Rep. Gary Palmer (AL-6) introduced H.R. 637 in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 24, 2017. The stated purpose of the bill is “to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from exceeding its statutory authority in ways that were not contemplated by the Congress.”
We are urging our supporters to add your name to this petition opposing this bill. We feel that if we work together, we can find better way to address concerns about regulations while still protecting public health and addressing greenhouse gases. We will attempt to share this petition with Rep. Palmer at his town hall meeting on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 9 a.m. at Hoover City Hall.
With that in mind, here are the facts…
The bill says, “no Federal agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under current law.”
- This is blatantly wrong. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) upheld the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide from traditional stationary sources like power plants and factories.
- The case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, was a 7–2 decision written primarily by the late Antonin Scalia.
- That 2014 ruling built upon a 2007 ruling (Massachusetts v. EPA), which found the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The bill amends section 302 of the Clean Air Act (42 USC § 7602) to say, “the term air pollutant does not include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, or sulfur hexafluoride.”
- There is no scientific or rational basis for excluding these gases from the definition of air pollutants.
- While none of these pollutants are toxic to humans, they are all greenhouse gases that contribute to anthropogenic climate change and can have short-term health effects when breathed by humans.
- SCOTUS has ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as air pollutants.
- Breathing elevated levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas, can affect human heart and brain health. Harvard researchers found a direct, negative correlation between breathing elevated levels of CO2 and brain function and decision making ability.
- High concentrations of CO2 displace oxygen, which in turn can reduce human respiratory function.
Nitrous oxide (N2O), also known as laughing gas, is a greenhouse gas that can cause a person to become oxygen deprived — which can affect blood pressure, cause fainting, and contribute to heart attacks.
- Exposure to N2O negatively affects human brain function.
- Exposure to methane gas (CH4), a highly potent greenhouse gas, can cause dizziness, headaches and fatigue.
The bill inserts language that says the Clean Air Act does not authorize regulation of climate change or global warming.
- An overwhelming majority of scientific research has concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities (e.g., burning fossil fuels for electricity generation, industrial operations, agriculture, vehicles, etc.) contribute to climate change. As stated above, SCOTUS has ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate these emissions.
- The predicted effects of climate change/global warming include health impacts related to increased temperatures, worsened air quality, extreme weather events, diseases, contaminated drinking water, drought, flooding, and more. Some examples:
- An increase in temperature can cause heat stroke, dehydration, and cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease. This may lead to an increase in heat-related deaths.
- Higher temperatures are correlated with poorer air quality. In particular, research predicts Alabama may experience more than double the current number of days with unhealthy ozone pollution. Exposure to high-levels of ozone pollution can result in negative health outcomes for children, older adults, and people with lung and other chronic diseases (e.g., triggering an asthma attack).
The points enumerated above are all based on scientifically sound research. However, because we know supporters of the bill will bring up these issues, we want to go ahead and address them fairly.
- Carbon dioxide is breathed out by humans and is sometimes called “plant food.” In other words, naturally occurring CO2 is essential to a healthy environment and a habitable climate.
- Some scientific research has shown a relationship to increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and higher crop yields.
- Access to electricity, which has historically been primarily powered by burning fossil fuels, has led to leaps in improvements to human health and quality of life. This is undeniably true.
- While scientists overwhelmingly agree that the Earth’s climate is changing and that human activity contributes to it, the extent to which humans can affect this is somewhat disputed. (This is mostly a matter of degree, not difference of conclusions.)
Michael joined GASP in 2013 as communications specialist. He has lived in Birmingham since 2008, and is an active member of the Birmingham community. He’s a passionate advocate for health equity, civil rights and equality. He is currently serving as executive director. Email Michael