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Clean Air Act Attacks Continue and Intensify

A legislative storm is brewing in Washington right now. Three Senators have proposed amendments to the Senate’s SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011 bill—commonly referred to as the “Small Business Bill”—that could undermine the Clean Air Act.

If you would like to curb global warming, prevent more asthma attacks, and preserve America’s best tool for making our air safer to breathe, I urge you to tell your lawmakers not to support these amendments. This is a law that touches all Americans. I remember going to elementary school in Kentucky next to an oil refinery. The air was so polluted that children would get sick after running around at recess and the paint on teachers’ cars literally started to peel. Now, when I go back to my hometown, the air in my old neighborhood is safer and less polluted. That’s thanks to the Clean Air Act.

You might have a similar story to tell. Maybe you grew up Los Angeles in the 1970s and remember when the air was deemed unhealthy to breathe more than 200 days a year. By 2004, that number dropped to 28 days. That was thanks to the Clean Air Act too.

This law has achieved amazing successes. It has saved more than 2 million lives and slashed the pollution in our air by 60 percent since it was passed 40 years ago. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to reduce the most dangerous pollutants of the 21st century: greenhouse gases.

But the amendments introduced this week would handcuff the agency and allow big polluters to keep spewing the emissions that cause climate change and threaten our health. Here is how these senators are trying to help polluters.

The McConnell Amendment: Would permanently repeal the Clean Air Act’s authority to set limits on carbon pollution, threatening the CAA’s health benefits and increasing our dependence on foreign oil.

The Rockefeller Amendment: Would delay implementation of EPA’s carbon standards for stationary sources under the Clean Air Act for at least 2 years.  But this proposal is just repeal by another name. As history has shown, legislative delays are nearly impossible to exterminate. Blocking the EPA from updating Clean Air Act safeguards with new standards to reduce emissions of life-threatening pollution from power plants and other major sources– whether initially just one year or two – will be extended again and again.

The Baucus Amendment: Would prevent accurate accounting of emissions from agricultural activities as well as allow large emission sources to be built or modified with no requirement to limit their carbon pollution.

Unfortunately, these three amendments are not the only front of the battle. Congress is also in the midst of negotiating the next resolution to keep the government running.  Just as in the Small Business Bill, the House of Representatives is pressuring the Senate to accept language that could permanently limit the EPA’s authority to address carbon pollution.

Lawmakers need to realize that a vote to block the EPA from reducing air pollution puts millions of Americans at risk for serious health conditions.

Twenty-four million Americans suffer from asthma. Millions more will feel the impacts of climate change—the punishing storms, the extreme heat waves, the exhausted city emergency budgets—if we don’t allow the EPA to do its jobs and limit carbon pollution.

Tell your lawmakers to protect the integrity of the Clean Air Act.

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Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Heather Taylor-Miesle is the Director of the NRDC Action Fund. With more than 13 years of experience in federal politics as a public interest lobbyist, political consultant and on Capitol Hill, she has expertise in federal energy, environmental health, and appropriations issues. Prior to becoming director of the NRDC Action Fund, Ms. Taylor-Miesle was the associate legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the world’s premier environmental organizations. Prior to her position at the NRDC, Ms. Taylor-Miesle worked on Capitol Hill, first as an aide to now Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH) and then as a senior staff member for current Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis (D-CA). Follow Heather and NRDC's Action Fund on Facebook(www.facebook.com/nrdcactionfund).

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