TRAIN Act or Train Wreck: House Passes Bill Blocking Clean Air Act

WASHINGTON, DC, September 23, 2011 (ENS) – The House Republicans are calling it the TRAIN Act, but environmentalists are calling it a “train wreck.”

Today the House passed the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act of 2011 (H.R. 2401), which would dismantle core elements of the Clean Air Act.

The measure would block health safeguards already issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and prevent imminent mercury standards from being adopted.

The law would impose a mandatory minimum delay of between 15 and 19 months and eliminate any statutory deadlines for EPA to reissue those standards in the future.

Reliant Energy’s coal-fired Conemaugh power plant in Pennsylvania (Photo by Stefan Schlohmer)

The Obama Administration has said the President is likely to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

Congressman John Sullivan of Oklahoma said today that he introduced the bill “to protect American jobs we are in danger of losing due to the Environmental Protection Agency’s costly, burdensome regulatory agenda.”

“The fact is EPA has no idea how these regulations are impacting global competitiveness, energy and fuel prices, jobs or reliability of the electricity supply – eight of the EPA regulations addressed in this bill will cost a minimum of $1 billion each on the U.S. economy,” Sullivan said.

“I firmly believe the American people deserve an honest accounting of how much the Obama Administration’s energy and environmental regulations are costing our economy and that is exactly what the TRAIN Act provides,” said Sullivan.

Now the bill goes to the Democrat-led Senate.

Earlier this week, Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, held a press conference with public health experts and a family affected by asthma to stress the importance of defending the Clean Air Act from attacks, such as the TRAIN Act.

Senator Boxer said, “Today our landmark Clean Air Act, which has protected the air we breathe for decades is under fierce attack by House Republicans. We have faced this attack once already sicne the Republicans took over the House. We prevailed then, and we must prevail now.”

If approved by the Senate, the measure would go to President Barack Obama for his signature and there faces a veto threat.

One of the world’s largest fossil-fueled power plants is the Cumberland, operated by the U.S. government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority (Photo courtesy TVA)

In a statement of the administration’s policy, the Office of Management and Budget Wednesday said, “If the President is presented with H.R. 2401, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

Earlier this month, in the face of industry and Republican opposition, President Obama decided to withdraw consideration of new protections against smog pollution that were proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

However, his veto of the TRAIN bill is likely, the OMB said.

“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2401, which would block two landmark public health regulations under the Clean Air Act and require the preparation of costly, unnecessary, and redundant reports,” the OMB stated. “While the Administration strongly supports careful analysis of the economic effects of regulation, the approach taken in H.R. 2401 would slow or undermine important public health protections.”

“H.R. 2401 would undermine this progress by blocking EPA’s ability to move forward with two long overdue Clean Air Act rules – the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule – to reduce harmful air pollution that threatens public health, especially the health of the most vulnerable populations, including children and seniors.”

The EPA estimates that these two rules alone will yield hundreds of billions of dollars in net benefits each year. H.R. 2401 would block these rules and indefinitely delay these public health and economic benefits.

Sam Parry of the Environmental Defense Fund called the bill a “train wreck.”

“This is an outrageous assault on our right to breathe air that won’t kill us or make us sick. It’s time to stop this morbid pro-polluter, anti-public health agenda in Congress,” said Parry.

Charles Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, said, “The TRAIN Act is the single greatest roll-back of Clean Air Act protections in history.

“The Clean Air Act has a proven track record of success, preventing an estimated 160,000 premature deaths last year and reducing avoidable medical visits that drive up health care costs for Americans already struggling to get by in a weak economy. To throw it all away now at the behest of special interests that that spend millions on lawyers and lobbyists to continue to pollute, rather than investing in cleaning up outdated and dangerous equipment, is outrageous. America’s children can’t afford to wait any longer for clean air.”

“We urge all members of Congress to vote no on the TRAIN Act and stand up for the health of our children,” said Connor. “Those who don’t are standing with big corporate polluters. The Lung Association urges a no vote to send this train back to the station.”

Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council warns, “This isn’t just a bureaucratic matter. The Clean Air Act could be gutted and people’s lives are at stake if TRAIN passes. It would allow the indefinite delay of standards to reduce mercury and soot pollution. The mercury protections alone would prevent as many as 17,000 deaths every year and up to 120,000 asthma attacks in children, according to the EPA. … The smog and soot standards could save up to 34,000 people every year.”

“Scientists discovered in recent decades that fine particulates of soot get lodged deep in the lung, making it one of the deadliest air pollutants. Even the Bush administration decided to act on these findings and started tightening smog and soot regulations,” said Beinecke.

“House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other lawmakers who support TRAIN, however, would prefer to ignore the new medical data and keep the air as full of soot as it is now. That would be like asking endocrinologists to ignore the benefits of insulin pumps and treat diabetes like we did in the 1980s. We don’t want our doctors to ignore medical advances. Government agencies shouldn’t either.”

Congressman Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said today that his support for the TRAIN Act is all about jobs. “The regulatory agenda imposed by the Obama Administration places enormous costs on working families and businesses and is preventing job growth at a time when we should be encouraging it,” he said.

“The TRAIN Act puts the brakes on EPA regulations by requiring economic impact assessments of pending regulations,” said Cantor, “and delays the implementation of two controversial EPA rules that would impose billions in compliance costs on small businesses, families, and local governments, eliminate millions of jobs and raise electricity prices.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.