Rep. Jan Schakowsky: Responding to the EPA Naysayers

With an insistent drumbeat coming from the Republican side of the aisle promoting the concept that the Environmental Protection Agency (founded in 1970 during Richard Nixon’s administration) is responsible for a laundry list of problems, I needed to get some feedback from another point of view.

I was relieved that perceived attacks on the EPA weren’t my imagination—a point that was validated after reading the New York Times story “Bashing E.P.A. Is New Theme in G.O.P. Race.”  I decided to contact Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is a member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.

Schakowsky has a long record of looking out for the public’s safety.  It can be traced to her determination to get expiration dates put on food items sold in supermarkets back in 1969.  I interviewed her last year about her sponsorship of the Safe Cosmetics Act, and have followed her commitment to making children’s toys and merchandise free from harm.  In the beginning of August, she introduced the “Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act.”

I reached out to her with questions about disinformation on regulation, Republican rhetoric on energy, Gov. Rick Perry’s vilification of the EPA, and her commitment to the environment. It was just what the doctor ordered.  Below are her responses via e-mail:

Why it is important for the EPA to push forward on its proposed clean air regulations?

The Clean Air Act is good for American health and the environment.  The Clean Air Interstate Rule alone will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 26,000 hospital and emergency room visits and 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma by 2014.

As we learned this week, more than 800,000 Americans submitted comments in support of the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which will for the first time implements national regulations on mercury emissions from coal fired plants.  Clean air is a priority for all Americans, and the EPA has a responsibility to protect the air we breathe.

Why do you think the Republicans insist that the EPA and environmental regulations are bad for the economy?

This is based on fuzzy math.  These regulations have generated health benefits, increased the efficiency of our manufacturing process, and made the United States a world leader in green technology.  As the EPA reported this year, the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act have generated $2 trillion in economic benefits since being enacted, with benefits outweighing costs at a 26-1 ratio.

Gov. Rick Perry has stated that EPA regulations are “killing jobs” and causing businesses to hesitate to spend money. Texas is also the home to the greatest number of coal-fired power plants.  As a presidential contender, what does his record as governor suggest to you on how he would handle environmental issues?

Mr. Perry’s claim that the EPA is killing jobs is unsubstantiated by any facts.  A University of Massachusetts study has concluded that an additional 1.5 million jobs can be expected over the next five years as a result of the EPA’s new air quality standards.

Under Rick Perry’s tenure, Texas became far and away the nation’s largest CO2 emitter.  If it were its own country—as Mr. Perry has advocated in the past—it would be the 8th biggest polluter in the world.  A 2008 Stanford University study proved that CO2 emissions increase the average temperature, and that a one degree Celsius increases in temperature results in 1,000 additional premature deaths.

Mr. Perry is a climate change denier who bases his opinions on donations from the Koch brothers and other corporate polluters rooted in the past, rather than on overwhelming scientific evidence that will guide our country into the future.  His proposal to dismantle the EPA would have devastating consequences on our health and on our economy.

Moms Clean Air Force is working specifically to bring attention to how children’s health is at risk from toxic air pollution.  Why do you feel clean air for kids is a vital issue?

Mercury pollution undermines a developing child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write, and comprehend.  The EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard will for the first time limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, and other toxins coal-fired plants are able to emit into our atmosphere each year.

The Republican House leadership has included a policy rider in the Interior and Environment appropriations bill that would prevent the EPA from implementing the mercury pollution reduction standard.  I have joined Congresswoman Lois Capps in her effort to amend the bill to remove this harmful and senseless rider from the legislation.  This should not be a partisan issue.  The health and well-being of our children and grandchildren depend on the reduction of mercury pollution.

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

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