Democrats say EPA Safeguards Speak for Themselves

Oct 4, 2011

(Washington, DC) – Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing entitled, “Quality Science for Quality Air.”  The purpose of the hearing was to examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) process for setting standards under the Clean Air Act. 

The Clean Air Act (CAA) defines EPA's responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation's air quality.  According to the American Lung Association, the CAA prevented an estimated 160,000 premature deaths last year alone. And according to a peer-reviewed study completed by the EPA, by 2020 the Clean Air Act will annually prevent about 230,000 deaths, 200,000 cases of heart disease, 2.4 million asthma flare-ups, and 22.4 million missed school and work days. 

Despite assertions that the CAA adversely affects the economy, studies shows that the regulations have resulted in an economic value of nearly tens to hundreds of billions of dollars annually.  In addition, these regulations have fostered the development of technologies that have kept the U.S. in the forefront of global innovation in this sector.  Over the last 20 years, total emissions of the six principal air pollutants have decreased by more than 41 percent, while the Gross Domestic Product has increased by more than 64 percent.  Nonetheless, despite 40 years of success, the Clean Air Act and the EPA remain at the center of an often heated political debate.

Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC) said in his opening statement, “Unfortunately, there is a troubling force at play here as politicians have discovered the distinct political value of vilifying the EPA.  To them, there is no middle ground, and no room for negotiation or compromise with this “rogue agency”.  In politicizing the issue – sometimes far beyond the comfort level of the industries they profess to champion – there also seems to be no limit to the hysterics.  In a recent hearing on the EPA’s transport rule before this Committee, a witness actually went as far as to say that the rule will “jeopardize the lives of our most medically fragile citizens.” 

He continued, “Demonizing environmental safeguards and the EPA by making specious claims that regulations kill jobs – and even people – while completely ignoring the proven positive effects they have on public health and the economy, is another cynical ploy to get Americans to vote against their own self-interest.  Thankfully, poll after poll shows that the public believes that EPA should protect their right to clean air and water more than they believe that pollution is the price they must pay for economic security.”

Dr. George Thurston, an expert in the associations between ambient air pollution and adverse human health effects, stated in his testimony, “The evidence is clear and consistent:  air pollution is adversely affecting the health and lives of Americans across our nation.  There is coherence between the epidemiologic study associations and experimental study results, validating that there is indeed a cause-effect relationship between air pollution and adverse human health effects.  The importance of these health effects relationships is made all the more imperative by the fact that virtually every American is directly impacted by this pollution.  Cleaning the air causes improvements in public health, saving lives, and improving the quality of life of all Americans.”

Mr. Miller closed his opening statement, “Although significant progress has been made in the past 40 years, it is our job now to build upon this legacy and ensure that we continue to improve our environmental quality while fostering a strong economy.  This is not science fiction; it is our history.  In the U.S. a healthy environment and strong economy are not mutually exclusive.  Stricter pollutions limits force us to push the envelope of scientific innovation and create new technologies.  And, as it has been proven many times over, improved worker productivity, increased agricultural yield, reduction in mortality and illness, and other economic and public health benefits far outweigh the costs of compliance.”