I know many of you inside the Beltway are aware of today’s developments, but I do want to put out this alert for those outside the Beltway. And for those of you inside, please take note: this isn’t just the run-of-the mill hearing or bill introduction. This is a real threat to clean air.
Clean air protections are under a real cloud because of back-door attacks in both House and Senate appropriation legislation. Today the House appropriations panel, on a party-line vote, endorsed a spending bill with a series of amendments, or “riders” that would block key environmental safeguards. Among those was an amendment offered by West Virginia Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins, which would prohibit the EPA from tightening the smog standards until at least 85 percent of counties are able to meet the existing standard of 75 parts per billion. It may sound innocuous, but this is a despicable ploy to block tougher smog standards. In effect, it would deny all Americans the right to breathe safe air until the most polluted cities like Los Angeles and Houston have clean air – something that could take many years.
Later today, a Senate spending panel also endorsed a delay in the smog standards. These lawmakers appear to be trying to set up a game of chicken with the President. Could there be another government shutdown over this festival of dirty air and water amendments? Or will they ask the President to negotiate – to choose which of his environmental priorities to salvage, and which to write off? Stay tuned.
We expect more trouble tomorrow from newly elected Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) who says he will release a letter from other doctors calling for retaining the current standard. To contrast with this, I comment to your attention recent letters from 1,000 medical professionals and from major health and medical groups, all of which called for tougher standards to provide better health protection. Here are links: