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Conservation Groups Protest Congressional Move to Gut Protections

Conservation and health advocates warn that Congress is working to gut environmental regulations that protect Arizona's air and water. (mmainco/morguefile)
Conservation and health advocates warn that Congress is working to gut environmental regulations that protect Arizona's air and water. (mmainco/morguefile)
January 11, 2017

PHOENIX – Public health and environmental groups warn that low-income Arizonans will be at greater risk for respiratory problems and heart disease linked to pollution if the new Congress guts environmental and health regulations.

The House of Representatives went back into session last week, and passed the REINS Act, which subjects new regulations to congressional approval, and the Midnight Rule Relief Act, which invalidates rules finalized during the last half of 2016.

Carol Browner, a former EPA administrator, says the bills are an underhanded way of lifting important protections.

"They want it both ways," she 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 greenhouse gas pollution, air pollution that contributes to things like asthma and premature death."

Supporters say many regulations are a burden on industry and lead to job losses. Republicans in Congress recently blocked an amendment to the REINS Act that Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva has sponsored. It would have required a public accounting of the impacts on health and greenhouse gas emissions when a regulation is repealed.

Grijalva says lifting protections will further endanger families who can't afford to move to less-polluted neighborhoods.

"It's not just a question of, 'Can you go and dig a hole near the Grand Canyon for uranium,' which is abysmal enough, and I think this opens the door for that, but also the air you breathe and the water you drink," he explained. "And the effects that it has long-term, and generationally, on you and your kids. That's what's at stake."

Dominique Browning, senior director of MOMS Clean Air Force, also laments the nomination of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator. She says the Oklahoma Attorney General is a "climate denier" who is hostile to the agency's core mission.

"He has sued them to block protections from mercury, limits on smog and on carbon pollution," she said. "He has tried to block the Good Neighbor Rule, that limits how much one state can pollute the air of neighboring states. He has basically built his career suing the EPA."

Pruitt's confirmation hearing before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is set for Jan. 18.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ