Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
February 7, 2011
The EPA Is Under Siege but Support for Public Health Is Holding Strong
Photo: Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI)
Last week continued attacks to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from setting standards for carbon pollution were launched by members of Congress. Monday Senator Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a bill undermining landmark laws like the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act and would in effect block federal agencies from cleaning up dangerous carbon pollution. That same day Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) re-introduced his bill from last year that would act as a two-year or more stop order. This bill would prevent the EPA from doing work already underway to keep coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and other stationary sources from spewing unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air.
On Wednesday afternoon Chairman Upton (R-MI) and Senator Inhofe (R-OK) unveiled a draft of their version of the EPA stop work order titled The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. This bill is likely to become the central vehicle in the House for preventing EPA from taking action to reduce carbon pollution. The draft Upton bill would completely block work already underway by the EPA to set standards for carbon pollution, including updating to more efficient car standards for years 2017-2025. Chairman Upton has made clear that he opposes updating several other Clean Air Act standards as well, including stronger protections against ozone and toxic pollution in addition to carbon dioxide. For the most recent updates on the Clean Air Act attacks you can check out the Clean Air Act Digest put together weekly by US Climate Action Network and Natural Resources Defense Council.
On a more positive note, the administration has made it clear that scientists at the EPA, not politicians, have the authority to determine appropriate standards for carbon pollution. After speaking at a Senate Environment and Public Works committee hearing, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the Obama administration will keep resisting the congressional siege on EPA’s carbon pollution standards. “What has been stated from the White House is that the president’s advisers would advise him to veto any legislation that passed that would take away EPA’s greenhouse gas authority,” Jackson told reporters after the Senate hearing.
Yet another positive piece of news came in the form of a public opinion polling released Wednesday by the Opinion Research Corporation. The poll finds that Americans do not want to eliminate the EPA as former Speaker of the House Newt 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. “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.’” For more details you can see the full report here.
Friday marked the first of five listening sessions scheduled by the EPA to compile input on updating the Clean Air Act’s pollution standards for power plants and refineries. The first session was a roundtable discussion for the electric power industry. During the session Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation emphasized “The objective of the Clean Air Act is always public health; to find ways to protect public health for the most cost effective way.” The next session is February 15th in Atlanta, GA for environmental and environmental justice organization representatives. A list of all the sessions can be found here.
In other news, officials said the White House wants to scale up funding for clean energy research and development. President Obama would also like to increase investments in technologies such as clean cars. Friday, the White House released an updated innovation strategy report that states “The President’s strategy will meet our energy goals and put the U.S. at the cutting edge of the renewable energy, advanced battery, alternative fuel, and advanced vehicle industries.” The strategy report also calls for “double the nation’s supply of renewable energy by the end of 2012” with incentives such as federal tax cuts and financing support.
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