GOP Solution to Air Pollution: Pass a Law Declaring that Pollutants Aren't Pollutants
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Only a couple of days into the new Congress, Representative Marsha Blackburn and at least 46 colleagues have proposed an air-pollution solution that's both simple and ingenious: Pass a law declaring that pollutants aren't pollutants. Blackburn's bill, H.R. 97, states:
"The term 'air pollutant' shall not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarb ons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride."
If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, sulfur hexaflouoride isn't bound by the whims of Congress. If that particular greenhouse-gas pollutant (with a climate-disruption potential that's 22,800 times that of CO2) wants to destroy our atmosphere, then that's what sulfur hexaflouoride is going to do.
Blackburn's bill is just one of several in this Congress that aim to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from simply doing its job -- which is to protect the health of you, me, and (yes) members of Congress. Other proposed measures would block efforts to clean our air for two years and take away EPA funding for enforcement of certain clean-air safeguards.
Ironically, the words you'll hear over and over from those who want to stop the EPA from doing its job are "job killing." That's a charged phrase at a time when too many Americans are out of work, but it's also the same hogwash that we've been hearing from polluters for 40 years. Only now those polluters have supporters in Congress who are downright eager to carry their water.
In reality, time and again, cleaning up our air has boosted our economy -- to the tune of trillions of dollars. Even more important, it's saved millions of lives. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson laid out the facts forcefully and compellingly on the agency's fortieth anniversary last year.
Unfortunately, some members of Congress seem more concerned with representing the interests of polluters than with protecting the health of ordinary Americans. "Job killing" regulations are a scary myth -- but cynical, irresponsible, "people killing" bills that put all of our lives at risk are a much scarier reality.
Michael Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club.