When the 111th Congress reconvened last month, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a “disapproval resolution” (S.J. Res 26) which many in the environmental community are calling the “Dirty Air Act.” What may seem like a simple statement of disapproval is actually a back-door attempt to use Senate procedures to cripple an essential environmental law.
Sen. Murkowski, and the 38 senators who joined her, intend to eliminate the Clean Air Act’s legal authority to crack down on dirty coal plants. Protecting the full authority of the landmark Clean Air Act legislation, which the conservative-leaning Supreme Court upheld in its 2007 MA vs. EPA decision, is critical because it gives us a way to hold dirty energy companies accountable for their global warming pollution until Congress gets serious about passing climate and energy legislation.
Meanwhile the House of Representatives have joined the assault on the Clean Air Act, too. Reps. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn (R) introduced their own “disapproval resolution” (H.J. Res. 66) mirroring Sen. Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act. In addition, Rep. Earl Pomery (D-ND) has introduced a bill (H.R. 4396) to reverse the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 global warming decision by declaring that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are not air pollutants. Not to be out done, Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ike Skelton (D-MO), and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) introduced a new bill this month which would attack the Clean Air Act’s “endangerment finding” while attempting to weaken the Clean Air Act by broadening the definition of biofuels and prevent monitoring of new international emissions that result from “indirect” land-use changes.
Each of these versions of a “Dirty Air Act” are little more than political maneuvers to gut the most important tool we currently have to reduce these harmful air emissions and protect public health. For decades, the Clean Air Act has kept millions of tons of pollutants out of our air and water, and such an attack would give the nation’s largest polluters like coal and oil companies a free pass to continue releasing global warming emissions that endanger public health and our rapidly warming environment.
Instead of dismantling the Clean Air Act, our senators should be drafting legislation that complements and strengthens recently passed climate laws and jumpstarts a clean energy economy. A new study just published by the Union of Concern Scientists, Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy, demonstrates how a comprehensive set of energy policies will jump-start this transition without delay and maximize the benefits to our environment and economy. Another study, Jobs Impact of a National Renewable Electricity Standard, released just last week conducted by Navigant Consulting argues that a 25% by 2025 national renewable energy standard would result in 274,000 more jobs supported by the renewable electricity industry than without a national RES.
While Senators and Representatives are home in their states and districts this week for the President’s Day Congressional Recess it is important that citizens, business and faith leaders voice their support for the Clean Air Act which has protected Americans from air pollution for 40 years, saving hundreds of thousands of lives while protecting our planet. Make a call to ensure your elected representatives hear that you care about clean air.
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