Environmental community takes aim at Republicans over EPA

Amanda Carey Contributor
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The environmental community, Thursday, responded to the budget battle on Capitol Hill by rebuking Republicans for playing politics with clean air. The American Lung Association (ALA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) latched on to comments Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made about two Republican riders to the budget that would defund Planned Parenthood and restrict Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The numbers, Mr. President, are basically there,” said Reid on the Senate floor Thursday, adding that the only thing holding up a budget deal is “ideology.”

In a briefing with reporters, Paul Billings, Vice President of National Policy and Advocacy at the ALA said, “Just yesterday the Senate rejected efforts to block the Clean Air Act. So we’re troubled and confused as to why we’re still having this conversation today.”

“We are urging Speaker Boehner not to play politics with the air we breathe,” added Billings, before citing Reid’s comments that the EPA rider is one of the hang-ups to reaching a deal.

Don Hoppert, Director of Government Relations at APHA, reiterated the argument that the EPA riders would weaken the Clean Air Act and put public health at risk.  “The Clean Air Act is one of the greatest public health interventions in decades,” said Hoppert.

According to Hoppert, the CAA has “prevented more than 160,000 cases of premature mortality.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council  (NRDC) also targeted Republicans Thursday, chastising GOP leadership for being willing to allow a government shutdown in an effort to put public health at risk.

“By attaching irrelevant anti-environmental riders to a spending bill that must pass to keep the government operating beyond Friday night, these politicians are showing they’re willing to hold the country hostage just to advance their narrow political agenda, with shameful disregard for the health, the economy and the people of America, said Scott Slesinger, legislative director at the NRDC.

When asked about the Senate votes Wednesday night to reject four different amendments that would limit or outright repeal the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Billings and Hoppert both said they were disappointed with the 17 Democrats who voted for at least one of the measures.

Hoppert went so far as to call the votes an attempt to “legislatively veto science.”

But according to Billings, while the environmental groups are “pleased with the clear message the White House has been sending about no riders,” they will continue to push the administration and Congress to resist Republican attempts to restrict the EPA.