You are browsing the archive for Clean Air Act.

President Obama’s Decision on Ozone: Bad Policy and Bad Politics

8:39 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

I’ll admit it. I was originally a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2008. I liked then-Senator Obama’s passion but I was comforted by Clinton’s experience in what I felt was a tumultuous time. After Obama became the victor from the primaries, I enthusiastically got on board.

Now, I feel like sucker.

Last Friday, President Obama forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set aside a measure to reduce smog. If you breathe, this should be a big deal for you. The new smog rule would have prevented up to 12,000 premature deaths, 5,300 heart attacks and tens of thousands of cases of asthma attacks and other serious respiratory illnesses each year.

This is a decision that was solely in the President’s court. He ignored the EPA and the recommendation of the agency’s outside science advisors to side with polluting industries.

Why is the President now siding with polluters? He has taken strong environmental stands in the past. We saw the President push what was effectively the largest clean energy legislation ever passed as part of the initial stimulus bill. We stood with him as he pushed the climate bill in that first year. More recently, we saw the White House put us a road to reducing carbon pollution by making our cars cleaner.

But a number of recent moves are going in the opposite direction. The White House gave tentative approval to offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The Administration continues to move forward on steps to approve the Keystone pipeline. And now it is backing away from smog rules.

Why? The White House claims clean air protections would be too expensive. But this is a farce. Letting the polluters off the hook won’t save lives, won’t create jobs and won’t fuel innovation. It will, however, endanger the health and lives of children and seniors.

In fact, as NRDC’s Frances Beinecke said late last week, “clean air investments yield enormous returns. The smog standards would generate $37 billion in value for a cost of about $20 billion by 2020. Taken together, Clean Air Act standards generated approximately $1.3 trillion in public health and environmental benefits in 2010 alone for a cost of $50 billion. That’s a value worth more than 9 percent of GDP for a cost of only .4 percent of GDP. The ratio of benefits to costs is more than 26 to 1.”

Why the White House is running away from this story is beyond me. This shouldn’t be about the economy because these safeguards will create jobs. And this retreat certainly isn’t going to get him any votes. In a June poll of likely voters commissioned by the American Lung Association found that 75 percent supported the EPA’s effort to set stronger smog standards and 66 percent believed that EPA scientists– not Congress — should establish clean air standards. Is he is hoping to attract a few votes from right? Unlikely if you consider that only 24 percent of moderate Republicans and 7 percent of conservative Republicans think he is doing a good job according to the the most recent Gallup polling.

Color me confused. The only thing that makes sense is that the White House made a political calculation that it couldn’t win the message war against the Tea Party. The Tea Party has made “regulation” a dirty word when in fact regulations help keep us safe.

Environmental and public health regulations are what keep that industrial mill from dumping its toxic chemicals in the lake you fish in each summer. Regulations have been cleaning our air for decades.Regulations on buildings ensure that your home and office be built to withstand foreseeable natural disasters. Long gone are the days when machinery regularly maimed employees thanks to labor regulations. And a lack of regulations can lead to disaster – just look at the Wall Street crash and the part that lax regulations played in that disaster. The word “regulation” is really a synonym for “public safeguard.” When did that become a bad thing?

President Obama should reconsider this misguided move and redouble his efforts to protect clean air. He is going to have many opportunities in the coming days to right this wrong. The House will be voting as early this month to try to overturn the clean air standards the White House has moved forward with. But if we don’t weigh in, the Tea Party will set the agenda of this White House.

Where is the hope and change that we were promised in 2008? I suspect that a lot of people who walked precincts and stood in long lines to cast a vote for the President Obama in the last Presidential election are asking themselves the same question.

Cantor’s Plan Won’t Create Jobs but Will Endanger Health

11:18 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

As we head into the fall political season, lawmakers and candidates of all stripes will be talking about the public’s primary concern – jobs. But just because some lawmakers will be using the word “jobs” a lot doesn’t mean they actually have a plan for creating them.

Take House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). On Monday, he sent a memo to his GOP colleagues about what he called his “jobs agenda.” But the memo wasn’t really about jobs, it was a list of regulations the Tea Party types have been targeting all year. Eight of the eleven listed were environmental safeguards.

In Cantor’s alternate universe, it’s not the global financial crisis that is slowing job growth. It is the Environmental Protection Agency. Sure, the agency has been around for 40 years, during which the economy has expanded significantly.

Nonetheless, Cantor still believes the solution for unemployment is to stop asking polluters to clean up their garbage. Why, 40 years after the Clean Air Act was signed into law by President Nixon, have environmental safeguards become the economic bogeyman all of a sudden? For the same reason the Tea Party hammered on about the debt ceiling for months. And for the same reason every GOP candidate expends a lot of hot air denying climate change.

They don’t know how to solve the big problem voters care most about: job creation. They don’t know how to get Americans back to work. It’s much easier to talk about hot-button issues that get the radical parts of the base riled up: Government overreach! Towering deficit! A false climate conspiracy! If the base gets really incensed, they might not realize that the Emperor has no jobs.

I get it. Governing is hard work, and climbing out of a global recession is even harder. But we can’t abide the sideshow tactics when so many Americans are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. And we especially can’t do it when the so-called plan will actually endanger the health of American families.

All this grandstanding rhetoric about “job-destroying” regulations obscures two terribly important truths. First, environmental and public health protections save people’s lives. The updated safeguard for mercury Cantor was complaining about would prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, and 120,000 asthma attacks among children each year. The smog standard he cited could save up to 4,300 lives and avoid as many as 2,200 heart attacks every year.

Second, cleaning up our air and producing greener energy actually can create jobs. According to a new report from the Brookings Institution, more than 2.7 million Americans work in the clean economy. That includes people who stop raw sewage from going into our beaches, install scrubbers in power plant smokestacks, and generate clean energy.

Those numbers will only grow. Jobs in the wind and solar sectors have grown by 10 to 18 percent every year for the past eight years, even during the recession, according to Brookings.

The lithium battery industry is also expanding like crazy. These batteries power your smart phone, but they also make hybrids and electric cars go farther. According to New York Times article. American companies produced less than 2 percent of the global market for advanced batteries in 2009. By 2015, 40 percent of the world’s supply could be made in America. I went to Michigan during my summer vacation, and I saw what the newspaper described: abandoned factories every five miles. But the lithium battery industry is providing an alternative to Rust Belt blight. It’s putting Americans to work, but it’s also putting our nation on path toward leadership. Whoever figures out how to make cars and electronic be cleaner, more efficient, and cheaper will dominate one of the biggest markets of this century.

This kind of industry growth provides a positive agenda for the future. I challenge the GOP and the Tea Party to come up with something constructive. They keep talking about what they want to tear down—clean air safeguards, taxes, deficit spending. But what do they want to build? Even if they don’t have a job creation plan figured out, I would like to see them offer something affirmative for a change.

Rep. Upton pitches softball questions to big donor at House hearing

12:23 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Its never surprising to see members of Congress toss softball questions to witnesses they’ve summoned to Washington to make political points. But even some jaded eyebrows in Washington were raised last week when Rep. Fred Upton tossed a bunch of softball questions to the chairman of a DTE Energy, a company that is one of his largest political donors.

It gets worse: In the month before the hearing, Upton received $12,000 from DTE Energy’s staff and PAC. Contributors included DTE Energy’s Chairman/CEO, President, Executive Vice President, Senior Vice President and Attorney.   In fact, DTE donated more than $19,000 to Rep. Upton during 2009-2010 and was his 5th largest contributor.

DTE Energy donates to a number of politicians from both political parties, but these donations in the weeks before a hearing on air pollution are notable — especially since DTE Energy is being sued by the EPA for violating the Clean Air Act for failing to install required pollution controls on its biggest coal-fired power plants(one of the dirtiest in the nation).

Not surprisingly, Upton asked softball questions of DTE’s Chairman/CEO Anthony Earley, Jr. and echoed the dirty energy industry’s messaging. Watch it here

Is it any wonder that Rep. Upton has been repeatedly criticized for promoting special interest’s profits over the public health?

You can read the NRDC’s testimony on the same topic or this blog post .

You can also watch NRDC’s John Walke testimony at the same hearing here

Powerful House Chairman Feels the Heat from Constituent Backlash

1:20 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Flames

Flames by Velo Steve, on Flickr

Rep. Upton has received significant donations from the oil and gas industry, more so since he became chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.   His efforts in Congress have definitely helped these special interests, putting their profits ahead of his constituents’ health.

His constituents have noticed.  And there has been a tremendous backlash against his efforts. [1][2] [3]

Faced with this criticism, Rep. Upton has felt compelled to respond through OpEds like this one (although his arguments were quickly debunked by the NRDC here).

Now, it is being reported that he is not accepting donations from BP.

Perhaps it’s a coincidence that he’s doing this after being so strongly criticized for supporting special interests.  But I don’t think so.

Clean Air Act Attacks Continue and Intensify

5:11 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

A legislative storm is brewing in Washington right now. Three Senators have proposed amendments to the Senate’s SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 bill—commonly referred to as the “Small Business Bill”—that could undermine the Clean Air Act.

If you would like to curb global warming, prevent more asthma attacks, and preserve America’s best tool for making our air safer to breathe, I urge you to tell your lawmakers not to support these amendments. This is a law that touches all Americans. I remember going to elementary school in Kentucky next to an oil refinery. The air was so polluted that children would get sick after running around at recess and the paint on teachers’ cars literally started to peel. Now, when I go back to my hometown, the air in my old neighborhood is safer and less polluted. That’s thanks to the Clean Air Act.

You might have a similar story to tell. Maybe you grew up Los Angeles in the 1970s and remember when the air was deemed unhealthy to breathe more than 200 days a year. By 2004, that number dropped to 28 days. That was thanks to the Clean Air Act too.

This law has achieved amazing successes. It has saved more than 2 million lives and slashed the pollution in our air by 60 percent since it was passed 40 years ago. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to reduce the most dangerous pollutants of the 21st century: greenhouse gases.
Read the rest of this entry →

You Can Do Better, Senator Brown

10:01 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

I learned last week that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is floating the idea of stopping EPA’s work to reduce carbon dioxide pollution for at least one year.

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I have known and admired Senator Sherrod Brown for years, and I respect his track record on defending the environment.

Sherrod’s consideration of undermining the EPA’s ability to keep our air free from pollution doesn’t jibe with his past positions or with what’s good for Ohio’s economy and for its residents’ health.

And it certainly doesn’t match up with what I know of Sherrod Brown’s leadership.

I first met Senator Brown when he was in the House and I worked for another member of the Ohio delegation. Both members served on the Energy and Commerce Committee. During the long committee hearings, members often left to attend other events, but Hill staffers had to stick around to listen. Staffers aren’t allowed to speak at committee meetings—only members can—so when we would hear witnesses making inaccurate statements or exaggerating the facts, we felt powerless to correct the record.

That was until we realized we could turn to Sherrod Brown. He was one of the few members who would sit through the bulk of hearings, and we could always trust him to correct the record when the speaker was off the mark, we could count on him to challenge falsehoods—especially when it came to environmental issues.

More recently, Senator Brown has been a supporter of clean energy—something that has been very good for Ohio. In fact, Ohio is the best in the Midwest when it comes to green job growth. Toledo and Cleveland have led the way by transforming struggling auto-parts factories into manufacturing centers of solar panels, wind turbines, and advanced batteries.

These opportunities led Senator Brown to play an active roll drafting comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that would have cut global warming pollution and brought as much as $5.6 billion in investment revenue and 67,000 new jobs to Ohio.

Unfortunately, that legislation never made it to the floor. So why would Brown want to put put on hold the only chance we have right now for cutting carbon dioxide pollution? The only thing likely to be different a year from now is that one more year of pollutants will be in our air and businesses will have suffered through another year of renewed uncertainty about the standards they will have to meet.

And EPA has not put in place some Draconian plan. All that’s being required is that new plants, or plants undergoing major changes install the latest, affordable equipment. Why would we want new plants to be dirtier than they have to be?

We shouldn’t stop work already underway to clean up our air and tackle climate change while we wait for Congress to get its act together. And Congressional “delays” tend to be extended year after year. Before we know it, America will be four or five years further behind in confronting the worst environmental, economic, and national security challenge of our time.

That isn’t something the Brown I know would want. And it’s not something the people of Ohio should want. Ohio has one of the best clean energy stories to tell in the nation. Confronting climate change and shifting to more sustainable energy will bring more jobs to your state and make the hard-working families of Ohio healthier.

When your children are sick, you don’t stop giving them the medicine they need because a better product might be available someday. Heck, you don’t even wait for your kids to GET SICK if you can take pre-emptive action to avoid it.

Sherrod Brown can stand up for the health and welfare of Ohio’s families by working WITH the EPA to make sure implementation of the Clean Air Act is successful in bringing standards up-to-date to protect public health and drive innovation. That is the leadership we need.

This blog was originally posted on the NRDC Action Fund blog, The Markup.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that Sen. Murkowski was a climate champion?

7:52 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Tuesday’s Republican primary in Alaska may still be undecided, (currently incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski trails her tea-party challenger Joe Miller by approximately 2,000 votes) but that hasn’t stopped anti-environment pundits from speculating that if Murkowski loses, it will be because of her support for climate legislation. Now I follow the climate debate pretty closely, (even if it wasn’t my job, as a political junkie I’d follow it nonetheless) and I just don’t remember Murkowski being a climate champion. That isn’t to say she’s another James Inhofe in the Senate, but being open to negotiations on climate legislation does not make her the zealous supporter her opponent portrays her to be.

Fact is that Lisa Murkowski is far from an environmental champ. The League of Conservative Voters(LCV) gives her an 18% career rating, meaning that she votes the right way on less than one out of five environmental issues. And, more recently, she gave us environmentalists heartburn by leading an assault on the Clean Air Act – only one of the most successful environmental laws of all time.

Murkowski’s effort to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific finding that global warming threatens our health and welfare was bad, but at least she was polite enough to claim her attack “has nothing to do with the science of global warming.” That’s a far cry from her opponent, Joe Miller, whose campaign website says that “The science supporting manmade climate change is inconclusive.” The last thing that Alaska needs is a climate denier representing it in the Senate. Even the late Ted Stevens, never an environmental champ himself, recognized that “Alaska is harder hit by global climate change than any place in the world.”

To say this primary suggests that climate change is a political non-starter in Alaska shows a selective memory. Just two short years ago, Alaska elected a real climate champ, Mark Begich, to the Senate. Climate change was a top issue during Begich’s campaign, when he called for an 80% reduction in carbon pollution by 2050 and adaption strategies to help Alaska deal with the effect of climate change. Since coming to the Senate, he has continued to work to advance clean energy and climate solutions, earning an 82% rating from LCV in his first year. Last August, he introduced a package of seven bills aimed to help Alaska prepare for the changes and challenges created by a warming planet. And, in June, he voted against Murkowski’s Clean Air Act attack.

This is just another case of anti-environment pundits not letting the facts get in the way of propagating their backward agenda. I’m interested to see how they’ll change their tune if the absentee ballots put Murkowski in the lead. If she wins in the end, I wonder if they’ll claim her victory was due to her steadfast support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Or maybe it’ll be her support for offshore drilling?

The only thing I know is if she wins, they won’t be crediting her position on climate.

Rand Paul Radical Rhetoric Endangers Kentucky’s Working Families

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

The list of bedrock American laws that Rand Paul is opposed to keeps growing longer. In addition to the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Paul has made it clear that he doesn’t like the Clean Air Act either. Last weekend, Paul said that President Obama should leave Kentucky alone, especially when it comes to pollution. “You need to keep the EPA out of our affairs,” he called on the president.

Paul prefers to have things “handled on a local level.” But unlike Paul, I grew up in Kentucky, and I question this logic.

My elementary school sat on a cliff above an Ashland Oil refinery, and our playground was about eye level with the top of their smokestacks. When the paint on teachers’ car started to peel and children started getting sick, the PTA tried to make Ashland Oil do something about it. After some fighting, the company finally installed air monitors on the kickball field – and a few months later the school closed its doors.

What sticks with me still is the way the problem was solved: As far as I can see, Ashland Oil didn’t clean up its act at all. Our school shut down instead.

Federal efforts to cut pollution aren’t perfect, but they are the last line of defense for places like my hometown. They literally save our lives: the Clean Air Act, for instance, has been documented to prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.

Kentucky has a long dark history of environmental injustice. Amazing groups like Appalachian Voices have been fighting for cleaner water, cleaner air, and better safety rules for miners. They often find local solutions, but they also turn to federal agencies like the EPA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration when they need to.

Paul may call it “federal overreach,” but I call it protecting the health of Kentuckians.
Of course, Paul trots out the old saw that cutting pollution kills jobs. But I think Paul is more concerned about ideology than jobs, because if he really wanted to create jobs for Kentucky, he wouldn’t turn his back on clean energy and climate legislation. Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. Paul would rather shoot down federal climate solutions than bring the jobs of the 21st century to his state.

Instead, he is banking on the same old dirty industries, and he seems to think that if children get asthma because they played on a field next to a refinery, that’s alright because someone had a job. I am sorry, but I can’t accept the misconception that my classmates and I were the collateral damage of some polluter’s payroll. Good companies that are following the law and being good neighbors provide jobs every single day.

Companies have found time and again that a clean business model is part of the recipe for a successful company. That is why 5,171 small businesses from across the country are supporting the climate bill. That is why some of the largest companies in the nation are calling on Congress to take action immediately.

The parents I know in Kentucky have no interest in working jobs that sacrifice their children’s health. They want to provide for their families AND keep them safe at the same time. This isn’t an either or situation. Paul seems to forget this in the midst of his fixation with “federal overreach.” I too respect states rights, but states still have to be good neighbors. Local empowerment doesn’t give you the right to endanger your residents’ health, export pollution into nearby states, or block national solutions to fight global climate change.

If leaders like Paul forget these lessons in responsibility, then I am glad federal agencies like the EPA can step in and remind them.

Show Up and Speak Up for Climate Change Legislation

10:59 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Congress is heading back home for the August recess this week. Apparently our Senators need to rest after they failed to take up both a clean energy and climate bill and an oil spill bill.

Legislative inaction must be more tiring than I realized.

Still, I don’t view this month as a cooling off period. If anything, it’s time to turn up the heat.

Over the next few weeks, Senators will be holding "town hall meetings" in their states. Last year, these meetings came to define the health care debate. This year, they could help us reshape America’s energy policy.

If you are like me and you are still stunned that the Senate refused to pass a bill that would have created nearly 2 million new American jobs, put our nation at the forefront of the clean energy market and helped end our addiction to oil, then go to a town hall meeting and tell your lawmakers what you think.

Tell them that it is in America’s best interest to embrace clean energy now.

And while you are at it, please tell them to block attempts by some Senators to weaken the Clean Air Act—the 40-year-old law that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives—in an effort to further delay reductions in global warming pollution.

Some naysayers claim that voting on visionary legislation is a risky proposition when we are this close to an election. They are wrong, and history proves it.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, 13 of the most powerful environmental laws were passed during the fall of an election year or in the lame duck sessions following elections.

We can pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall, but only if we demand it of our lawmakers.

Use this August to make your voices heard. You can find your Senators’ schedules by checking their Senate websites, as well as their candidate websites – Republican or Democratic.