Public health, environment at risk under GOP’s attack

From press release

Chicago—Provisions within the House Republican leadership’s proposed continuing budget resolution released late Friday, Feb. 11, would place America’s public health and environment at risk. Most notably, the Environmental Protection Agency would be barred from taking any action to clean up carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants from coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other stationary pollution sources. EPA would also be barred from restoring Clean Water Act protections for many of the nation’s most vulnerable waterways. Through one of the worst attacks seen on the environment in some time, the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be severely diminished and would see none of its projects funded. The proposed resolution would also cut funding for critical home weatherization programs—programs that are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to cut energy use, save money for homeowners and reduce dangerous pollution.

While still analyzing the other potential environmental impacts of the proposed continuing resolution, Max Muller, Environment Illinois’ program director, issued the following statement in response:

“Illinoisans have a fundamental right to breathe clean air and to drink clean water. In economic times good or bad, it’s critical that our government protect public health and maintain our public lands and infrastructure. We are dismayed to see House GOP leadership abandoning America’s core environmental and public health programs by attacking the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, cutting funding for common sense home weatherization programs, and threatening to impose the largest overall percentage cut to EPA’s budget in 30 years.

“The health of our children, elderly citizens and other vulnerable populations is at risk from the GOP leadership’s attempt to block EPA from doing its job enforcing the Clean Air Act and cleaning up coal-fired power plants and other large sources of carbon dioxide pollution. The EPA and the Clean Air Act have been successfully protecting public health and the environment from dangerous pollution for four decades, with EPA estimating that clean air regulations saved more than 160,000 lives in 2010 alone. This success should be built upon—not torn down.

“Global warming presents serious threats to our health, our economy and our future. The year 2010 tied as the hottest year on record globally. Left unchecked, global warming fueled by carbon dioxide pollution will lead to more deadly heat waves, more unhealthy air days, the spread of infectious disease and more frequent and intense storms. Unfortunately, rather than letting the EPA do its job to protect public health and our environment, House Republican leaders are poised to give the biggest polluters a free pass to keep polluting and threatening our health. Congress should reject these attacks and instead stand up for our families, cleaner air and a healthier future.

“In addition to threatening our air quality, the GOP leadership is proposing to let polluters off the hook in ways that leave our waters at risk. From the Great Lakes to the Chesapeake Bay, the health of our waterways depends on the streams that feed them and the wetlands that help keep them clean. Litigation brought by polluters has left the Clean Water Act protection for thousands of streams and wetlands in doubt—placing these waters—including the drinking water supplies for more than 117 million people—at risk from unlimited pollution.

“For three years, lobbyists for developers and corporate agribusiness have blocked efforts to close this loophole in Congress. The GOP leadership’s continuing resolution would stop EPA from protecting our drinking water and critical waterways. Members of Congress who care about their constituents’ health and the future of America’s waterways must reject this over-reach by big polluters.”

Environment Illinois is a state-based, citizen-funded environmental organization working for clean air, clean water and open space.

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