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Protecting Historic Progress on Clean Air

Republicans in Congress are trying to use our current economic climate as an excuse to roll back clean air protections that Americans have counted on for decades

President Obama believes that American families should never be asked to choose between the health of their children and the health of the economy. That is a false choice. Four decades of success under the Clean Air Act have shown clearly that strong environmental protections and a strong economy can go hand in hand. 

To build on the tremendous success of the Clean Air Act, the Obama Administration has taken the most significant steps in a generation to reduce harmful pollution and promote public health. The new standards that we have issued or proposed – to curb interstate pollution, reduce mercury exposure, and make our cars more fuel efficient, just to name a few – will result in significant economic and health benefits each year. 

Just over forty years ago, the Senate did something that would be almost unthinkable today: It passed major legislation by a unanimous vote. That legislation was the Clean Air Act of 1970, signed by President Richard Nixon. Two decades later, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 were passed, again with large bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, and signed by President George H. W. Bush. 

But today, Republicans in Congress are trying to use our current economic climate as an excuse to roll back clean air protections that Americans have counted on for decades. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is currently leading an effort to block the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that would save tens of thousands of lives each year. In doing so, Senator Paul is using the Congressional Review Act to repeal this important rule and prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting American families from cross-state pollution in the future. 

Let’s be clear – this brazen effort doesn’t just undermine the public health, it also undermines the judgment of the courts. In 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit found critical flaws in the Bush Administration’s efforts on interstate air pollution and directed the EPA to issue a replacement rule as quickly as possible. After seeking and incorporating extensive input from the public, the states, environmental and public health groups, as well as industry, the EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution rule in July of this year. 

What does the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule Do? 

This rule is designed protect the health of millions of Americans by helping states reduce harmful air pollution through the deployment of readily available technologies that are already in use at many facilities across the country. By reducing dangerous pollution emitted by power plants, the rule protects residents in dozens of states who are unknowingly subjected to toxic emissions from plants often hundreds of miles away. 

What benefits will the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule provide for American Families? 

The emission reductions from this final rule will have significant and immediate public health benefits, each year preventing:

  • 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths,
  • 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis,
  • 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks,
  • 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits,
  • 1.8 million days when people miss work or school,
  • 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and
  • 420,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms.

In addition, the benefits of this rule are expected to far outweigh its costs, producing over $100 billion in net benefits each year. 

We will continue to take smart sensible steps that ensure we protect the health of our families, while also opposing efforts to undermine the Clean Air Act.