Well, another Wednesday, and the assault on environmental regulations in our Congress continues. This time, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is pushing a vote that will occur tomorrow in the Senate. His measure seeks to overturn EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, a regulation that would reduce smog and dangerous fine particulate matter from coal-fired power plants in 27 eastern states. Specifically, the rule would implement the Clean Air Act requirements that EPA regulate nitrogen and sulfur dioxide (NOX and SOX, for those who prefer jargon) emissions.
It’s actually amazing that Tea Party Republicans have gone so far as to attack the Clean Air Act. After all, who is opposed to clean air? Who is against wanting to be able to…breathe? The Clean Air Act was one of the most non-controversial laws ever passed by Congress. It was signed into law by Richard Nixon, but would have garnered a sufficient majority had he vetoed it to override the veto. Seriously, to back Senator Paul’s measure, you’d have to be from another planet.
Oh…yeah. Like that.
For those of you who aren’t aware, NOX and SOX emissions have been linked to thousands of cases of aggravated asthma, bronchitis, heart-attacks, emergency room visits, and upwards of 34,000 premature deaths every year (if you want the specifics, this article on Grist provides a good run down). The major justification for holding back on these regulations is to prevent the cost of coal-based energy from increasing, which is a ludicrous claim in and of itself. The cost of coal is already too high. We just happen to be paying with our health and not with our wallets.
Interestingly enough, side-by-side with Senator Paul’s efforts to dismantle the Clean Air Act was an article that ran today about air quality conditions in Beijing. It seems that some Chinese citizens are starting to get more than a little upset at the smog problems that the Chinese government won’t address, and I’ll have to admit, the pictures are pretty grim. It’s hard to what imagine some of our own cities here on the east coast – Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, for example – would look like without the Clean Air Act. Probably a lot closer to what the Chinese experience every day. And yet, Senator Paul insists that EPA is simply trying to “turn everyday life into a crime.” Senator Paul, I’m not sure I see the logic…it’s wrong for our government to protect the air we breathe? (which, by the way, does not respect state boundaries, so if you were about to tell me it should be up to the states, you can stop now.)
For further reading, here’s some of the buzz from around the web about Senator Paul’s measure. Rumor has it that even some rank-and-file Republicans are breaking party lines to vote against the measure, to which I say, amen. The economy is important, but more so than human life.
From the Minnesota Daily: http://www.mndaily.com/2011/11/07/stop-rand-paul%E2%80%99s-dirty-air-initiative
From EnviroKnow: http://www.enviroknow.com/2011/09/15/rand-paul-epa-disapproval/