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Congress Threatens to Scrap Critical Regulations

Public-health and environmental groups warn that a push to repeal federal regulations could render the Clean Air Act unenforceable. (JuergenPM/Pixabay)
Public-health and environmental groups warn that a push to repeal federal regulations could render the Clean Air Act unenforceable. (JuergenPM/Pixabay)
January 9, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Some advocacy groups are warning that two measures by congressional Republicans are threatening the status of current federal regulations on everything from school lunches to clean air.

Lawmakers are calling it regulatory reform. But according to former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner, the REINS Act - which stands for "Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny" - as well as the "Midnight Rule Relief Act" both threaten to dismantle decades worth of environmental and public health protections.

"They want it both ways,” Browner said. "They want to be able to pass laws saying, 'We're for clean air,' but they don't really want the agencies to ever implement those laws and require actual reduction in air pollution, that contributes to things like asthma and premature death."

Many Republicans in Congress have claimed that regulations are crippling American business. Both bills have already passed in the House.

Opponents of the bills say eliminating regulations could render the Clean Air Act unenforceable. That might benefit the oil, gas and coal industries, said Kevin Stewart, director of environmental health with the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, but it would be a disaster for many Pennsylvanians, since air pollution contributes to asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and cancer.

"In Pennsylvania, there are some 2 million adults over 65 and nearly 3 million infants, children and teens - two of the groups that are most vulnerable to air pollution,” Stewart said. "And so, these are significant numbers of people who are at risk."

A majority of Americans support rights to clean water, clean air and actions to reduce carbon pollution. But Browner said these bills would make it harder to track the elimination of specific regulations.

"It's hard for the public to really see what's happening,” she said. "I think that's intentional because people like clean air and clean water. They don't want those safeguards rolled back, even if Congress wants them rolled back."

President-elect Trump supports passage of the REINS Act, which would also allow Congress to claim some of his executive power.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA