Wednesday, March 21, 2012

News notes: Lung Assn poll supports clean air... while scoundrels in Congress try to exploit gas prices

There is an interesting new poll out this morning from our pals at the American Lung Association http://bit.ly/GDcyDz

As you can see, the survey displays strong support not only for the Clean Air Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (while verifying other surveys that show voter contempt for Congress), but finds that voters support new carbon emission standards, stricter boiler standards and stricter standards for gasoline and tailpipe pollution from motor vehicles.

Interestingly, the Lung folks “oversampled” voters in several states: Maine, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that Susan Collins (R-ME) – who acted so tremendously in the last Congress by teaming with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to champion the very progressive “cap and dividend” climate legislation – has promoted efforts to delay toxic standards for industrial boilers. This new poll suggests she is out of touch with her constituents on that issue. As one might guess, the carbon power plant issue has been a sometimes thorny one for Democratic Senators from Ohio (Sherrod Brown) http://bit.ly/GEvUZD and Pennsylvania (Bob Casey) http://bit.ly/GCmFv1 . Our interpretation of this poll: buck up, boys!

Ironically, the polling comes out as the Obama White House continues to sit on a new EPA proposal to limit carbon emissions from new power plants and appears to have stifled an EPA effort – which the President himself called for – to reduce the sulfur content of gasoline in order to reduce smog and enable new motor vehicles to meet tougher tailpipe pollution standards.

As one of our friends noted yesterday, the White House timidity and indecision in these matters (Prince Hamlet seems alive and well in Washington. Or, perhaps today, in Oklahoma) has only encouraged scoundrels on Capitol Hill – the same folks held in suitable contempt by voters – to press for more weakening of clean air controls. Among these, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who yesterday floated the dangerous and illegal idea of granting waivers of gasoline pollution standards as a device to lower prices. Dirtier gasoline would translate into more smog, more health damage, and more trouble for states trying to protect their citizens from dirty air. The Clean Air Act does permit limited waivers in the case of emergencies http://www.epa.gov/compliance/civil/caa/fuelwaivers/ but not simply to meet political objectives.

Also emboldened by White House weakness, we have read many reports that Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) is readying new “gasoline price” legislation that could block EPA from moving forward not only with clean-gas standards but with much-needed improvements to national air quality standards for ozone.

As Prince Hamlet put it, “How now? A rat?”

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