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Runaway TRAIN: Congress launches another attack on clean air

September 22, 2011

Congress has launched another effort to dismantle the Clean Air Act, a law which has improved America’s air quality for 40 years.

The so-called “TRAIN Act” threatens to become the most dangerous attack on air quality protections since President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act into law.  The Act would block and delay standards to clean up particulate matter, smog precursors, mercury, and dioxins and other toxic pollution from power plants.

It is estimated that this inaction would lead to increases in disease and at least 34,000 unnecessary premature deaths every year. 

The bill create would create a redundant regulatory review process – duplicating reviews already undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Management and Budget –  while ignoring the important health benefits of proposed rules.

The value of those health benefits often far exceeds the costs of cleaning the air. 

The bill would also delay two rules vital to health: 

  • The proposed Mercury and Air Toxics rule is designed to protect the public from extremely dangerous pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants.  Air toxics are acutely and chronically toxic to people even in small amounts.  Mercury permanently damages the developing brain of fetuses, infants and small children. 

Thousands of PSR members submitted comments to the EPA supporting this rule earlier this year.

  • The Cross-State air pollution rule is an already-finalized rule that would make it easier for states downwind of pollution sources to achieve healthful air for their residents.  It would significantly reduce nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, whose contributions to ground-level ozone and particulate matter result in asthma attacks, irreversible lung damage, and strokes.

An amendment to the TRAIN Act introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) would block these rules permanently by eliminating any deadline by which they had to clean up deadly pollution.

Another amendment, introduced by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), would eliminate the 40-year-old requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency base its clean air standards on science and medicine alone.

The addition of these amendments would add tens of thousands more premature deaths each year and destroy the fundamental foundation of the Clean Air Act, which was constructed by a bipartisan Congress and signed by President Nixon.

PSR has urged its members to oppose the TRAIN Act and the Latta and Whitfield amendments.

A rigorous, peer-reviewed analysis, The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, conducted by the EPA, found that air quality improvements under the Clean Air Act will save $2 trillion and prevent at least 230,000 deaths annually by 2020.

Recent survey data demonstrates that the public supports EPA’s efforts to implement and update the Clean Air Act. A survey conducted by two polling firms, one Republican and the other Democratic, shows that over 70 percent of voters do not want Congress to stop the EPA from setting stricter pollution limits. 

Sixty-six percent of voters would prefer that EPA set pollution standards, not Congress.

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