House Republicans are on defense after their latest attacks on the EPA and clean air. The House recently passed two bills that would block the EPA from regulating toxic materials at cement kilns and power plants.
Now, legislators are feeling pressure from environmental groups, particularly in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The group Environment New Jersey has targeted three Republicans who represent one of the smoggiest states in the country. Meanwhile, the National Resources Defense Council has launched an ad campaign against Pennsylvania Reps. Tim Holden (D) and Lou Barletta (R) for supporting weakened rules. Their offices have responded, telling PoliticsPA they did not repeal “existing” regulation under the Clean Air Act, despite the fact they voted against cleaner standards. Holden responded:
I mean, if they would have said ‘Holden represents the … coal fields and he votes for coal,’ I deserve that. But I don’t deserve to have pictures of children, innocent children, with masks on like we’re hurting their health.
However, by preventing new measures, the representatives are hurting public health. For instance, new EPA rules would limit oversight of coal ash, which contain toxins like arsenic and lead. Spokesmen for the congressmen evade accusations by saying they did not roll back “existing” regulations. The EPA estimates the House’s actions would lead to more than 32,500 premature deaths.
These measures stand little chance of moving further than the House, with President Obama threatening to veto the bills. Legislators will continue to be put on the defense in coming months, with environmental groups reporting a financial boost from the House’s attacks.