They Won’t Stop with the Clean Air Act

Children in mountainsPoliticians in Congress have rolled out a series of bills in the last week all based around one premise: Regulation of carbon pollution would make our air too clean. You have to wonder what’s next. Is our drinking water too safe? Are our endangered species too protected?

I think we can have clean air, safe water, thriving wildlife and a healthy economy – and the history of America’s environmental protections backs that up. The arguments I’m hearing from Clean Air Act opponents sound identical to the ones used decades ago during failed attempts to block limits on the pollutants that cause acid rain and ozone depletion. Yet today acid rain levels are down 65% and our ozone layer is showing signs of recovery, all without predicted economic doom.

Some Clean Air Act opponents argue that they’re simply trying to ensure that Congress, and not EPA, sets climate change policy.  But their methods tell a different story. These politicians are attacking the very scientific foundation of our environmental laws. It tells me this could be just the beginning of a much broader effort to weaken the laws that protect Americans, our wildlife and natural resources.

One effort led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) would not only prohibit EPA from regulating carbon pollution, but also prohibit our federal government even from observing what is happening with our climate.  The breadth of such a prohibition, and its harm to Americans, would be substantial:

  • The National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency need to include the impacts of global warming as they predict & prepare for natural disasters.
  • The EPA would be barred from considering global warming’s impact on the survival of trout, salmon and most other freshwater aquatic life – threatening not only those species, but the people that depend on them.
  • The prohibition would similarly roadblock the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to conserve endangered species, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to conserve forest and grassland ecosystems, and NOAA’s efforts to conserve marine fisheries and coral ecosystems – all of which depend on an understanding of temperatures, precipitation and other climate-driven phenomena.

It is bad enough that some members of Congress are favoring the short-term profit of oil & coal companies over confronting climate change and safeguarding natural resources for future generations.  But it is really overreaching to then try to put a blindfold on the folks who are in the position to show us the damage that their bad policies are causing and to minimize some of that damage.

It’s been decades since the scientific community reached consensus that man-made carbon pollution is (among other things):

  • Melting polar ice caps and warming the oceans, thereby threatening coastal communities around the globe with sea level rise;
  • Shrinking glaciers, thereby threatening millions of people dependent on glaciers for drinking water and agriculture;
  • Acidifying the oceans, thus jeopardizing shellfish and ultimately the entire ocean food web.

But while these bills expresses concern about “poorly designed” regulation of greenhouse gases, the members of Congress who support them make no effort to offer an alternative approach.  Its sponsors talk about how they are fighting for “affordable” energy. But they fail to explain how our current fossil energy-dependent path, with rising gas prices and spiking electricity rates, is even remotely affordable, never mind sustainable.

It reminds of a 5-year-old shouting “la la la la” to drown out his parent when the parent is attempting to get him to own up to his bad behavior.  (Not that such a thing would ever happen with my sons … um, right, guys?)

Click here to tell your member of Congress not to undermine our safety net of laws protecting wildlife and other natural resources from global warming pollution.