DOWNTOWN–City Council today passed a resolution supporting the maintenance of the Clean Air Act, currently under fire in Congress.
Normally proclamations aren’t covered in daily news. They have no legislative weight, and are usually used to recognize individuals and organizations for contributing to the community. But this one, introduced by Councilman Peduto, addressed both a key issue in politics and a loathsome issue in Pittsburgh: air quality.
“Pittsburgh has the 2nd worst air quality in America,” cited Peduto, referring to the 2008 American Lung Association study that placed Pittsburgh in the unrewarding position of 2nd worst in America for particulate matter in air. There are other criteria, of course, but that’s musical chairs on the Titanic.
“Pittsburgh enacted clean air legislation before any other place in the country,” said Peduto, citing the efforts of David L. Lawrence to improve the legacy of the then-legendary “smoky city.”
Lucille Prater-Holiday of the Pennsylvania Committees Organizing for Change (PCOC, pronounced ‘peacock’) read a letter from Senator Arlen Specter expressing his support for maintaining the Clean Air Act.
A 2007 Supreme Court defined the regulation of greenhouse gases such as CO2 as being unavoidably the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency, as part of their duty in upholding the Clean Air Act. The Bush Era EPA did not want it initially, as the case (Massachusetts, et al. vs. the Environmental Protection Agency, et al) finds:
“The Court ruled that Massachusetts et al do in fact have standing in challenging EPA’s decision not to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the transportation sector,” according a the Pew Study summary of the case.~source
While initially this creates an issue, being a ruling directed at automobile-related gases specifically, the larger issue was explicated in the case itself:
“The fact that DOT’s mandate to promote energy efficiency by setting mileage standards may overlap with EPA’s environmental responsibilities in no way licenses EPA to shirk its duty to protect the public health and welfare.” Protecting public health and welfare is a duty mandated by the Clean Air Act.~source
In other words, the macro findings of the case were, regarding greenhouse gases and the EPA, saying “that’s not my department” doesn’t wash. This argument conceivably applies equally to the coal industry, which concerns reps of areas such as West Virginia, Virginia (both coal country), and Alaska (the GOP’s last, best hope for oil).
The EPA and its ability to regulate greenhouse gas such as CO2 have come under renewed fire from both Democrats and Republicans, principally in support of the coal industry. Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced a bill barring the EPA for the next 2 years from instituting new rules to regulate greenhouse gases on power plants and other industrial sources. Companion legislation has been introduced in the house by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Democrats Reps. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Rick Boucher (D-VA).
Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) signed on a bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to restrict the EPA’s regulatory power. Sen. Murkowski has tried in the past to restrict the EPA’s authority over CO2 emissions.