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Congressional action would dismantle fundamental safeguards to health
February 25, 2011
The U.S. House of Representatives launched a major assault
on basic anti-pollution safeguards when it passed a “Continuing Resolution” on
A Continuing Resolution (C.R.) is a budget bill, temporarily
extending government funding until Congress can hammer out a new annual
budget. But this year, the C.R. was
loaded down with amendments that would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) from carrying out its basic function: protecting Americans from deadly air and
The Senate will consider the Continuing Resolution the first week of
March. PSR members are urged to ask
their Senators to reject the House’s dismantling of these fundamental protections and pass a budget that
protects human health and a clean, healthy environment.
Many of the amendments passed by the House have no impact on
the budget. Rather, they forbid the EPA to
enforce the programs that stop big polluters from contaminating our air
Ironically, this will drive up health care costs as we deal with the
rising illnesses that will inevitably result.
Among the amendments that the House passed that will increase
the risks to health:
- Amendment 165 would block the EPA from enforcing
out an already-existing rule to clean up mercury and other air toxics from
cement plants. Mercury is a powerful
neurotoxicant that can damage the developing brain. Exposure during gestation, infancy or
childhood can cause loss of IQ and mental retardation, attention deficit
disorder and behavioral problems, and developmental abnormalities.
Cement plants are a major source of mercury
emissions in the U.S. and also emit
lead, arsenic, acid gases and particulate matter, causing respiratory problems,
asthma attacks, and other illnesses.
This amendment was introduced by
Rep. Carter of Texas.
- Amendment 466 would eliminate funding for the EPA to implement, administer or
enforce any law or regulation that
would limit emissions of greenhouse gases from stationary sources. Effective retroactively to January 1, 2011,
it would exempt all stationary emitters of greenhouse gases, such as coal-fired
power plants, steel mills and refineries.
By requiring the EPA to turn a blind eye to carbon dioxide
emissions, this amendment would overturn the Clean Air Act, which has saved
lives in this country for 40 years; a Supreme Court decision affirming that the
EPA is required under the law to address greenhouse gas pollution; and reams of
It would also greatly increase the danger that the planet will overheat,
creating new deserts, disrupting agriculture and food production, flooding
coastal areas, expanding disease ranges, and potentially leading to vast loss
This amendment was introduced by Texas Congressmen Poe, Barton and Carter.
217 would prohibit the use of funds by EPA to “develop, propose,
finalize, implement, administer, or enforce” any regulation that identifies
coal ash as a hazardous waste subject to regulation. This amendment would halt in mid-process the
EPA’s consideration of issuing federal regulations for the safe disposal of
coal ash across the nation.
board, members and staff joined tens of thousands of other Americans in
testifying and submitting comments to the EPA in 2010, calling for
regulations that would protect human health from the arsenic, cadmium,
chromium, lead, mercury, thallium and other heavy metal contaminants from coal
amendment was introduced by Rep. McKinley of West Virginia.
McKinley also introduced a successful amendment to stop EPA from administering
or enforcing the sections of the Clean Water Act that govern dredge-and-fill
permits. Those permits are needed by mountaintop-removal operations.
Other amendments affected regional
water quality. Rep. Rooney of Florida
sponsored a successful bid to stop EPA from using its funding to implement,
administer or enforce new water quality standards for Florida's lakes and
flowing waters. Rep. Goodlatte of
Virginia’s amendment would prevent federal funds from being spent on control of
chemicals or a watershed implementation plan for the Chesapeake Bay.
Not all the amendments were budget-neutral; total funding
for the EPA was slashed by $3 billion.