Clean Air Act, we spit on you

There was a time in this country when the Republicans put national interests above political concerns.  Richard Nixon proposed the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.  The EPA restructured the Federal Government so that it could properly address environmental problems, like the Cuyahoga River catching fire.  Maybe there was a bit of a crisis at the time. The Clean Air Act was significantly amended in 1970 under Nixon and then again in 1990 under President H.W. Bush.  The Clean Air Act is a landmark law that has had real and positive effects on the health of our environment and our communities.  Republicans have played an important role historically in protecting the environment.

What is today’s GOP concerning itself with? Gutting the Clean Air Act and disemboweling the EPA.  Why?  Because the EPA is proposing to devise new performance standards that may reduce emissions by 3%.  Not 13%.  Or 30%.  3%.  The important thing to note is that the EPA hasn’t yet proposed the new performance standards, the agency has simply proposed to write the standards.  These as-of-yet unwritten standards would include things such as using less fossil fuels and would only apply to new or upgraded facilities for the first decade.  After ten years, presumably plenty of time for currently existing plants to draw up a plan to follow the rules, current plants would be regulated.  The plans haven’t been written yet.  This is a pre-emptive move to stop the EPA from doing it;s job.

This is following closely on the heals of the repeal of the new healthcare law.  It’s a top priority for Congressional Republicans.  Why?  in 2007, the Roberts Court (yes, that one) ruled that the EPA has the power to set emissions standards for the country.  In fact the Court said that the agency couldn’t shirk its responsibilities to regulate emissions unless they have scientific proof that sidestepping their authority wouldn’t matter.  This ruling took clean air standards out of the realm of politics.  It requires the EPA, regardless of who is in the White House or which party is in control of congress, to regulate emissions from power plants and, by extension, automobiles.

The Republicans want to put politics back into environmental regulations.  If possible, they’re going to ensconce climate change denial into our law.  Who gets to help Congressional Republicans write the new laws? Lobbyists! Luckily, as with most priorities for the Republicans today, gutting the Clean Air Act will have a hard time getting anywhere.  Not that it won’t move and pick up some stray Democratic support, but it’s a slog for them.  It’s one more example of a Republican leadership refusing to look forward, refusing to seek solutions that will find support and instead writing bills and holding hearings to produce soundbites for the next election.

Yay?

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