A Senate Victory and House Setback in Fight for Air

(June 22, 2012)

On June 20, a strong bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate stood up for the health of our children and rejected attempts by big polluters and their allies in Congress to rollback clean air safeguards that protect the public from toxic air pollution. Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) S.J. Res. 37 was firmly rejected by a 53 to 46 vote of the Senate. However, the following day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a regressive bill that undermines public health.

If this measure were ever to become law, it would permanently block the scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing safeguards that will cut toxic air pollution. Long overdue Mercury and Air Toxics Standards became final earlier this year and were developed to comply with a Congressional mandate to reduce toxic air pollution more than twenty years ago.

“We applaud the Senate’s rejection of yet another attempt to block vitally important clean air protections, said Paul G. Billings, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy of the American Lung Association. “We’re heartened to see support on both sides of the aisle in favor of protecting the health of children and families from toxic pollutants like mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and formaldehyde.”

The EPA estimates that the Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxic Standards will prevent:

  • 130,000 childhood asthma attacks
  • More than 6,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children
  • As many as 11,000 avoidable premature deaths
  • 4,700 heart attacks, annually. 

“The Senate action stands in stark contrast to the repeated efforts in the House of Representatives to rollback health protections,” said Billings. “At the urging of Big Oil, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 4480) that would block critical clean air protections and fundamentally cripple the process for determining whether our air is safe to breathe.” 

The Lung Association is urging the Senate to stand strong for healthy air, as they did in opposing the Inhofe bill, and reject this latest attack on the health of our children and our families. The House bill contains language that would alter how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the health standard for ozone (smog).

“What they seek to do now is akin to requiring a physician to base diagnosis of an illness on the cost of treatment and the willingness of the insurer to cover it. People deserve to know whether the air they breathe can make them sick, just as they deserve to know the truth from their doctor,” explained Billings.

For more than 40 years, the EPA has followed Congressional direction and set the health standards for pollutants based solely on science. Big polluters have continuously sought to repeal the Clean Air Act and have been rebuffed. In fact, in 2001 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the EPA must base the health standard solely on what is needed to protect public health.

Join our Fight for Air

The American Lung Association is working to rid our air of all types of pollution that can threaten our health and shorten our lives. Learn more about our fight, and find out how you can help. Together, we can fight for healthier air for all of us, and for future generations.