The House will soon vote to (slightly) rein in the Obama Environmental Protection Agency. But this much-needed baby step by Congress will only happen if Republicans have the knowledge and muster the courage to withstand a final bare-knuckles assault by EPA’s enviro allies.
The House Appropriations Committee passed last week the fiscal 2012 EPA budget that would cut the agency’s budget by $1.7 billion - 18 percent - and delay for one year several of its new and/or planned regulatory programs targeting coal-fired electric utilities. It’s hardly landmark legislation but it’s a start.
Troubled by the agency’s high-cost-for-imaginary benefit programs covering emissions of greenhouse gases, mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides, the committee’s bill calls for a timeout on the EPA’s rules pending a study of their impacts.
But the EPA and its allies aren’t taking such reasonableness lying down. Leading their pushback is the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which is making utility giant American Electric Power (AEP) the whipping boy example for Republicans and businesses that dare question - let alone rise against - EPA oppression.
The EDF is running a billboard and TV ad campaign accusing AEP and, by extension, anyone else that opposes EPA overregulation, of pushing a “dirty air bill” that will kill 17,000 people per year in the name of “polluter profits.”
The TV ad for this theme features a young girl in a hospital bed supposedly having an asthma attack. She’s wearing a nebulizer face mask and chest compression device that is rhythmically but disturbingly squeezing the child, giving the appearance that she is in severe respiratory distress, by implication from air pollution.
But like the EPA’s 17,000-lives-saved statistical fabrication, the ad is a fake.
If you look closely at the girl, as opposed to what is being done to her, she is, in fact, calmly sitting up in bed and not in any respiratory distress whatsoever. The ad is a total put-on. Moreover, asthma attacks aren’t treated with chest-compression devices, which are instead more typically used for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Another EDF commercial features a sonogram of a fetus with beating heart and a voiceover that asserts, “The developing fetus and young children are thought to be disproportionately affected by mercury exposure. …” The voiceover then asks, “How many lives will be damaged? How many lives is OK?” by AEP’s effort to block EPA regulation.
But there is no evidence that ambient levels of mercury or mercury emissions from U.S. power plants have harmed anyone. In any event, nature is responsible for the vast majority of mercury emissions (70 percent), while U.S. power plants are responsible for less than 1 percent of global emissions.
So what can Republicans and industry do to defend themselves from these groundless and scurrilous attack ads?
To paraphrase cinematic sports agent Jerry McGuire, “Show me the bodies.”
While that may sound harsh, given that the EPA is about to kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and cost our crippled economy countless billions of dollars, Republicans must demand some sort of proof that the alleged harms are indeed happening.
The EPA says air pollution kills tens of thousands of people annually. This is on a par with traffic accident fatalities. While we can identify traffic accident victims, air pollution victims are unknown, unidentified and as far as anyone can tell, figments of EPA’s statistical imagination.