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Scott Slesinger’s Blog

The Senate to vote on the worst anti-environmental bill EVER

Scott Slesinger

Posted March 8, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, The Media and the Environment

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Tomorrow the Senate will vote on the most anti-environmental bill to come before Congress in the last 40 years.  While most of the media has been focused on whether this bill will cut .42% or .43% of the nation’s debt, the true impact of the bill is much greater.  The fact is that H.R.1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, is full of policy riders that are  stealth attacks on basic American values  that put those laws into effect. 

This bill thoroughly guts the Clean Air Act and all but dismantles the Environmental Protection Agency.  It includes both arbitrary, destructive cuts of up 60% for the EPA’s FY2011 budget (30% cuts for the remaining 6 months of the year = 60%), and 19 different industry requested policy riders to prevent EPA from enforcing its legal obligations to protect public health from air toxics, water pollution and to carry out the laws previous Congresses have required EPA to do. 

For a budget that is supposed to be about saving Americans money, it’s odd that those who voted for this bill did not take into account how much this budget will cost Americans. Over the last 40 years the Clean Air Act has provided anywhere from $6 to $50 trillion in health and economic benefits to the public, according to a recent EPA study.  If the Senate passes H.R. 1, those benefits are going be eroded as American families pay more to address the rising costs of health and pollution harms.  I say families because it’s important to note that under this budget industrial polluters won’t be the ones to bare those costs; they will be externalizing their costs on the public health and our environment.  We said no to this policy many years ago, it is not the time to go back to the dawn of the industrial revolution.  One amendment, discussed by my colleague Roland Hwang would even make us more dependent on foreign oil! 

One of the best examples of how the bill would hurt everyday Americans, while allowing industry to continue dumping poison into our air was the Carter Amendment, #165, which would deny any funds to EPA to “implement, administer or enforce” standards to reduce mercury, arsenic, lead, PCBs, dioxins and furans, and heavy metals from cement plants. 

Mercury and lead both are dangerous neurotoxins – brain poisons – that harm the developing brains of children and fetuses. Dioxins are known human carcinogens linked to birth defects, reproductive abnormalities, and lung and breast cancer. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen linked to lung and kidney cancer and PCBs are probable human carcinogens linked to liver cancer.  EPA projects that starting in 2013 and every year thereafter, the standards would avoid: up to 2,500 premature deaths; 1,500 heart attacks; 17,000 cases of aggravated asthma; 32,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms; and 130,000 days when people would have missed miss work.

Now the cost of cleaning up these pollutants will be several hundred million dollars to the cement industry, but EPA has found that the benefits to the American public will be anywhere from approximately $6.5 billion to $17 billion.  Put another way, H.R. 1, with the inclusion of the Carter Amendment just passed on up to $17 billion in health and pollution costs to the American public so that the cement industry could avoid having to clean up the poisons they release into the air.  Is that fair?  Does that keep in line with our American values?  Will Senators follow their House colleagues’ lead and vote for a bill that will further harm the American public?  If they are listening to their constituents, then they shouldn’t.

According to recent nationwide polling and to nobody’s surprise, 63% of Americans want the EPA to do more not less.  Additionally, 77% of Americans want Congress to allow EPA to do its job and not block updates to pollution regulations.

There are many members of the Senate, including Republicans, who profess to support a healthy environment.  It is not possible to do so while voting for a bill that would cripple the nation’s ability to update environmental standards based on the latest available science or even enforce the environmental laws now on the books.  Turning over environmental standards to the K Street lobbyists work work for our most polluting industries is a serious mistake that will not go unnoticed.

 

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Comments

Jenna SwansonMar 8 2011 09:00 PM

Is cutting the national debt by less than half a percent worth negating all the environmental advances the US has made over the years? We have been slow in developing renewable energy, using green technology, and cleaning up our air, soil, and water. The EPA assists the US by efforcing laws and regulations to keep Americans safe and healthy. By "dismantling" the EPA we are asking for trouble. Its true, the US needs to make budget cuts, but shouldn't we look to cut matters that we won't end up paying for in the future?

Alex SchneiderMar 9 2011 04:57 PM

So this book I read called "Green to Gold" simply said that investing in the environment will eventually make profit, but at the same time the EPA is saving lives and the Earth, so it's a win-win.

JlkMar 9 2011 05:00 PM

Classic Idiots and always will be.......

Rick CMar 10 2011 08:08 AM

Where are the jobs, Mr. Speaker?

Johanna SpoerriMar 10 2011 08:38 AM

Greed is one of the seven DEADLY sins. Will humanity allow this vice to destroy the entire planet and everyone on it?

SheltieJimMar 10 2011 12:34 PM

I expect no better from the Anti-Americans who have taken over our political system. People missing 130,000 days of work? The solution, of course, will be to forbid employers from granting sick days with pay to those lazy bums. 1500 heart attacks? Not to worry...the pols and uber-rich have the best heart surgeons standing by. The American public? Well, they're just an inconvenient leftover from the days when America pretended to be a democracy.

Lee SidesMar 10 2011 03:41 PM

I dream of the Senate showing real common sense in this vote, and ANY OTHER that has to do with the EPA standards.

Senate, DON'T SCREW THIS UP. It took too long to put these rules in place. We live in the environment!

Joe PearsonMar 12 2011 10:39 PM

I appreciate Scott Slesinger’s putting his heart and soul into this story. I am not a journalist and I do not profess to any expertise in development, writing and presentation of information. Quite the opposite, I never earned anything higher than a "C" in any English class so I'm really going out on a limb and probably displaying a great deal of ignorance when I complain about a professional's English.
1) "The worst anti-environmental bill ever" Does this mean that they should have written a better anti-environmental bill?
2) "bare those costs". Thank you, Mr. Sleshinger, for laying bare that information, but I cannot bear responsibility for your training.
3) "We said no to this policy many years ago, it is not the time to go back..." Perhaps these are two separate sentences? How about "This bill reverts policy back to the dawn ..."
4) "people would have missed miss work."
5) "K Street lobbyists work work "

Please take care. A public statement reflects on your intelligence by both its content and its presentation. Poor English may cause a reader to dismiss your work completely.
Have a good day.
- Joe

mariaMar 13 2011 06:30 PM

Good! Disband the EPA they are made up mostly of MOnsanto cronies anyway. It is corrupt and I think obsolete.
They should make a whole new agency with people who really care and are not affiliated in any way with the big chem-ag corporations.

JamesMar 15 2011 05:27 PM

Give me clean Air, Water, Soil and Forests and everything else will take care of itself.
Fortunately, most Americans and people around the world understand that our environment allows and sustains our very lives.
Industry says it needs to make pollution to make jobs but their disasters and true cost far outstrip all profits put together . And these industries cannot get themselves insured on their own. It is left for the taxpayer to bail them out via the Federal Government. If our government was acting in even it's own self-interest, it would stop this criminal toxification and use the money they save for something really groovy. Like Awesome Contiguous Riparian Buffer Zones, which protect our water for free., and give us a natural park in which to saunter across our fine land.
Money does grow on trees. Trees are money.

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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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