Dismantling the Clean Air Act?

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | January 8, 2010 | Climate Change, Coal, Energy Policy

Update on January 20, 200: Washington Post editorial on Murkowski’s intentions with EPA and the Clean Air Act.

If you are too young to remember polluted waterways that caught on fire or cities as ‘dark as night by 11am‘ due to poor air quality, then you came of age as our water and air were protected by two of our seminal environmental laws: the Clean Air (1970) and Clean Water Acts (1972).

Despite improvements in air quality in the last 40 years, millions of urban dwellers still live in cities with high pollution levels, some suffering from adverse health impact as a result.  With the full-range of public health benefits from the Clean Air Act still to be realized, I find it alarming that some in Congress are poised to dismantle this cornerstone of health and environmental protection laws.

When Congress returns on January 20, Sen. Murkowski (R-Alaska) is expected to offer an amendment to stop the Obama administration from using the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Although a legislative cap on greenhouse gas emissions is the solution preferred by many advocates and policy makers in DC, Sen. Murkowski and her colleagues are stalling and trying to gut the most important tool we currently have to reduce global warming emissions and protect public health. Passing this “Dirty Air Act” would be akin to throwing out your only coat before buying a new one. Click here to read a myths vs. facts sheet about the Clean Air Act.

In April 2007, a Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts vs. EPA, concluded that the EPA has the authority and obligation to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  This ruling prompted a public comment period and resulted in December 2009’s finding that confirmed greenhouse gases do, in fact, endanger public health and welfare.  While the findings themselves do not impose emission reductions, they permit EPA to finalize emission reduction standards proposed earlier this year for vehicles and set the stage for standards to regulate for stationary sources in time using the Clear Air Act.

Sen. Murkowski’s attack on the Clean Air Act would be a free pass for the nation’s largest polluters to continue polluting and endangering public health.  Senators who support this backward-looking “Dirty Air Act” would be undermining President Obama’s efforts to embrace a clean energy economy by locking us into decades more of dirty energy sources with their negative economic and health consequences. A vote in favor of this amendment will set a dangerous precedent by negating the well-tested programs of the Clean Air Act.

Instead of working to gut the Clean Air Act, Senators should be actively drafting legislation to complement and strengthen protections for our health and to jumpstart a clean energy economy.

SACE’s national ally, 1Sky, is hosting a call-in day on Tuesday, January 12 so that concerned citizens can urge their senators to vote NO on Senator Murkowski’s amendment and to show leadership in seeking legislative solutions to climate change.  I hope you’ll join Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and 1Sky to defeat this ill-advised amendment so we can refocus all efforts on advocating for meaningful climate solutions.

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