YES to the Clean Air Act, NO to Polluters

By:  By Sen. Bernie Sanders

You do not have to be a physician or a Ph.D. in environmental studies to recognize the positive benefits of clean air for our families. We all understand the importance of public health laws like the Clean Air Act, which according to the American Lung Association saves 160,000 Americans from premature death every year. More than 12,000 children in Vermont have asthma, and parents value the Clean Air Act, credited with avoiding 1.7 million cases of aggravated asthma attacks annually. Since the Clean Air Act became law in 1970, we reduced major air pollutants by 64 percent, and created more than 1 million jobs in pollution control industries.

Unfortunately despite our progress and the common understanding that we all benefit from cleaner air, many Republicans in Congress want to dismantle our environmental protections. They want to strip the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its Clean Air Act authority to regulate carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. They would block Clean Air Act standards that reduce harmful smog, soot, and mercury in our air. They even brought the federal government to the brink of a shutdown by attempting to slip radical provisions into the budget that would harm our health and environment.

It is absolutely unconscionable that some in Congress want to weaken our clean air protections. That is why I introduced a resolution with 33 co-sponsors making it clear that we will stand up for the Clean Air Act. I am happy to report that we were able to defeat harmful anti-clean air amendments in the Senate, and kept them out of the budget.

But the fight to protect the Clean Air Act is not over, and Republicans succeeded in cutting EPA’s budget by $1.6 billion for 2011.  Now they are trying to deceive the public by blaming the Clean Air Act for high gas prices. This is simply not true. Among many other sources, The Washington Post and the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check site have debunked it. We know who is really responsible for $4 a gallon gas: big oil companies who made nearly $1 trillion in profits in the last decade, the OPEC cartel, and Wall Street speculators. The fact is the fuel efficiency standards under the Clean Air Act, which require car manufacturers to build vehicles with better mileage per gallon, will save drivers of new cars and trucks $3,000 at the gas pump over the life of the vehicles.

The American people are very clear about this issue. They understand that air and water pollution are bad for our health, and bad for our economy.  They understand that supporting the Clean Air Act and other environmental legislation keeps us healthy, creates jobs and improves our overall quality of life.