Slashing EPA Budget Undercuts Public Health

If our leaders really want to put America on the road to economic recovery, they will put the health of our families first. They will invest in pollution controls that save Americans millions of dollars in health care costs. They will invest in the kind of clean energy that creates good jobs and keeps our air and water safe. 

In these economic times, everyone is trying to do more with less. The federal government is no different. Congressional leaders are faced with tough choices about how to put our nation on the road to economic recovery.

Americans aren’t strangers to tough choices. In homes all across the country, families have already been tightening their belts and making difficult decisions. We aren’t afraid to make the kind of sacrifices that will help our nation bounce back from the recession. The problem is that many of our leaders in Congress want to sacrifice the wrong things. They want to gut fundamental protections for our air and water—basic safeguards for our public health—while giving massive subsidies to big polluters like the oil industry. That’s like cutting baby formula from the family budget so you can make the payments on your new luxury car.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee released its proposed budget for agencies charged with protecting our health and safety, like the Environmental Protection Agency. The budget would slash funding for the EPA to its lowest level in nearly 15 years—all while undermining basic public health safeguards.

Supporters of these cuts argue that we need to gut the EPA in order to balance our budget. But the heart of their effort seems to be aimed at saving big polluters money—not taxpayers. They argue that we need to rein in “out of control regulation” by the EPA. Just what sort of “out of control regulation” are they referring to?

They’re referring to regulations like the landmark Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, which limits dangerous pollution from coal plants. The mercury standard will save up to 11,000 Americans from dying prematurely. It will prevent 120,000 asthma attacks. And it will create an estimated 80,000 jobs installing pollution controls and protecting our air—in addition to 8,000 new jobs in the utility industry.

They’re referring to “out of control” regulations like the Carbon Pollution Standard, which limits the amount of harmful carbon pollution power plants are allowed to spew into our air. But the vast majority of Americans want these protections—they’ve asked for them. In fact, 2.1 million people weighed in with their support for the carbon standards. That’s the largest number of comments Americans have ever made to the EPA during a public comment period—and it far exceeds the number of comments EPA has ever received on any other issue.

Thankfully, not all of our leaders in Congress are siding with big polluters. Many of them understand that our nation’s health and prosperity relies on safeguards like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. That’s why Senate leaders recently voted down a resolution aimed at gutting these common sense protections.

And just this week, a federal court supported the EPA in its work to regulate harmful greenhouse gases that pollute our air and accelerate global warming.

As the agency charged with protecting our health and our environment, the EPA shoulders the burden of standing up for one of our most basic rights—the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water. Aggressive efforts to undercut EPA’s power are nothing more than an all-out attack on this basic right—and an attack on the health of all Americans. As Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA.), House Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member, said, “Protecting the public’s health did not cause the recession, and suspension of these laws will not sustain a recovery.”

If our leaders really want to put America on the road to economic recovery, they will put the health of our families first. They will invest in pollution controls that save Americans millions of dollars in health care costs. They will invest in the kind of clean energy that creates good jobs and keeps our air and water safe.

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