Monday, February 21, 2011

Does the Clean Air Act help or harm the economy

With the Republicans having control over a portion of the U.S. Government we can expect attempts to overturn environmental protection regulations. They make the claim that the regulations stifle business and therefore hurt the economy. But what about the health of those of us who breath air or drink water? Which is more important, the health of business or the health of we the people? The health impact of a toxic environment also hurts the economy, from increased health care costs and employees who are unable to work as much. But the health impacts are an externality not directly considered in affects on business. Which should take precedence in decision making?

The cost of obeying a regulation - that presumably can be measured. They have to buy some equipment to clean up their emissions rather than just dump it, raw and untreated, into the nearest stream or into the air. "They" being the businesses the Republicans are protecting.

It's well understood that toxic emissions from various factories or whatnot are, well, toxic, and poison us as a whole. It shouldn't be surprising then that statistics can show a correlation between toxic emissions from businesses and the rates of disease.

The Congressional Record for Feb 9, 2011 records 1 minute of comments by Representative Cohen about an effect of the Clean Air Act over the last 40 years (see below). What he points to is disease which did not occur. Of course it's awfully hard to prove a negative - would that disease have occurred in the absence of the Clean Air Act? I don't know facts on this, but I expect that there was a clear pattern of increasing pollution levels, associated pattern of increasing disease, and that the pattern changed when the Clean Air Act was passed.

Mr. COHEN. Madam Speaker, in 1970, our air was so polluted that breathing was literally a public health threat. Recognizing that need to give Americans clean air , Republican President Richard Nixon signed into law the Clean Air Act .

In its 40-year history, the Clean Air Act has saved the United States trillions of dollars by keeping Americans out of hospitals, in schools, and in the workforce.

The nonpartisan American Lung Association estimates that in 2010 alone it saved over 160,000 lives. But despite saving 160,000 lives and trillions of dollars in the last 40 years, the Republican majority claims this legislation is destroying the American economy. They believe that act must be repealed so Big Oil and corporate polluters can no longer be held responsible for destroying our air and endangering public health.

If Republican efforts to repeal the EPA's Clean Air Act authority are successful, we will return to a time when every breath you take will endanger your life. History disproves Republican claims and illustrates that the Clean Air Act saves lives, creates jobs, and saves the government tens of trillions of dollars. But, apparently, these facts that Richard Nixon understood do not matter.

On Feb 8, 2011 the following record of a 60 minute "debate" was printed in the Congressional Record:

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 5, 2011, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Tonko) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.

GENERAL LEAVE

Mr. TONKO. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New York?

There was no objection.

Mr. TONKO. This evening, Mr. Speaker, we will be joined by a number of colleagues in the House to discuss the Clean Air Act and its impact on jobs, on public health, and our national security. It is interesting to note that we've had an outstanding 40-year record on behalf of the improvements that have come via the Clean Air Act , and now there are forces amongst us that would like to repeal important pollution control standards that are part of that Clean Air Act and roll backward the very progress that we have enjoyed, the impact that it has made. And they're being joined now, these forces, by big polluters, people who would choose to have us go backward and undo the tremendous standards that have brought about and enhanced quality of life.

Since 1970, the Clean Air Act has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and decreased air pollution by some 60 percent, at the same time having grown our economy by some 200 percent. So it is very important to note that there has been a high order of progress associated with the Clean Air Act , which came, by the way, through bipartisan vision that thought we could improve our situation here in America, and those visionaries were absolutely correct.

We now are at risk of endangering our children's health simply by attacking the health standards that the Clean Air Act promotes. We're also at risk of promoting ideas that will denounce innovation--innovation that has moved forward in breaking our gluttonous dependency on oil, oftentimes imported from unfriendly nations to the United States, and where also we will roll back the progress that has come with creating our own sense of innovation as we have responded to these cleanup measures here in the States. This is an important juncture. After a 40-year record, 40 years of success, we're now faced with the forces of big polluters hooking up with our colleagues in the majority in this House looking to roll back progress and denounce policies that have impacted us favorably.

We're joined this evening by a number of colleagues. We're joined by Representative Quigley from the Fifth District of Illinois, who has thoughts that he wants to share with us. We'll be hearing from a number of colleagues from Virginia and Washington State as the hour continues to roll.

Representative Quigley, thank you for joining us this evening on this very important topic and on this very important effort to hold back any efforts made to undo the law and weaken it and put our health standards at risk.

Mr. QUIGLEY. Well, I want to thank you so much for having me. I want to thank my colleague from New York for his efforts and everyone who's here tonight toward this end. This issue is critical not just to our health, our Nation's health, but also to our country's national security and our economy. Because I rise today to protect the integrity of all things of science because it is science that these facts and figures that have led hundreds of scientists to confirm that global warming is real. It is this science that led the Supreme Court through jurisprudence to rule that the EPA does in fact have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. And it is this science that led the Congress to pass the Clean Air Act , the act which designated the EPA as the body charged with overseeing, adapting, and implementing these regulations.

In the coming months, the EPA will begin regulating greenhouse gases from certain emitters for the first time. These regulations have become hugely controversial and, sadly, political. These rules combat man-made climate change--man-made climate change that is melting our polar ice caps, that is raising the level of our oceans, and that is modifying our seasonal temperatures; man-made climate change that is altering the duration of our growing season, that is flooding parts of the world and causing multi-year droughts on others; man-made climate change that is allowing particulate matters to infiltrate our children's lungs, making them suffer from lifelong asthma and making us die earlier.

But some would argue these rules, these new regulations, are burdensome; that they kill jobs, they imperil economic recovery, they are nonsensical, they aren't pragmatic. That is nonsensical.

Let's take EPA's proposed rule regarding toxic emission from industrial boilers, a seemingly innocuous rule, right? Wrong. This rule called for the cleanup of units that burn fuel onsite to provide electricity and heat. This action, this rule, would cut mercury particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and acid gases by requiring facilities to install equipment to clean up these toxic emissions. This so-called ``job-killing rule'' would, as predicted, save from 2,000 to 5,000 lives each year. The need to crack down on greenhouse gases is based on sound science, the results of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies that say that global warming is real and that man contributes to it.

And if you're keeping score at home, there are zero peer-reviewed scientific studies that say that global warming is not real and that man does not contribute to it. But, more than that, the need to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions, the need to give EPA the tools to do its duty as mandated by Congress and deemed their responsibility by the Supreme Court. This issue certainly is lethal. It kills people. And my friends who oppose this radical fight against global warming, you can't work if you're dead.

December 31, 2010, marked the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act . The Clean Air Act has saved the lives of over 160,000 people, as conservatively estimated by the EPA. This issue then is a public health issue.

Chicago is my hometown. It is in the midst of a public health crisis. We are the morbidity and mortality capital of the United States for asthma. Having two children who face this ailment, it strikes near and dear to home. We are dealing with skyrocketing rates of death due to asthma, but we're not the only city with this problem. A report released by the American Lung Association reported nearly 60 percent of Americans live in areas where air pollution has reached unhealthy levels that can and does make people sick.

Yet we are standing here on the House floor arguing against job preserving measures, measures that will keep us alive and able to work, measures that will create jobs in clean and green industrial areas.

As Al Gore said in 2005, ``It is now clear that we face a deepening global climate crisis that requires us to act boldly, quickly and wisely.'' Attacks on the Clean Air Act and the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases are a huge piece of the larger climate crisis, a crisis that has a hefty cost--our health and our lives.

Mr. TONKO. Thank you, Representative Quigley, for presenting your perspective on this important discussion.

I think it's important to note when we talk about the statistics, when we talk about an attack on public health standards, which this is, it's done to enhance the opportunities--for lobbyists, for special interests, for deep pockets of the oil industry, where they want to avoid that sense of accountability and where they want to build their profit column at the expense of the health outcomes that we have generated to the good over the last 40 years. In fact, in 2010 alone, the stat is that some 160,000 lives plus were saved by this legislation, by this law that was produced 40 years ago. And when it comes to children, some 18 million cases over the last 20 years of children's bronchial or respiratory illnesses were prevented. So right there the proof is in the pudding. This is an attack on our public health, and I think it's important to state it for the record so that when these forces of negativity come into play, they're checked for their wanting to roll us backward.

I thank you for joining us this evening, Representative Quigley.

Mr. QUIGLEY. Thank you for having me.

Mr. TONKO. We are joined by Representative Gerry Connolly from the 11th District in Virginia. It is always good to hear from you, also, Gerry.

It is important, I think, that everyone share their perspective here this evening of what damage can be calculated here after 40 years of progress and where there is an attack on our health care standards and on job creation. Because, as we all know, innovation to respond to the efforts of this law, the intent purpose, produces jobs and produces a technical response that is unique and provides for America to dig deep into solutions.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. My friend from New York is absolutely right. Let me thank him for his leadership in taking up this Special Order tonight on the all-important preservation of the Clean Air Act . I can't think frankly of a more reckless idea than repeal of all or parts of the Clean Air Act . It would transform the quality of life for all Americans.

Our colleague from Illinois' comments about having children who live in Chicago, the number one asthma affected municipality in the United States, really resonates with me. I also have a close relative here in the Nation's capital, I represent the suburbs of Washington, DC, and I can tell you that as a nonattainment region, we have significant health effects from our air pollution. We are a nonattainment region as measured by the Environmental Protection Agency, and cleaning up our air quality is critical to thousands of people and thousands of children whose health depends on the efficacy of the Clean Air Act and making sure it is fully implemented.

I wanted just to share with my friend from New York and my colleagues tonight some of the costs of repealing the Clean Air Act , because I think Americans need to focus on that. It's not cost-free to repeal this all-important environmental piece of legislation. Thanks to the Clean Air Act , Americans will see gas consumption of cars reduced by an average of 30 percent, saving the average car owner over $2,000. That would be lost. Repealing the Clean Air Act would increase OPEC imports by 72 million barrels every year by 2020. Repealing the Clean Air Act will force Americans to spend $9.9 billion each year to Libya and Venezuela and other OPEC countries, not all of which have America's best interests at heart. Repealing the Clean Air Act would forgo savings for Americans of 77 billion gallons of fuel over the life of the vehicles sold in those years, representing $240 billion in benefits, including over $182 billion in fuel savings.

In addition to undermining national security, repealing the Clean Air Act would cause thousands of premature deaths which my colleagues were referring to. For example, the proposed EPA boiler MACT standard would save from 2,000 to 5,100 lives each year. Those lives would not be saved with repeal of the Clean Air Act .

A report released by the American Lung Association recently reported that nearly 60 percent of all Americans live in areas where air pollution has reached unhealthy levels that can and do make people sick, including right here in the Nation's capital. Approximately 171,632 children and 544,013 adults have asthma in my home State of Virginia alone, according to the American Lung

Association. Repealing EPA's authority to limit mercury, particulate matter, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide pollution would increase those numbers significantly and would aggravate already existing respiratory conditions. We cannot afford to repeal the Clean Air Act when it would imperil public health, undermine national security, countermand all of our goals in terms of energy independence, and set a dangerous precedent for repealing our most important public health law.

I thank my colleague from New York for leading us tonight and highlighting the risks involved, the very serious and real risks involved in this reckless action that is proposed.

Mr. TONKO. Thank you, Representative Connolly. We will continue to banter here this evening about the merits of the Clean Air Act and the good that it has produced. But when we talk about some of this innovation, how we can drive our energy independence, our self-sufficiency, it goes well beyond the public health efforts that can be secured simply by that kind of work as we reduce the amount of emissions, but it also turns into an issue of national security, where we know sending these over $400 billion a year to foreign sources for our oil importation is actually feeding the treasuries of some very unfriendly nations to the U.S., and then perhaps having those dollars used to train the troops that are fighting our troops in our efforts for peace in the Mideast. It is a never ending cycle of madness that has to be prevented, and I think the Clean Air Act , accompanied by other efforts that we can do to spur jobs and create an innovation economy are very important aspects. They are outcomes of sound progressive legislation that then achieves wonderful results and allows us to address public health standards in a way that is magnanimous.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. My colleague could not be more correct. And, of course, as he recalls, not only sound progressive legislation but sound environmental legislation that had broad bipartisan support and was signed into law by a Republican President.

Mr. TONKO. Right. And produced great benefits for every dollar invested. You, Representative Connolly, and I serve on SEEC, which is a wonderful group of legislators, like-minded in producing a green agenda that reaches to a sustainable energy and environmental outcome. That SEEC coalition is what is driving that agenda here in the House. One of our cochairs is with us this evening, the gentleman from Washington State's First District, Jay Inslee. Representative Jay Inslee is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and is ranker on a subcommittee, I believe, that will have a very important hearing.

Representative Inslee, thank you for joining us this evening to talk about this important topic.

Mr. INSLEE. Thank you. I can't think of anything more important.

Tomorrow we will have the first hearing in Congress on the Dirty Air Act . Of course the Dirty Air Act is the act that intends to gut Uncle Sam's ability to protect clean air for all of us to breathe--Republicans, Democrats and independents. This Dirty Air Act is clearly bad for children with asthma. This Dirty Air Act is bad for senior men with respiratory problems. This Dirty Air Act is bad for senior American women with heart problems. This Dirty Air Act is bad for American workers who are going to lose the jobs that will be created in the innovative new industries that we're going to build so we can produce electricity and power for our cars in a clean way. This Dirty Air Act is one of the worst pieces of legislation I have seen in my time in the U.S. Congress and I will tell you why. It breaks faith with some of the values, at least two of the great works done by Republican Presidents. And it's really a tragedy that my colleagues across the aisle have fallen for the siren sound of the polluters, because it's the polluters who want to pass the Dirty Air Act , which by the way you could also call the Inhaler Enhancement Act of 2011, if you want to know what it does to children who have asthma.

We just spent an hour talking about the optimism of President Ronald Reagan, which was manifest and appreciated by Democrats and Republicans alike. And those of us who stand against this Dirty Air Act believe we ought to have optimism that we can create electricity in clean ways. We can do it in solar energy created and powered by Americans. We can do it with electric cars made by Americans. The GM Volt was just the car of the year made by Americans, General Motors; a plug-in electric hybrid car.

We can do it with wind. We can do it, perhaps, with advanced forms of nuclear power.

The point is that that sense of optimism has now been shucked overboard because the polluters have come up to Washington, DC, with their lobbyist friends, and have convinced our friends and colleagues to throw aside 40 years of Republican success. This thing was started by Richard Nixon with a good assist by William Ruckelshaus, who is now a citizen of Seattle, Washington. It was a Republican who recognized our ability to innovate in a way that would grow jobs and reduce air pollution.

I want to leave you with one statistic--and Richard Nixon was right in this regard. He was wrong on some other things, but he was right on this.

He said the polluting industry resisted the Clean Air Act when it started 40 years ago, but what he believed--and it turned out to be accurate--was that we could innovate our way to create new technologies to produce energy. That's why we have reduced air pollution by 60 percent since 1970. It is because of the Clean Air Act . Yet our economy has grown by 200 percent--a 200 percent growth at the time the polluters said this was going to wreck the U.S. economy. That's the same thing we can do now in using the innovative talents so we can start making electric cars here and ship them to China, so we can start making solar panels here, with jobs in America, so we can ship those to China.

I'll just part with one statement.

There ought not to be any debate about the health care impacts here either. Congress has received a letter signed by 2,505 American scientists, calling on Congress to resist and defeat the Republicans' dirty air act , because, it says, the Clean Air Act is a science-based law that has prevented 400,000 premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease during the 40 years since it was first passed, all without diminishing economic growth.

Those are from American scientists, who understand American innovation, who understand American asthma, who understand the American ability to keep moving forward and to not go backwards. Heaven help those who would support the dirty air act and who would support to repeal clean air protections for Americans.

Mr. TONKO. Representative Inslee, you talk about the jobs effect. Obviously, there are those who would suggest that this kills jobs when, in fact, we have data from 2007 that shows the air pollution control equipment industry was generating some $18.3 billion with $3 billion of that in terms of exporting that is done.

So this spurs innovation. It puts into working order the science and tech community that creates sustainable-type jobs that really make an impact on our quality of life and on our public health standards. I think those facts are missing here when those forces of lobbyists, deep pocket sorts, and oil voices join with our partners on the other side of the aisle to kill this legislation.

Mr. INSLEE. If the gentleman would yield for a moment, I have a little story about how I've seen this firsthand.

I went to the coolest event a few weeks ago that I've ever gone to as a public official. It was in Woodinville, Washington, at the Woodinville Wooden Cross Church. I got to participate in the benediction, in the dedication, of the very first electric car charging station at a church in America. It was great. It was, you know, let there be light and there was light. Let there be power and there was power. More importantly, there were jobs, because every time we put in one of these charging stations, there are five American jobs created due to these investments.

If the Republicans get their way, what will happen is they will repeal the Clean Air Act , which will affect carbon and methane and ozone--very dangerous gasses in a lot of different ways. Instead of the investment going to create new energy industries, those investments are going to go to China, and it's China that is going to make the electric cars and the solar power and the advanced systems of maybe finding ways to burn coal cleanly.