EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared before Fred Upton’s House Energy and Commerce Committee and made the mistake of introducing facts into the discussion of whether or not to gut the Clean Air Act. From her opening statement:

The bill appears to be part of a broader effort in this Congress to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public. I respectfully ask the members of this Committee to keep in mind that EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saves millions of American children and adults from the debilitating and expensive illnesses that occur when smokestacks and tailpipes release unrestricted amounts of harmful pollution into the air we breathe.

Last year alone, EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saved more than 160,000 American lives; avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits; prevented millions of cases of respiratory illness, including bronchitis and asthma; enhanced American productivity by preventing millions of lost workdays; and kept American kids healthy and in school.

EPA’s implementation of the Act also has contributed to dynamic growth in the U.S. environmental technologies industry and its workforce. In 2008, that industry generated nearly 300 billion dollars in revenues and 44 billion dollars in exports.

Yesterday, the University of Massachusetts and Ceres released an analysis finding that two of the updated Clean Air Act standards EPA is preparing to establish for mercury, soot, smog, and other harmful air pollutants from power plants will create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years.

Essentially, the Upton bill would not only overrule all that, but put the Congress in the position of repealing the finding of peer-reviewed scientists that greenhouse gas emissions are a pollutant. This would have implications for basically everything EPA does and would cripple its work. Republicans claim their bill would have no impact on the Clean Air Act, which is interesting, since the sum total of the bill is to overturn EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act. Their claim is that carbon dioxide isn’t mentioned in the Clean Air Act, though I believe “clean air” is.

Once upon a time, there was such a thing as Republicans who cared about the future survival of the planet and breathable air. They even ran the EPA and made plans to do something about it, until men who used to run oil companies stopped them.

The Environmental Protection Agency administrator under George W. Bush mapped out aggressive rulemaking plans for greenhouse gases before the White House ultimately shut him down.

Stephen Johnson outlined in a January 2008 letter to Bush a three-phase plan for tackling climate change that included strict new restrictions on power plants and transportation fuels.

Johnson’s ideas – spelled out in a document classified as ‘privileged: communication the president’ – were released Tuesday by House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman. The California Democrat said the materials put a new spin on the GOP-led legislative hearing planned for Wednesday that’s aimed at undoing the Obama administration EPA’s authority to address the pollution that scientists have linked to climate change.

My favorite part of this is that Bush took the document and sought counter-arguments from “Dick Cheney, the Office of Management and Budget, the Transportation Department and Exxon Mobil Corp.” That fourth one being, of course, a branch of government in the Bush White House.

This came after the Supreme Court issued the ruling in Mass v. EPA that the agency had to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as a pollutant, and it shows that the Bush-era EPA took this seriously and intended to fulfill the duty.

I don’t know how any of this will end up, but it’s good to see Jackson pushing back on this. In a related story, the Obama budget will include a $7,500 rebate for the purchase of an all-electric car. This furthers a goal of 1 million EVs on the road by 2015, which actually isn’t that aggressive a goal, but it’s something.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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