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Heat Advisory: Protecting Health on a Warming Planet
by Dr. Alan Lockwood

Drawing on peer-reviewed scientific and medical research, Dr. Lockwood meticulously details the symptoms of climate change and their medical side effects.

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High-stakes debate looming over EPA power to regulate pollutants

March 2, 2011

The showdown in the U.S. Congress over the EPA’s power to regulate pollutants has been slightly postponed, but recent actions by the House of Representatives make clear that the upcoming debate will be high-stakes.

The assault on the EPA arose when the House recently passed a Continuing Resolution (C.R.).  Although ostensibly a budget bill, the C.R. was loaded down with amendments to limit or revoke the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, mercury and other air toxics, water pollutants, coal ash, and mountaintop removal wastes. 

Many of the amendments to this supposed budget bill do not reduce expenditures.  Rather, they simply halt EPA enforcement of programs to stop big polluters from contaminating air and water. 

The C.R. has now been supplanted by a stopgap, short-term continuation of funding that does not include the House’s amendments.  Thus, Congress will temporarily dodge the bullet aimed at the heart of the EPA.

However, when the budget debate resumes in a few short weeks, both houses of Congress will likely have to consider the sweeping restrictions that the House tried to impose on the EPA.  These included provisions to:

  • Block the EPA from enforcing the rule that regulates mercury and other air toxics emissions from cement plants.  Mercury can damage the developing brain, reduce IQ, and cause mental retardation, behavioral problems, and developmental abnormalities.  Cement plants are a major source of mercury emissions in the U.S.
  • Eliminate funding for EPA control of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.  This would exempt coal-fired power plants, steel mills, refineries and other major greenhouse gas emitters.
  • Prohibit the use of funds by EPA to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, thus prematurely ending EPA consideration of regulating the safe disposal of this toxic substance.
  • Stop the EPA from administering or enforcing Clean Water Act provisions for mountaintop removal.
  • Halt certain state and regional water standards and programs.

In the long run, these actions are projected to increase health care costs as our society faces the rising illnesses that will inevitably result. PSR’s chapters and national office continue to work to underscore to Congress the importance to health of reducing air and water toxics. 

Not all the amendments were budget-neutral; total funding for the EPA was slashed by $3 billion.

Action Alerts

  • Tell the EPA: Don't delay methane protections

    Tell the EPA: don't delay the proposed rule to capture leaking methane gas. Our health and the health of the climate cannot wait!

  • Tell Congress—defend the Clean Air Act against Big Oil!

    President Trump, his new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, and some in Congress are attempting to block or weaken clean air and climate protections like the Clean Power Plan. Tell your member of Congress to support full implementation of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Power Plan.

More action alerts»

Resources

  • Video: Fracking - Too Dirty, Too Dangerous

    Former executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Catherine Thomasson, MD, presents findings from PSR's report "Too Dirty, Too Dangerous: Why Health Professionals Reject Natural Gas". It is based on summaries of recent medical and scientific studies which clearly convey the health threats that accompany use of methane as a fuel. Read more »

  • Webinar: The Fight for Solar

    Solar energy is one of our best hopes for a clean energy future – yet some utility companies are trying to stifle the spread of rooftop solar. Learn more about the fight for rooftop ("distributed") solar. Read more »

  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Fact Sheet

    RGGI has significantly reduced air pollution from fossil fuel power plants, improving the health of people living in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. Read more »

In the Spotlight

  • November 30, 2016
    Eating for Climate and Health
    PSR's new PowerPoint presentation on how climate change impacts food production, and agriculture's contribution to climate change.