“TRAIN Wreck” bill passes

Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) voted against the latest House Republican Majority attempt to return to the early 20th Century, a time when industrial polluters ran roughshod over the environment and public health.  The measure, passed by the GOP majority, would block and indefinitely delay two of the most important and life-saving Clean Air rules in decades – the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which limit the amount of mercury and other toxic pollutants that utilities can emit, and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which reduces air pollution emitted in upwind states, as in the Midwest, which harm health in downwind states such as New York.  These rules would prevent an estimated 51,000 premature deaths annually.

“For some reason, all that we have done in the House of Representatives this year is pass bills that are beneficial to polluters, insurance companies and Big Oil,” said Rep. Engel. “We have also manufactured crises where the government comes to the brink of shutdown, which resulted in a credit downgrade.   Meanwhile, the majority still refuses to bring a jobs bill to the House Floor.  This hyper-partisanship stems directly from their belligerence and refusal to work with Democrats when we were in the majority, and continues now as they insist on running the House as if they were the only political party.  All the House does now is advance the Republican Party’s political agenda, without considering what the American people need.”

The bill passed today by the Republicans, they named TRAIN (Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act) Act would end the legislation which would prevent 17,000 premature deaths per year and the cross-state air pollution rule will prevent 34,000 premature deaths per year. 

“This bill seems to be more like a TRAIN wreck.  I don’t understand why the GOP can’t grasp that we can have clean energy and more jobs.  They look to weaken or eliminate any program which promotes the clean energy industry, an area which has tremendous potential employment for the American people, while promoting industries of the past.  Over 70 percent of voters do not want Congress to stop the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency created in a Republican Administration, from setting stricter pollution limits.  Asthma knows no political affiliation, and 34 million Americans suffer from it.  This number will only go up if we remove the ability for government to regulate,” said Rep. Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

On March 16, 2011, EPA proposed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) to reduce power plant emissions of toxic air pollutants. The proposed rule would prevent more than 90% of the mercury in the coal from being emitted into the air. The rule will also reduce fine particle emissions by 29% in 2015, which will produce tremendous health benefits. The TRAIN Act prohibits EPA from finalizing this rule until at least February 1, 2013, and allows for indefinite delay by eliminating the Clean Air Act deadlines for action. The Clean Energy Group – a coalition of energy utilities and power companies – has said that the mercury and air toxics rules were reasonable and would not be a burden on the industry.

A study released by the Environmental Defense Fund has estimated that the mercury and air toxics rule and the cross-state air pollution rule would together create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years driven by new investments.  Meeting EPA’s new air pollution standards that limit SO2, NOx, mercury, and other pollutants will result in investment in new pollution control equipment and power plants as well as skilled professionals to do the work – ranging from electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, boilermakers, and engineers. 

“It’s too bad we are devoting time on rolling back rules and regulations designed to improve people’s health, and not turning to the productive bipartisan efforts of a jobs bill,” added Rep. Engel.