Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) condemned the House Republican's thinly-veiled efforts to cripple the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The so-called "Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012" (HR 3409) was passed by the House today, with Rep. Engel voting against it. The bill blocks critical clean air safeguards and rolls back protections to public health.
"We do not have a war on coal; what we have is a Republican war on science and public health. They refuse to believe that industry has played a significant role in polluting our planet, to the point where its climate is changing, potentially in catastrophic ways. We just cannot ignore science and refuse to act, but that is what the Republicans want us to do," said Rep. Engel. "They cling to their wrong-headed views in the face of mountains of evidence saying action is necessary. This is bad governance by the Majority who continue to re-fight debates from the past rather than looking to bring our nation forward into the future."
Rep. Engel is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Power. The "War on Coal' act would undermine the EPA's ability to to ensure clean air and water for Americans by overturning EPA's scientific finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare. They would block the EPA from setting air quality standards based on sound science, and eliminate the EPA's ability to ensure water quality standards. It would also nullify new standards making vehicles more efficient and less polluting, and repeal a requirement that oil refineries and chemical plants disclose the amount of pollution they emit.
Bronx County has some of the highest rates of asthma in the United States. Rates of death from asthma in the Bronx are about three times higher than the national average. Hospitalization rates are about five times higher. In addition, crippling the EPA's enforcement of the Clean Air Act would only make it more difficult for communities in Westchester and Rockland Counties monitor the air quality along the New York State Thruway corridor. There are over 2000 children, according to 2008 numbers, in the three counties currently suffering from asthma.
The EPA has protected the American people from the excesses of unregulated industry from the very beginning of the organization. In 1990 alone, the first year of the Clean Air Act, EPA's implementation of the Clean Air Act prevented an estimated 18 million child respiratory illnesses, 850,000 asthma attacks, 674,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 205,000 premature deaths. The monetary value of saving Americans from those harms through implementing the Clean Air Act is projected to reach $2 trillion in 2020 alone. Over the period from 1990 through 2020, the monetary value to Americans of the Act's protection is projected to exceed the cost of that protection by a factor of more than 30 to 1.
A peer-reviewed EPA analysis estimates that in 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act prevented over 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 cases of heart disease, 1.7 million asthma attacks, 86,000 hospital admissions, and millions of respiratory illnesses.
"The GOP claims that EPA regulation hurts business, a claim which comes from the millionaire executives who would ruin our environment to line their pockets. That's what they did in the past, and it demonstrates the great need for EPA regulation. Perhaps lessons from the BP oil spill, which resulted from a weakened federal check system, have already been forgotten. They have also seemingly forgotten the deadly mine collapses in recent years. Left to their own designs, industry will often cut corners for the sake of profit and to the detriment of others.
"If we pursued controlling climate change, we could create brand new industries in America and allow our future to be marked by leadership in the next wave of energy. We could create thousands of new jobs by advancing the Open Fuel Standard Act -- which I wrote and introduced -- which would make alternative energy options standard in new vehicles. Green jobs would put thousands back to work, and remove the influence of oil-producing nations on our national security and foreign policy.
"However, this would require forward thinking from the GOP, and not a tired rerun of their denials of climate change and resentment over having the EPA stopping industry when it has gone too far," added Rep. Engel.