From health care policy to what to do about the deficit, US voters maynot agree on much these days. However there’s one thing voters of bothpolitical parties as well as independents are in overwhelming agreementon: the Clean Air Act and the federal Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) are doing a much-needed job and should not be weakened oreliminated. This is good news for the fight against climate change, asEPA enforcement of the Clean Air Act is probably the best tool we havefor curbing US greenhouse emissions and reliance on dirty fossil fuels.Conservative lawmakers now trying to strip the Clean Air Act of itspower may be playing a dangerous game.
The Clean Air Act, which is enforced by the Environmental ProtectionAgency, is one of the most important environmental laws in the UnitedStates. It has already helped reduce or eliminate problems from acidrain to smog to ozone depletion. Today the EPA is moving toward severalnew rulemakings to bring pollution regulations in line with the latesthealth science—something agency is legally required to do. This year,for the first time ever, the EPA also began using the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change. Unsurprisingly, members of Congresswith ties to the coal and oil industries have launched an attack on theEPA, and are trying to weaken or delay Clean Air Act rules. Now multiple new polls warn such efforts could prove wildly unpopular with voters.
At the beginning of this month the Natural Resources Defense Council released a poll showing 77% of Americans support the EPA and dislike the idea ofCongress interfering with the Clean Air Act. Support for clean airclearly spans party lines with 61% of Republicans agreeing EPA authority should be left intact. In fact 63% of poll respondents said the EPAshould be doing more, not less, to protect public health and reducepollution.
But lest you think data from a single survey isn’t enough to be convincing, the American Lung Association recently conducted a poll of its own that largely agrees with the earlier one. To gauge whether anti-CleanAir Act rhetoric is having an effect on voters, the American LungAssociation poll presented pro and con arguments designed to mirrorthose of both political conservatives and progressives. The results show respondents overwhelmingly agree with progressives who want to upholdand strengthen the Clean Air Act: fully 68% answered that Congressshouldn’t stop the EPA from enforcing critical clean air rules.
In an age of polarization and divisive political rhetoric, there areprobably few issues where the public is in such solid agreement than onthe need to uphold the Clean Air Act. Voters see this law, which hasbeen wildly popular ever since it first passed, as an essential tool for reducing pollution and fighting climate change. All the political spinand clever messaging of lawmakers who want the EPA out of the way hasbeen unable to change that fact.
The time has come to accept what should be an unsurprising reality: Americans just like clean air.
Nick is aJustmeans staff writer for the Climate Change and Energy & Emissions categories, with a background working on climate and energy issues both on the ground and online. Nick is particularly interested in theinterplay between the written word and the creation of on-the-groundchange, which he examined in-depth in his senior thesis while at Pacific University. Since graduating from college Nick has continued to writeabout environmental and climate issues, and to stay engaged in hiscommunity. He is currently involved in efforts to eliminate fossil fuel dependence and implement solutions to climate change in the PacificNorthwest – work that informs and complements his writing for Justmeans.