SHAHEEN: THE CLEAN AIR ACT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE GREATEST PUBLIC HEALTH SUCCESS STORIES WE HAVE EVER HAD IN THIS COUNTRY
The Senator delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor.
As prepared for delivery:
Mrs. SHAHEEN. Madam President, I am here to join my colleagues who have been on the floor of the Senate today, with the leadership of Senator Boxer, to oppose amendments that would undermine the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act has been one of the greatest public health success stories we have ever had in this country. In 1970, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass this landmark legislation to address air pollution that was leading to countless deaths and lifetimes spent battling chronic illness, illnesses such as asthma and emphysema. That legislation, back in 1970, was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
It is very clear that the threat of greenhouse gas emissions to public health is real. Two years ago the EPA found that manmade greenhouse gas emissions threaten the health and welfare of the American people. Their decision was not made in a vacuum and, despite what some of the supporters of these harmful amendments may claim, EPA’s decision was based on the best peer-reviewed science. They were guided by the best science protecting the public health, not politics. The American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, the Trust for America’s Health and the American Thoracic Society—some of our Nation’s leading public health experts—all opposed these misguided efforts to stop EPA from protecting our clean air.
We have heard the same story from polluters over and over. Today they tell us that reducing carbon pollution through the EPA will wreck our economy. Back in 1970, and then again in 1990, they said the Clean Air Act would wreck our economy. Time and again we have heard the same arguments, and they have not been true. It reminds me of Aesop’s fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
Since we passed the Clean Air Act of 1970, we have dramatically reduced emissions of dozens of pollutants. We have improved air quality, and we have improved the public health. The EPA estimates that last year alone the Clean Air Act prevented 1.7 million asthma attacks, 130,000 heart attacks, and 86,000 emergency room visits.
This is particularly important to us in New Hampshire and in New England because we are effectively the tailpipe of this country. In New Hampshire we have one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country because we are still phasing out some of the coal-fired plants in the Midwest that are causing these air emissions.
During the same period—since the Clean Air Act saved all of those illnesses and deaths last year—we have been able to grow our economy. Our gross domestic product has more than tripled, and the average household income has grown more than 45 percent. So we know we can protect public health, we can save our environment, and we can grow our economy.
I recognize that as Governor of New Hampshire when, back in 2001, we passed the first legislation in the country to deal with four pollutants because we understood that we needed to clean up our air and that we could do that and protect public health and keep a strong economy all at the same time. I wish that same can-do spirit and bipartisanship that led to the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and then later the Clean Air Act amendments in 1990 existed today to address carbon pollution. Instead of debating amendments to undercut the Clean Air Act, we should be working together to enact commonsense legislation to reduce carbon pollution and to continue to grow our economy.
I have no doubt that the American people have the ingenuity and the competitive spirit to solve our energy challenges. What they need from us in Washington is leadership.
I urge my colleagues to reject these amendments and then to work together to craft energy policies that can help move us away from a carbon economy and transition to a clean energy economy.
March 31, 2011