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Defending America

02/18/2011

-by Derek Gideon, Editor

Imagine living in an America where the rivers are so polluted they catch fire. Imagine an America where the smog in New York City is so bad that hundreds of people die in a single incident. Imagine an America where companies can dump as much toxic waste into the Hudson as they please.

All these things happened in America before the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Prior to then, there was no single agency tasked with keeping America safe from environmental disasters. But today, the Republican house is trying to declaw the EPA, voting 249-177 to stop the agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA was obligated to take action on climate change. In 2009, the EPA found that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gasses present a danger to the American public, which the agency has the authority to regulate under the Clean Air Act. With this bill, the House is telling one of the most important agencies of the federal government that it is not allowed to do its job.

The House is stripping funding away from the EPA until it is unable to act not only on climate change, but also on other health and safety problems. Progressive magazine Mother Jones has compiled a list of measures in the House bill that will prevent the EPA and other environmental agencies from carrying out their duties:

  • Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating toxic air pollutants, including mercury (No. 201, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-ID)
  • Cut EPA funds for curbing greenhouse gas emissions including carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (No. 466, Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX)
  • Interfere with the EPA’s ability to limit toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants (No. 407, Rep. Ralph Hall, D-TX)
  • Bar the EPA from setting new health standards limiting coarse air particles (No. 563, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-SD)
  • Reduce the budgets of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service (No. 556, Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM)
  • Defund the Council on Environmental Quality, which coordinates environmental policy among all federal agencies (No. 202, Rep. Labrador)
  • Prohibit the Environmental Appeals board from reviewing or rejecting permits for off-shore drilling (No. 533, Rep. Don Young, R-AK)
  • Ban any contribution by the United States to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (No. 574, Rep. Pearce)

I am not sure the House even maintains a sense of what the word “cost” means. Even if these measures shrink the deficit more than slightly (And as Princeton economist Paul Krugman points out in his latest column, they won’t), they will take a huge toll on the livability of this country as well as the rest of the planet.

The EPA does more than any other agency to protect Americans’ rights to clean air, clean water, and a safe climate, and if we don’t fight to keep those rights we will lose them. You can start by signing these petitions from the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund. Follow us on this blog and on Twitter, and we’ll also keep you updated on what else you can do as the story develops. It’s time to defend America, and the world.

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