Senate Rejects Assault on ME’s Public Health, Environment; Sens. Snowe and Collins Vote with Polluter Lobby
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today rejected a House-passed funding bill that included sweeping attacks on many core environmental and public health programs. The bill—H.R. 1, summarized below—would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from updating and enforcing limits on a variety of dangerous pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, and carbon, saving consumers billions of dollars annually at the gas pump through clean car standards, and protecting the drinking water supplies for more than 117 million Americans. It also would have slashed funding to preserve Acadia National Park and other treasured places around Maine and the country. The U.S. House passed the bill on February 19, and the Senate today rejected it by a vote of 44-56.
Despite broad public support for EPA’s work to protect public health and enforce the Clean Air Act, some in Congress have vowed to continue fighting to include many of these attacks in any longer-term funding bill.
Nathaniel Meyer, Field Associate at Environment Maine, issued the following statement in response to today’s vote:
“We applaud the Senate for rejecting this all-out assault on Maine’s health and environment. Although the Senate as a whole was successful in stopping this atrocious bill from passing, we are disappointed that Senators Snowe and Collins voted for it at the peril of Mainers’ public health and environment. Maine families have a fundamental right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy our natural heritage, and we’ll be working to make sure that these rights are protected in a final bill.
“Voting for more asthma attacks, more polluted drinking water supplies and more threats to our treasured national parks may be popular with the polluter lobby in Washington but it means serious health threats to the kids and seniors in Maine. In the future, we urge Senators Snowe and Collins to instead stand up for Maine families by rejecting attacks on our environment and public health.”
BACKGROUND ON H.R.1:
The U.S. House of Representatives launched an outright attack on Maine’s health, clean air, and clean water in the early morning hours of February 19, when it passed a funding bill (H.R. 1) that amounts to one of the most far-reaching assaults on the nation’s core environmental and public health programs in recent history. The bill would have done the following:
- Endangered efforts to ensure that Acadia National Park and other our treasured places across the country are protected for families to enjoy for generations to come, by cutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill would slash the Department of the Interior by $1.4 billion. These cuts to the Department of the Interior would also limit resources for environmental education programs for youth, park maintenance and public safety across the country.
- Wasted energy and homeowners’ money by eliminating future funding for home weatherization assistance. In the last two years, the Weatherization Assistance Program has renovated 4,242 homes in Maine to lower families’ energy bills and reduced our consumption of energy. Weatherizing Mainers’ homes is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to save money, cut energy use, and reduce dangerous pollution.
- Threatened the health of Maine’s children, elderly citizens and other vulnerable populations by blocking EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act and cleaning up coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources of dangerous carbon dioxide pollution. The EPA estimates that clean air regulations saved more than 160,000 lives in 2010 alone, and this success should be built upon—not torn down.
- Put children at risk of learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and lower IQs by blocking the EPA from limiting mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement kilns.
- Threatened the health of millions of Americans by stopping the EPA from updating air quality standards for coarse particulate matter (“soot”) pollution, which is linked to heart and lung disease, asthma attacks and premature death.
- Put Mainers’ drinking water and waterways at risk of sewage and urban runoff pollution by cutting $1.4 billion in funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs).
- Put thousands of people living near coal ash pools at risk of toxic disasters like the Tennessee Valley coal ash spill by stopping the EPA from developing or issuing standards that treat coal ash as the hazardous waste that it is.
- Blocked EPA ‘s effort to help break our oil addiction by putting cleaner cars on the road, resulting in as much as $101 billion lost annually in consumer savings—$748 for the average American family—by 2030. The defunding of EPA’s clean cars program for 2017-2025 cars and light trucks would also cause as much as 465 million metric tons of extra global warming pollution to be dumped into our atmosphere every year by 2030.
- Blocked states’ ability to put cleaner cars on the road, by disabling the EPA program through which California and other states are allowed to issue state-level clean car standards.
- Implemented the largest percentage cut in EPA’s overall budget in 30 years, severely threatening the Agency’s ability to ensure that all Americans have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
Environment Maine is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working on behalf of over 5,000 members and activists to protect clean air and water, preserve Maine’s extraordinary natural heritage, and move the state toward a clean energy future.