Today is I love mountains day. For many activists in Virginia today represents an opportunity to protest the injustice of mountaintop removal, and for others it represents one more opportunity to call on Senators Webb and Warner to support the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act has a more than 40 year history of cost-effectively reducing air pollution and protecting public health. Unfortunately, legislation that was passed with bipartisan support in 1970, and signed into law by Richard Nixon, has become political fodder. It all stems from a 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA where the court ruled that the EPA must conduct proceedings to determine if carbon pollution is a threat to public health.
The process began under the Bush Administration, but was not completed until the Spring of 2009 when the Obama EPA found that the science does show a link between greenhouse gas emissions and public health. In the time that has lapsed since then, Republicans have cried foul arguing that the EPA doing its job to protect public health is federal overreach.
Unfortunately, they’ve found support in a few coal state Democrats like Virginia’s own Jim Webb. That brings us to the events of today, and the pleas of more than 100 Virginians that Senator Webb stop obstructing the EPA and let it do its job.
More than 100 citizens from across the Commonwealth descended upon Senators Warner and Webb’s state offices today to urge our Senators to oppose legislative attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act. The effort was led by citizen activists from across Virginia who are calling on the United States to take action to address greenhouse gas emissions, which have been linked to public health risks and climate change.
The group had two different messages for Virginia’s Senators. In the case of Senator Mark Warner attendees applauded the Senator for opposing efforts to limit or defund the Environmental Protection Agency.
The same could not be said for the reaction given to Senator Jim Webb who is co-sponsoring legislation by West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller. The Rockefeller legislation would place a two-year delay on EPA enforcement of greenhouse gas rules with an exception for mobile sources, such as fuel standards for cars and trucks.
“Senator Webb’s support of Rockefeller flies in the face of what is good for Virginians,” said Erich von Ruffer of Richmond. “Global warming is a clear and present danger to our planet, and experts have said that the Tidewater region of Virginia is the second most at-risk region of North America to sea-level rise. Senator Webb is not only placing our public health at risk, he’s also willing to place our economic engine at risk.”
Webb has stated that he supports the efforts of Rockefeller for two reasons. First, he agrees that the actions taken by the Obama Administration and the auto industry on mobile sources of pollution is an important which Rockefeller does not attack. Second, he believes that Congress should be the body to determine the nation’s climate strategy not the EPA.
The fact of the matter is we don’t have time to wait on Congress to get the political will to buck corporate polluters. Millions of Americans are suffering from the pollution spewed by the fossil fuel industry, and Jim Webb’s position is to let that happen until Congress acts. Whose side is Senator Webb on?