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Congressional Maneuvers Cause Clean-Air "Concerns"

Advocates say new moves in Congress could "adversely" impact the health of a half-million Mainers. (Dori/Wikimedia).
Advocates say new moves in Congress could "adversely" impact the health of a half-million Mainers. (Dori/Wikimedia).
January 10, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine – The new Congress already is working behind closed doors to roll back major public safeguards, that's the word from health and environmental watchdogs. Just last week, the House passed the Midnight Rule Relief Act which could eliminate any rule finalized in the last several months of the Obama administration with a single vote. Another measure, the REINS Act, would require any new regulations be approved by the House of Representatives in order to take effect.

Lance Boucher, the director of public policy for Maine and New Hampshire with the American Lung Association, says these political maneuvers will put the health of at least a half million Mainers, both young and old, at risk.

"There's a process in place where federal agencies are staffed by qualified people, they look at the best science, and they put these measures in place to protect our health; and Congress is trying to roll that back," he said. "The efforts in Congress put public health at risk."

Supporters argue that the legislation would make it easier to dispense with regulations that some lawmakers believe are unnecessary, improving accountability and transparency. Boucher says rolling back Clean Air Act regulations could mean a trip to the emergency room on a bad-air day, for any of the 25,000 children in Maine who suffer from asthma.

Former EPA administrator Carol Browner says Congress clearly is aiming to repeal hundreds of existing protections, including parts of the Clean Air Act.

"They're doing it in a way that's hard to follow," she said. "It's hard for the public to really see what's happening, and 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."

Boucher says two vulnerable populations in Maine have the most to lose if Congress goes ahead with plans to gut the Clean Air Act.

"It's about 261,000 children and 235,000 older Mainers that would be impacted by these efforts to weaken regulations," he explained.

A confirmation hearing is yet to be scheduled for Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME