One step forward, two steps back

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

Guest Blog | March 18, 2011 | Climate Change, Energy Policy

It was a mixed week for energy policy on Capitol Hill as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially proposed new standards to reduce mercury/air toxics levels even as Congress took steps to block EPA’s ability to reduce climate pollution.

The new mercury and air toxics standards would be a leap forward in terms of public health benefits as power plants would be required to install widely available, proven pollution control technologies to reduce the harmful levels of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and other emissions each year.  [Updated: here’s a detailed blogpost on this rule.] Fewer toxic emissions will mean fewer premature deaths, heart attacks, and emergency room visits each year.  Look for more information on the SACE website about this new rule in April 2011 when the official comment period begins.

On the other hand, the House Energy and Commerce Committee took a decisive step backwards this week in passing Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-MI) legislation (H.R. 910) to block EPA’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from mobile and stationary sources. The Upton bill was passed by the full committee largely along party lines (34-19) with three Democratic Congressmen voting with the majority – including Georgia’s Rep. John Barrow (D-GA). The whole House of Representatives may vote on this bill in mid-April, and passage in the House is likely.  The other step backwards could come in April in the Senate as Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has introduced a companion bill (S.482) – essentially the same legislation – in the Senate with 43 cosponsors, including many of our Southeastern Senators.

There is still time to Write your Rep and Speak to your Senators to convey the importance of rejecting any attempts to block or delay the EPA’s ability to carryout its mission in protecting human health by regulating and reducing all forms of pollution.  Visit our Take Action page, Tell Congress to Uphold the Clean Air Act, for more information.

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