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Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Over the past 2 years, this Republican House has amassed the most anti-environment record in the history of Congress.

During this period, the Republican House has voted more than 300 times on the floor to weaken long-standing public health and environmental protections, block important environmental standards, and even halt environmental research. It's an appalling record.

I remember a time when there was bipartisan support for protecting the environment. Some of our best allies were Republicans like former Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert. It would have been unthinkable then to bring a bill that eviscerates the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to the floor. But those days are apparently over.

Our last order of business before the election in 2012 is this bill, H.R. 3409. This is the single worst anti-environment bill to be considered during the most anti-environment House of Representatives in history. Under the guise of protecting coal mining jobs, House Republicans have resurrected their most extreme anti-environmental bills.

This new Frankenstein legislation is a sweeping attack on environmental protections, many of which had nothing to do with coal. It's an all-out assault on America's bedrock environmental protections.

Since 1970, when Richard Nixon was the President of the United States, the U.S. has had a national policy that air should be safe enough for people to breathe. The Republican bill that we're considering today would overturn this policy and cut the heart out of the Clean Air Act by allowing air quality standards to be set on the basis of polluter profits rather than health. This would reverse decades of progress in cleaning up our air. The gentleman that just last spoke on the floor said it was great, he likes the fact that we have cleaner air, but enough is enough.

The standards that we see being changed would no longer be based on health.

The bill also nullifies EPA's rules to require power plants to finally reduce their emissions of toxic mercury, which can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in infants and children. Blocking reductions in toxic air pollution means more heart attacks, more asthma attacks, more emergency room visits, and more premature deaths. Well, we've had enough of those kinds of clean air. Why have we've got to go backwards and allow toxic pollution to do harm to so many people?

But the bill doesn't stop there. It would overturn the Obama administration's historic vehicle fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards. These standards are supported by the auto industry because they provide the industry with regulatory certainty and a single, national program. The standards will boost our energy independence by saving over 2 million barrels of oil a day. They will save consumers thousands of dollars at the pump over the life of a vehicle. The savings to American consumers will be equivalent to lowering gasoline prices by $1 per gallon.

These standards that the Republican bill would overturn are a victory for the auto industry, consumers, and the environment. They have nothing to do with coal. But House Republicans are targeting them anyway.

The legislation would prohibit EPA from taking any action to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. It codifies climate science denial by overturning EPA's scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers health and welfare. The premise of title II of this bill is that climate change is a hoax. The bill even eliminates the existing requirement that oil refineries, chemical plants, and other large polluters disclose how much carbon pollution they are releasing.

The signs that climate change is already occurring are all around us. The recent wildfires, drought, and heat waves are exactly the types of extreme weather events that scientists have been predicting for years. The House Republican solution to the greatest environmental challenge of our time is to bury their heads in the sand and pretend it isn't happening. And they call this bill a moderate, not extreme, one.

This assault on the Nation's environmental laws will be the last order of business before the House adjourns for the election. It won't go anywhere in the Senate. It is a partisan, political bill that is distracting us from dealing with the real problems facing our Nation, like creating jobs and strengthening our economy.

We should stay here, Mr. Chairman, and do some real work for a change. This political bill is the wrong direction for America.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman and my colleagues, there is no war on coal. If coal is not able to compete with cheaper natural gas, that's not the government's fault. That's the market. That's the way it works. Do we blame the government for the failure of typewriter manufacturers to stay in business because they've been replaced by computers?

Coal is not going to go out of business.

The President said in his Statement of Administration Policy:

To be clear, the administration believes that coal is and will remain an important part of our energy mix for decades to come. For that reason, since 2009, the administration has committed nearly $6 billion in advanced coal research, development and deployment and continues to work with industry on important efforts to demonstrate advanced coal technologies.

Let me just tell you what the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Health Care Without Harm, National Association of County and City Health Officials, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Trust for America's Health say. They say:

With such dramatic consequences for public health and enormous costs from air-pollution-related illnesses, we urge you to stand up to the pressure of big polluters and reject H.R. 3409 for what it is, a war on lungs.

That has no place at the top of Congress's legislative agenda.

Coal has had a pretty good deal. They've never had to carry the full cost of burning coal because they have never had to pay for the external consequences to human health and the environment.

But their failure in the market is because of lower competition.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman, this bill is 80 pages of one reckless assault after another on public health and environmental protections. It is probably the single worst anti-environment bill in the most anti-environment House of Representatives in history.

The bill continues the Republican war on science and head-in-the-sand approach to climate change, which is the biggest environmental challenge of our time. This bill attempts to legislate away the scientific findings by the Environmental Protection Agency that emissions of carbon pollution endanger public health and welfare by contributing to climate change. I have news for my Republican colleagues: You can rewrite the Clean Air Act, but you can't change the laws of nature.

In June, the D.C. court of appeals upheld EPA's endangerment finding in a unanimous decision led by the Reagan-appointed Chief Judge Sentelle. The court stated that ``EPA's interpretation of the governing Clean Air Act provisions is unambiguously correct.'' The court dismissed every challenge to the adequacy of the scientific record supporting the EPA's findings.

Now that the courts have decisively rejected the Republican arguments against the endangerment findings, House Republicans want to change the law. But denying scientific reality is not going to change climate change.

My amendment is very simple. It strikes the language in the bill that would repeal the endangerment finding. It does not fix the other egregious anti-environment provisions of the bill, but at least Congress would not be doubling down on science denial. When the Energy and Commerce Committee first produced the language in title II of the bill last year, here's what one of the world's preeminent science journals, ``Nature,'' wrote about the votes to deny the existence of climate change:

It's hard to escape the conclusion that the U.S. Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long. Misinformation was presented as fact, truth was twisted, and nobody showed any inclination to listen to scientists, let alone learn from them. It has been an embarrassing display, not just for the Republican Party but also for Congress.

What this amendment would do is to accept the scientific consensus, support our amendment, and restore the findings as they should be in this bill. It does not change the bill, except for the findings that, I think, are embarrassing to this institution and don't deserve to be in this legislation.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WAXMAN. Mr. Chairman and my colleagues, I ask for support of this amendment. Let's not have the House of Representatives take a position on a bill upholding findings that are inaccurate, go against the scientific consensus, and put our head in the sand about the whole problem of climate change.

I know that many of the people that don't want to deal with climate change are going to be coming to us, asking us to bail out their farmers for the crop losses. We're going to have people coming in and asking those of us from other parts of the country to help pay for the other climate disasters. We're Americans, and we try to take care of each other, but we also owe it to this country to try to prevent the damage that we're seeing and will only increase in the years ahead if we do nothing about climate change, and certainly if we deny the very reality of the carbon emissions that are causing greenhouse gases, global warming, and climate change.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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