsylvania with 10. Georgia and Ohio have 7 lethal legislators apiece. And more, like Iowa (3), North Carolina (8), Oregon (3), Minnesota (5). The site also provides information on polluter contributions to these lethal legislators.

Let’s focus on Reps Latta and Whitfield themselves. Thanks to DirtySecrets.org, we know that:

Rep. Bob Latta (OH-5) supports measures that would increase pollution from cement kilns, power plants and industrial boilers and cost 81,000 Americans their lives. Over 250,000 kids in Ohio with asthma would also be at greater risk for more frequent and dangerous asthma attacks. Note that Rep Latta is also pushing an amendment to TRAIN that would allow polluters to have sway over scientists in setting safety standards for pollution. I should mention that according to the site, Latta has taken at least $100,000 from polluters during his congressional career.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (KY-1) is supporting proposals that would increase pollution from power plants and industrial boilers, measure that would cost 56,200 Americans their lives and put the state’s 95,000 kids with asthma at greater risk for more frequent and dangerous asthma attacks. Note that Whitfield wants to make the TRAIN act even worse by permanently blocking stronger pollution safeguards for power plants. Whitfield has taken at least a whopping $704,000 from polluters

If this appalls you, check out the site to learn more. You can share the information on Facebook and Twitter.

Or cut to the chase and just tell your Reps in Congress to protect Americans and our children from dangerous air pollution by opposing TRAIN and the Latta and Whitfield Amendments.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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