Pallone Pans House GOP Efforts to Undermine Clean Air Act
Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today gave the following statement during House Floor debate on H.R. 4775, the “Ozone Standards Implementation Act”:
Mr. Speaker, once again the House is considering a bill to undermine one of our most successful public health and environmental laws – the Clean Air Act. Clean air isn’t a luxury. It is a necessity. Before the Clean Air Act became law 43 years ago, thousands of Americans experienced the consequences of unhealthy air – respiratory disease, severe asthma attacks, and pre-mature deaths. This landmark legislation, for the first time, ensured that hazardous air pollution would be controlled.
But, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the success of this law and its many vital public health benefits, the Clean Air Act continues to be a favorite target for my Republican colleagues. H.R. 4775, is, unfortunately, the latest in an ongoing attempt to undermine the progress we’ve made on cleaning the air and protecting public health.
The bill’s sponsors claim their goal is to help states to implement the National Ambient Air Quality Standards set by EPA. And yet, this bill fails to provide the one thing that would be most helpful to states in their efforts to implement air quality standards – additional resources. In fact, Chairman Whitfield will be offering an amendment to the bill to ensure that EPA receives no additional funding to implement the provisions of this legislation or any of the requirements under existing law.
H.R. 4775 is not a package of minor changes to minor provisions of the Clean Air Act. These changes are radical revisions intended to roll back the progress we’ve made in public health. This bill alters the fundamental premise of the Act – that standards should be set to ensure the air is safe and healthy to breathe. H.R. 4775 would bring economic costs, technological feasibility, and other non-risk factors into the standard-setting process. These things are important, to be sure, and that’s why they are already considered when the states develop their plans to achieve the health-based standards set by EPA. This is appropriate. They should, however, never come into play in setting those standards.
Let’s just use technology as an example. Technology is always evolving. What is technologically feasible today, does not define what is possible tomorrow.
For example, air pollution from automobile emissions were recognized as a serious problem in southern California as early as 1959. At that time, there were no pollution control devices for cars. Auto manufacturers said it couldn’t be done – the technology was impossible and that even if it were possible, it would be far too expensive. But, California passed laws requiring pollution control anyway.
We all know the rest of the story – it was not impossible or prohibitively expensive. People still bought cars. And, we have cleaner, more efficient cars today because regulation pushed technology forward. The only reason to make technological feasibility a factor in setting the standard is to avoid setting the standard, and that’s the goal of the supporters of this legislation.
The history of the Clean Air Act is one of great success. The economy has continued to grow. The air has gotten cleaner. And, most important – public health has improved.
Mr. Speaker, my Republican colleagues refuse to accept the fact that we can continue to improve the air, have a vibrant economy and give everyone the opportunity for a long and healthy life. I urge my colleagues to reject the false choice between jobs and clean air. We can have both.
H.R. 4775 is a dangerous bill, and I urge my colleagues to vote “no” on increased ozone pollution.