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Pete Altman’s Blog

Who is Standing Against Polluters and For Clean Air? Take II

Pete Altman

Posted March 8, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Solving Global Warming

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Several weeks ago, the U.S. House passed a spending bill that my colleague Scott Slesinger calls “the most anti-environmental bill to come before Congress in the last 40 years“ because of its crippling cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget and its 19 riders blocking the EPA from protecting public health. It’s a massive giveaway to polluters that puts our health, our air and our water at risk.

Clearly, more than a few House members are speaking for polluters (and yes, carrying their water.)

Now, as the Senate prepares to take up the budget issue on Wednesday, some Senators are speaking out against polluters and for clean air and our health.

Kudos to these Senators who are standing up to the polluter-driven agenda:

  • Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA):

The CAA and EPA are strongly supported still by the American people. The only place we have a lack of the support is right here in the Congress by our republican friends, primarily. The ALA says that 69% think that the EPA should update the CAA with stricter limits, 68% say congress should not stop the EPA from enforcing CAA standards, 69% say EPA scientists, not congress, should set pollution standards.”

  • Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR):

“In 2010, the Clean Cir Act prevented 1.7 million asthma attacks, 130,000 heart attacks, and 86,000 emergency room visits. That is why leading public health experts oppose these cuts, groups like ALA which said that H.R.1 is toxic to public health.“

  • Senator Tom Udall (D-NM):

“If the American people really knew what was happening here, I would think they would be out in the streets because the rollback of these environmental laws really is a roll back on public health. We are talking about preventing heart attacks and emergency room visits. In New Mexico alone, over 170,000 residents suffer from asthma over 47,000 of those are children, and thousands suffer from respiratory illnesses. “

  • Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ):

“The Clean Air Act protects our children from toxic chemicals in the air. In 2010, 1.7 million cases of childhood asthma and 160,000 premature deaths were prevented according to EPA. The numbers are big, but they loom even larger when it’s your kid. If you really want to know the value of the CAA, talk to the million of parents that live in fear of their children’s next asthma attack… If you don’t like regulations, we should get rid of red lights, it should speed up traffic.“

  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI):

“Physicians for Social Responsibility say that just US coal plants alone cause 554,000 asthma attacks each year. Why do I talk about asthma? Rhode Island has a 10% rate of Asthma despite not having any coal plants. Why is this? Because out in the Midwest, they are pumping their pollution into the air where it falls down on New England states.”

And it isn’t just Senators who are speaking up. Today, the American Lung Association made clear just how important it is to stand up for clean air, with a new report documenting that the nation’s “400 coal-fired power plants located in 46 states across the country release in excess of 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere each year.”

The report is already generating plenty of coverage, including this terrific story by USA Today’s Wendy Koch, which features ALA CEO Charles Connor laying down the bottom line:

"Power plant pollution kills people," Connor said, citing a recent estimate that it causes 13,000 deaths each year. "It threatens the brains and nervous system of children. It can cause cancer, heart attacks and strokes."

Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency will update the clean air safeguards to reduce the toxic pollution from the nation’s coal plants next week. (Join ALA in supporting the updated standards here.)

And with the help of the ALA and members of Congress speaking out in support of reducing pollution, we’ll all be able to breathe a little easier.  

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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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