Our guest blogger is Noreen Nielsen, Energy Communications Director, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Families in Iowa and across the country believe that every child has the right to be born and grow up without suffering from the devastating effects that toxic air pollutants cause and worsen such as respiratory disease, higher cancer risks and learning and developmental disorders. Every family has the right to expect clean air, free of the elevated heart and lung disease risks that air pollution poses.
However, Republican presidential candidates are proposing to weaken or block these common-sense updates to the Clean Air Act, which has successfully protected air quality for more than four decades – something that would be devastating to Iowa families.
GOP REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES ATTACK THE EPA
— Michele Bachmann: EPA Should Be Renamed the Job Killing Organization of America. On June 13, 2011, during a debate hosted by CNN, Bachmann stated, “Every time the liberals get into office, they pass an omnibus bill of big spending projects. What we need to do is pass the mother of all repeal bills, but it’s the repeal bill that will get a job killing regulations. And I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.”
— Newt Gingrich: Abolish the EPA. While giving a speech to the conservative CPAC conference early this year, Gingrich offered harsh words when discussing the EPA, calling it a “fundamental threat to freedom in this country.” He went on to say, “I want to replace, not reform EPA, because EPA is made up of self-selected bureaucrats who are anti-American jobs, anti-American business, anti-state government, anti-local control, and I don’t think you can reeducate them.”
— Tim Pawlenty: We Need Less EPA Monitoring of Our Economy. In remarks on June 7, 2011, Pawlenty stated that “[W]e don’t need the unelected officials at EPA to do what our elected officials in Congress have rejected. We need less EPA monitoring of our economy. And more monitoring of EPA’s effects on our freedom.”
— Rick Perry: EPA Illustrates How Washington Is Destroying Individuals Ability to Make Their Own Economic Decisions. In his book, Fed Up!, Perry writes, “Our dispute with the EPA in particular illustrates how Washington’s command-and-control environmental bureaucracy is destroying federalism and individuals’ ability to make their own economic decisions.”
— Mitt Romney: Against EPA Regulation of Carbon Emissions. In response to a question on EPA’s regulation of air quality standards, Romney stated that “Do I support the EPA? In much of its mission yes, but in some of its mission no. The EPA getting into carbon footprints, and… I think we may have made a mistake, we have made a mistake is what I believe, in saying that the EPA should regulate carbon emissions. I don’t think that was the intent of the original legislation, and I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies. We can agree to disagree … My view is that the EPA getting into carbon and regulating carbon has gone beyond the original intent of the legislation.”
— Herman Cain: Put Oil And Coal CEOs In Charge Of EPA Regulations. During a campaign stop in Iowa earlier this summer, Herman Cain said that, as president, he would create a special commission to remove environmental and energy regulations at the EPA that would be stacked with oil and gas heads. He is also on the record saying that eliminating the program entirely also “would be an option.”
— Ron Paul: No need for the EPA. In an interview with Grist, Paul said he saw no need for it, continuing on to say, “The EPA assumes you might do something wrong; it’s a bureaucratic, intrusive approach and it favors those who have political connections.”
— Jon Huntsman: New Environmental Regulations Should Be Low Priority. Though Huntsman has one of the most pro-environmental records of the 2012 GOP presidential gang, he has said that “until the economy improves, new environmental regulations should be a low priority.”
IOWA CHILDREN, SENIORS, AND FAMILIES NEED CLEAN AIR
— Children with Asthma. In 2008, there were approximately 67,088 children with asthma in Iowa, a condition that is made worse by air pollution. That year, approximately 6,642 Iowa children, had to visit the emergency room because of an asthma attack caused by poor air quality.
— Women of Childbearing Age. There are 582,485 women of childbearing age in the Hawkeye state. In Iowa, industrial facilities, power plants, and other polluters pumped more than 4,131 pounds of mercury and mercury related compounds into the air in 2009, the most recent data available from EPA. Mercury contamination is associated with as many as 2,675 excess cases of mental retardation a year. The cost of caring for these children has been estimated between $28 million and $3.3 billion annually.
— Seniors. There are 444,294 people over the age of 65 in Iowa. Studies have found that seniors who are exposed to higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized for pneumonia, a leading cause of illness and death in order adults. In addition, exposure to carbon monoxide increased the likelihood that seniors with heart problems would be hospitalized.
— Power Plant Pollution Caused More Than 150 Deaths in Iowa in 2010. A recent study estimated that 157 people in Iowa died, 2,345 have asthma attacks, and 260 have non-fatal heart attacks because of power plant pollution in 2010 alone. In Iowa, 164 people went to the emergency room because of an asthma attack caused by power plant pollution, and 78 people with cardiac symptoms caused by power plant pollution were hospitalized. Nationwide, power plant pollution causes more than 24,000 premature deaths, 12,000 hospital admissions, 38,000 non-fatal heart attacks and more than 550,000 asthma attacks annually.
AFRICAN AMERICANS AND LATINO FAMILIES IN IOWA ARE DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED BY DIRTY AIR
— African Americans. There are 84,054 African Americans in Iowa. Approximately 40 percent of African Americans live in areas where the air fails to meet Federal ozone standards, and 15.2 percent live in areas where the air fails to meet Federal standards for particulate matters. Coal-fired power plants are among the biggest polluters in the country, and 68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of one.
— Latinos. There are 134,402 Latinos in Iowa. Approximately 26.6 percent of Latinos live in areas where the air fails to meet Federal ozone standards, and 48.4 percent live in areas where the air fails to meet Federal standards for particulate matters. Latinos take in approximately one-and-one-half times the level of diesel exhaust of the average American, based on estimates provided to Fox News Latino from the Clean Air Task Force. The result is anywhere between 2,000 to 5,000 premature deaths in the Latino community annually.
THE CLEAN AIR ACT SAVES LIVES
In 2010, the Clean Air Act saved the lives of 160,000 adults and 230 infants. Clean Air Act protections also prevented 130,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 86,000 emergency room visits, and 1.7 million acute asthma attacks in 2010 alone. EPA attributes most of the fatalities to particulate matter exposure.
Updated standards will save more lives.
– OZONE AND FINE PARTICLE POLLUTION (CSPAR). In Iowa, industrial facilities, power plants, and other polluters pumped more than 165,046 tons of sulfur dioxide and 256,153 of nitrogen oxide into the air in 2008, the most recent data available from EPA. Research has linked exposure to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide to eye irritation, wheezing, shortness of breath, lung damage, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. EPA’s updated standard will improve air quality for more than 75 percent of the US population in 2014 alone. Delaying the implementation of these standards will result in as many as 34,000 deaths, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 400,000 asthma attacks, and 19,000 hospital or emergency room visits in 2014 alone.
— MERCURY (BOILER MACT). In Iowa, industrial facilities, power plants, and other polluters pumped more than 4,131 pounds of mercury and mercury related compounds into the air in 2009, exposing 582,485 women of childbearing age to potentially dangerous levels of a pollutant that is especially harmful to children and pregnant women. Mercury exposure affects a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write and learn. Nationwide, at least 1 in 12, and as many as 1 in 6 American women have enough mercury in their bodies to put a baby at risk. In February of 2011, the EPA proposed a critical air quality standard to protect Americans against life-threatening air pollution such as mercury, soot, dioxin, lead, and nitrogen dioxide emitted by refineries, chemical plants, solid waste and sewage sludge incinerators, and other industrial facilities. This long overdue and critically important update to Clean Air Act standards is an important public health safeguard that will prevent as many as 2,600 premature deaths, 4,100 heart attacks, and 42,000 asthma attacks a year.
— MERCURY (AIR TOXICS). In March of 2011, the EPA proposed a critical air quality standard to protect Americans against life-threatening air pollution such as mercury and arsenic from power plants. This new rule would keep 91 percent of the mercury in coal from being released into the air nationwide. This update to Clean Air Act standards is an important public health safeguard that will prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year. It will also prevent 120,000 asthma attacks and about 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children annually.
— GREENHOUSE GASES. In Iowa, fossil fuel combustion released 89.49 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. In 2009, EPA found that carbon dioxide – when combined with other greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons , perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride – threaten the public health. EPA is working to control greenhouse gases emitted by stationary sources, like industrial plants and factories, and just implemented the first ever emissions standards for heavy duty trucks. The truck standard is projected to reduce carbon pollution emissions by 270 million metric tons from 2014 to 2018, and builds on the national fuel economy standard implemented in 2009, which is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 960 million metric tons from 2012 to 2016.