Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is all that matters what the Koch Brothers and Corporate Lobbies have to say?

Is all that matters what the Koch Brothers and Corporate Lobbies have to say? This should be eveyone’s front page news.–KAS

Polluter Profits Vs. Public Health

The rise of the Tea Party in Congress has inspired an all-out assault on public health and a clean environment. Several freshman Republicans have joined Newt Gingrich’s call to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. Republicans in the House Energy Committee unanimously voted not once, not twice, but three times, to deny that climate change is real, despite the broad scientific consensus that “climate change is happening and human beings are a major reason for it.” Every House Republican voted against stripping big oil companies of taxpayer funded subsidies — which would have saved American citizens tens of billions of dollars. The Republican-controlled House Administration Committee even slashed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “Green the Capitol” initiative, ordering the switch of recyclable materials to non-biodegradable Styrofoam to be used in the House cafeterias. “It apparently no longer matters in Congress what health experts and scientists think,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) observed. “All that seems to matter is what Koch Industries thinks.”

GOP PROTECTING POLLUTER PROFITS: After hours of debate over the last few days, the Senate may vote as early as today on Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) legislation to gut the EPA’s ability to set greenhouse pollution rules for coal plants and oil refineries. The language, which passed Upton’s energy committee this week, has been introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Amendment 183 to an unrelated small-business bill. Inhofe isn’t likely to get the 60 votes needed to pass, but enough Democrats are susceptible to the arguments of the coal and oil industries to join the science deniers in the Republican Party to cross the 50 vote threshold. The Hill reports that the “lead sponsors of House GOP legislation to kill EPA climate change rules” — the Committee From Koch’s Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) — “crossed Capitol Hill for Senate meetings Wednesday amid a pending effort by their Senate Republican counterparts to advance the same plan.” If this effort to prevent the EPA’s modest action on climate change fails, the enemies of a healthy planet have more plans up their sleeve: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is pushing a moratorium on climate action, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced the constitutionally questionable REINS Act to require explicit Congressional approval for every agency rule, and House Republicans have defunded climate action and environmental protection in the spending bill for the remainder of 2011.

EPA PROTECTING LIVES: The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday unveiled its proposed rule to reduce mercury and air toxics for coal-fired power plants, after a ten-year delay. We are currently being exposed annually to 386,000 tons of 84 dangerous pollutants from uncontrolled coal plants, despite being classified as “air toxics.” These include arsenic, lead, mercury, dioxins, formaldehyde, benzene, acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, and radioactive materials like radium and uranium. Even in small amounts, “these extremely harmful air pollutants are linked to health problems such as cancer, heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death.” Coal-fired power plants produce more hazardous air pollution in the United States than any other industrial pollution sources. They were exempt from regulation until 2000, and then the Bush administration wasted its time with a system that was thrown out by the courts because it did not provide the protection required by the Clean Air Act. “Reducing mercury and other toxic air pollutants is a prescription for healthier babies , children, and seniors,” said CAPAF president John Podesta. “A mandate to slash these toxic airborne pollutants will drive utilities to develop and deploy innovative clean energy technologies.”

DIRTY COAL COMPLAINS: The dirty coal industry has attacked the proposed rules. The standards would result in “higher utility bills for households and businesses, substantial job losses and a significant weakening of the nation’s electricity reliability,” National Mining Association President Hal Quinn said in a statement. However, industry analysts have found that electric system reliability can be maintained and that “the capital investments related to these regulations will create needed jobs and will yield many hundreds of billions of dollars in annual health benefits.” The EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution from power plants, there will be $5 to $13 in health benefits, up to $140 billion in total health benefits a year. Furthermore, a group of leading energy companies — Calpine Corporation, Constellation Energy, Exelon Corporation, PG&E Corporation, Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc., and Seattle City Light — congratulated the EPA for its proposed rule, saying there “ought to be no further delay” in its “effective implementation.” “We know from experience that constructing this technology can be done in a reasonable time frame, especially with good advance planning,” said Paul Allen, senior vice president and chief environmental officer of Constellation Energy, “and there is meaningful job creation associated with the projects.”



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