Eric at the Hamster has this post up on changes to the Clean Air Act:
Change to Clean Air Act in Works
Another day, another industry-written provision in a House bill that blatantly favors polluters at the expense of taxpayers. Under the new provision, the “downwind” states would not be required to meet clean air standards until the “upwind” states that were contributing to the problem had done so. Currently, states can get more time but only if they agree to added cleanup measures.
Proponents of the measure in Congress, as well as a spectrum of industry groups, say that the change would give state and local governments the flexibility and discretion they urgently need to deal with air pollution from distant sources. Otherwise, they would have to impose much stricter limits on pollution from local sources, including power plants, factories and automobiles.
But House members who fought against the measure, and other opponents, say flexibility and discretion are just other words for delay, saving money for industry and posing risks for millions of people living where the air does not meet health-based standards.
Opponents also say that the new provision would undermine a muscular rule announced last month by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which sets new power-plant emissions for three major pollutants for the eastern half of the United States. One of those pollutants, nitrogen oxide, is cooked by sunlight into ozone, or smog.
Representative Joe Barton (R, Tx) sits on the House Energy & Air Quality Committee. Barton has spent a lot of his time there protecting the cement plants in counties that abut Dallas County, Texas. His sole function seems to be the protection of major polluters. So far it is working spectacularly, as the air pollution in north Texas continues to increase.
I flew out of D/FW Airport on a clear and cold day last January. Once airborne, I looked out the window and as far as I could see in all directions there was a brown haze sitting on the flat landscape. It all but obscured downtown Dallas. Childhood asthma levels in north Texas have increased almost epidemic proportions and in the summer now there are constant ozone alerts, with advisories for people with lung and heart problems to stay inside. The two people who are mainly responsible for this situation are George W Bush, who killed a program his predecessor, Ann Richards, had hammered out to sharply limit emissions as one of his first acts as governor of Texas, and Joe Barton, his lap dog on the House Committee that oversees air quality.
Air pollution is a family values issue, because it is making children sick. But the environment doesn’t get much attention in the media or anywhere else these days. I sometimes think that there is so much to deal with with this administration that the environment gets short shrift because of that. It’s understandable in a sense – the Republicans are trying to destroy the foundations of our form of government and that is so alarming and basic that it deserves most of our attention. Turning America into a theocracy won’t help the environment any.
Somewhere along the line, however, attention is going to have to be paid. We aren’t going to be able to save this country if we are all suffering from debilitating environmentally-caused illnesses – like asbestos-induced lung cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.