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A Lesson Kids Understand, but Congress Does Not

October 23, 2011 ·

It's a sad commentary on the state of our country that our children are terrified by what our elected officials are failing to do: Uphold laws that protect their health.

A few days ago, I took my son and one of his friends to a birthday party. As we made our way there, I listened in on their conversation - something I like to do if they are truly unaware that I am doing it. They were comparing soccer skills, and why my son's friend wasn't quite as fast as he was on the field.

His friend lowered his voice and in a near whisper said, "I don't like to admit it, but I have asthma. And that's one reason I can't run fast." Later, as they were talking about things they were really afraid of, he added, "Really bad allergies; that's what scares me the most." 

It's a sad commentary on the state of our country that our children are terrified by what our elected officials are failing to do: uphold laws that protect their health. Lisa P. Jackson' writes in the Los Angeles Times about the all-out Republicans assault on environmental laws and regulations in the House of Representatives: 

Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation's environmental laws. They have picked up the pace recently — just last week they voted to stop the EPA's efforts to limit mercury and other hazardous pollutants from cement plants, boilers and incinerators — and it appears their campaign will continue for the foreseeable future.

Using the economy as cover, and repeating unfounded claims that "regulations kill jobs," they have pushed through an unprecedented rollback of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our nation's waste-disposal laws, all of which have successfully protected our families for decades. We all remember "too big to fail"; this pseudo jobs plan to protect polluters might well be called "too dirty to fail."

The House has voted on provisions that, if they became law, would give big polluters a pass in complying with the standards that more than half of the power plants across the country already meet. The measures would indefinitely delay sensible upgrades to reduce air pollution from industrial boilers located in highly populated areas. And they would remove vital federal water protections, exposing treasured resources such as the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay and the Los Angeles River to pollution.

Lisa Jackson's hard-hitting op-ed is an important antidote, but we all need to do our part.