"Health Denier: PA Congressmen Misleading Constituents About Attempts to Weaken the Clean Air Act"
by Pete Altman, in an NRDC Switchboard cross-post
It was bad enough that Pennsylvania congressmen Tim Holden (PA-17) and Lou Barletta (PA-11) voted for a bill that the American Lung Association called “The single greatest roll-back of Clean Air Act protections in history.”
Now, they are misleading their constituents about those votes.
NRDC took out television ads criticizing both members’ support for supporting dirty air legislation. Now Holden and Barletta are insisting that that their votes have done nothing to repeal or remove existing environmental protection agency regulations.
For the record, PoliticsPA reported:
“Holden told PoliticsPA that he did not vote to repeal any existing anti-pollution regulations…”
and that a spokesman for Barletta said:
““Every single vote cited keeps current EPA regulations in place and allows the EPA to continue to regulate pollutants.”
There are a few problems with these statements. First of all, NRDC’s ad says that the members
“voted to let polluters dump mercury, soot, smog and arsenic into the air. Toxic pollution that causes thousands of hospital visits, asthma-related illnesses and even deaths.”
Tellingly, neither member denied that assertion.
Instead, they resorted to misdirection — answering charges that no one has made. By framing their votes as doing nothing to “existing” or “in place” regulations, perhaps they think it will sound like they took nothing away from their constituents.
But the fact is they took away clean air safeguards already on the books, they took away clean air safeguards the EPA has spent years to update and was about to put into effect, and they took away the vital principle that standards should be set based on what is most protective of public health, not how inconvenient cleanup is for polluters.
The bills Holden and Barletta have supported this year amend and weaken the Clean Air Act in multiple ways, substituting the law’s strongest protections against mercury and toxic air pollution with far weaker measures (for example, section 5(b)(4)(B) of H.R. 2401) and substantially delaying compliance (section 5(b)(3)).
And that isn’t all. Both members go further to deny that their votes harm public health. Holden does so by saying it isn’t fair to say his votes put kids at risk. But, as I’ve pointed out, his votes do put kids at risk.
PolticsPA further reported that Representative Barletta’s spokesperson claimed that “not one” of his votes “alters the Clean Air Act in any way.” This is so thoroughly wrong as to raise the question whether the congressman read the bill or understood what he was voting for.
For the details on how the members’ votes do all these things and more, see here.
But let’s get back to the members’ attempted misdirection. Perhaps even more troubling than the votes themselves and all their consequences is that both member’s claims are flat-out untrue. Let’s look at the facts:
Both members voted for the “TRAIN” Act, H.R. 2401. That bill repeals an existing regulation – the Cross-State Air Pollution standard, which is designed to reduce the lives lost and other health impacts of coal power plant pollution that floats across state lines.
There are no ifs, ands or buts about this.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what the text of the bill actually says:
H.R. 2401, Sec. 5(a)(1):
“(a) Cross – State Air Pollution Rules:
(1) EARLIER RULES.—The rule entitled ‘‘Federal Implementation Plans: Interstate Transport of Fine Particulate Matter and Ozone and Correction of SIP Approvals’’, published at 76 Fed. Reg. 48208 14 (August 8, 2011), and any successor or substantially similar rule, shall be of no force or effect, and shall be treated as though such rule had never taken effect.” (italics added.)
It doesn’t take a legal scholar to figure out that voting for a bill that says an existing regulation “shall be of no force or effect, and shall be treated as though such rule had never taken effect” pretty much meets the common definition of repeal which is defined as “to rescind or annul by authoritative act; especially: to revoke or abrogate by legislative enactment.”
And obviously that does not keep the regulation in place, as Barletta’s office claimed.
It’s time for Holden and Barletta to come clean – on both counts. Pennsylvanians have a right to know the truth about what their Representatives in Washington are up to.
Pete Altman is the Climate Campaign Director in Washington, DC for the Natural Resources Defense Council.