Congress is penny wise but pound foolish to slash funding for Clean Air Act and public health protections

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

Guest Blog | February 22, 2011 | Climate Change, Energy Policy, Offshore Drilling

With pledges to ‘reign in federal spending,’ the House of Representatives passed a spending bill (H.R.1) last week to continue funding the government through the 2011 fiscal year. This spending bill, which passed largely along party lines, was chock full of amendments to block funding for key environmental safeguards such as clean air, clean water, and climate change protections.

Unfortunately, a few of the bill’s 51 amendments will recklessly and knowingly endanger public health resulting in higher costs in the long term without appreciably reducing the deficit in the short term by

  • blocking new health standards designed to reduce soot pollution (which impacts children and their developing lungs in particular),
  • blocking funding for climate change science and health-based regulations through decades-old laws like the Clean Air Act that would start reducing carbon pollution from oil refineries and power plants,
  • halting EPA’s work to reduce Carbon Dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases from power plant emissions, and
  • blocking new rules and guidance to prevent hazardous coal ash from entering water supplies as we saw happen first hand in the 2008 Kingston disaster in Tennessee.

At the end of the day, leaders in the House of Representatives slashed budgets and programs across sectors in an attempt to save approximately $61 billion.  The tragedy and the irony is that the House rejected an amendment (#27) that could have saved taxpayers $53 billion in a single cut: by closing a royalty-payment loophole for oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico effectively ending taxpayer subsidies to oil companies. Mind you, these are the same oil companies that are realizing billion dollar profits each quarter. Write your Representative and offer praise or rebuke for the stand s/he took on these critical issues last week.

This spending bill will, thankfully, face a tough fight in the Senate where leaders are expected to rally behind environmental, health and financial regulatory protections. But the clock is ticking (a new spending bill must pass the House and the Senate by March 4 or risk a government shutdown) so nothing should be left to chance. Now is the time to speak to your Senators about your support for the public health and environmental protections that citizens in our country have enjoyed for decades. Otherwise we risk shifting from the mindset of polluters should pay to ‘it pays to pollute!’

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