The Environmental Protection Agency was born during the tenure of a Republican president, Richard Nixon. But many Republican lawmakers today hold the EPA in contempt.
Where once their party responded positively to Americans' desire for clean air and water, they now are ideologically driven to cater to what industry wants. And in a distressing development, some Democrats appear ready to join them.
Influential segments of industry, including agribusiness lobbies, want to put the EPA out of business or at least severely limit its authority, on the shortsighted pretext of less government regulation promoting jobs. To that end, Republicans and some Democrats offer legislation that would make a pinata of the EPA.
As early as today, the Senate is expected to consider several attacks on the federal Clean Air Act in the form of amendments attached to a small-business bill. The most serious, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), would gut the EPA's ability to regulate carbon dioxide pollution that contributes to climate change.
Several Senate Democrats have their own ill-considered amendments that would undermine the Clean Air Act's 40-year record of success. Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown is co-sponsoring a proposal by Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow that would delay for two years new EPA rules under the Clean Air Act.
Any effort to weaken the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases would harm Ohio's residents, economy, and wildlife. They would jeopardize public health — contributing to premature deaths and such illnesses as asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and strokes — and compromise Ohio's efforts to promote clean-energy industries.
The Senate's Democratic majority needs to stand firm rather than defer to Republicans or to fellow Democrats who are joining them on this issue.
The Clean Air Act has been a godsend to this country. The EPA has shown that job growth and a clean environment are not mutually exclusive, but rather are goals that work in tandem. The Senate should vote to allow Ohioans— and all other Americans — to breathe easier.