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Will the New Congress Gut Clean-Air Rules Behind Closed Doors?

Health and conservation groups are criticizing the nomination of former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to become EPA administrator. (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)
Health and conservation groups are criticizing the nomination of former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to become EPA administrator. (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)
January 11, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. – The new session of Congress just started last week, but health and conservation groups say they fear legislators are already working behind closed doors to undermine dozens of regulations put in place under President Barack Obama.

The House passed the Midnight Rule Relief Act, which allows lifting any rule finalized since last May, and the REINS Act, which would subject any future regulations to congressional approval.

Carol Browner, a former EPA administrator, says it's a way to gut hundreds of existing protections and make it almost impossible to implement new ones.

"Basically they're saying, 'We have to approve every single regulation; not only do we write the laws but now we have to approve the regulations,'" she explained. "But then, they've gone another step and said, 'And if we don't, they can't take effect.' Through simple inaction by the Congress, these protections will be put at risk."

Supporters argue that many of the regulations are unnecessarily burdensome and end up costing jobs. But opponents point out that many rules actually create jobs, in compliance.

Browner says this version of regulatory reform is tantamount to handing the keys to the government over to industry and special interests.

"If that's what you want to do, then amend the Clean Air Act, have that debate," she said. "They don't want to have that debate because they can't win that debate, because the American people didn't vote for dirty air and dirty water."

Dominique Browning, senior director of the advocacy group MOMS Clean Air Force, also objects to the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

"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 gets a confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee on Jan. 18.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV