Don’t allow politics to trump science on greenhouse gases

Posted Jan. 25, 2010, at 5:39 p.m.
This artwork by Mark Weber relates to moves to expand the availability of green fuels.
Mark Weber
This artwork by Mark Weber relates to moves to expand the availability of green fuels.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is going to jeopardize the health and safety of Maine residents. Murkowski intends to pass a Senate resolution that could block the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, from doing its job.

The EPA has officially determined that greenhouse gases “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” Therefore, it is the responsibility of the EPA to regulate these harmful emissions to ensure public well-being. But Murkowski, under the advice of oil lobbyists, wants to tie the hands of the EPA and essentially tell them “despite court rulings and thorough scientific study, you are not allowed to regulate greenhouse gases.”

It is up to our two Maine senators to ensure that Murkowski is not allowed to endanger our well-being. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins must look beyond party lines, reject the Murkowski resolution and continue their tradition of supporting policies that protect the health of Americans.

Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as a pollutant. However, the EPA did not act immediately but instead elected to study the problem and examine whether greenhouse gases were actually a major threat to U.S. citizens. Last month, after thorough scientific study by both EPA and independent scientists, along with expert testimony and public comment, the EPA found that greenhouse gases are indeed a threat to human health and therefore must be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

They determined that if we fail to regulate greenhouse gases, ground-level ozone pollution will likely worsen causing some people to experience “decreased lung function and aggravated asthma.” Without regulation “tick-borne diseases and food and water-borne pathogens are expected to increase.” Furthermore, the EPA de-clared that greenhouse gases will create climate instability and could cause “severe” storms along the Atlantic coast. These harmful effects are caused by an underlying problem: Greenhouse gases are changing the climate to such an extent that humans are now in danger.

By allowing the EPA to regulate these emissions, we are taking this country forward on a path of security. However, the Murkowski resolution could erase all of our progress.

It is unfortunate, but it is likely that many Republicans will support Murkowski because they see it as an opportunity to politically damage the Democrats. But there is more at stake here than political one-upmanship. What is at stake is the American ideal that human health is more important than big business interests. Will we allow ugly politics to trump science and public safety?

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have protected Maine residents in the past. When President Bush tried to weaken the Clean Air Act, Snowe and Collins were among only six Republicans who opposed his position. In 2004, they signed a letter urging the EPA to develop even stricter mercury pollution standards. Snowe has also co-sponsored legislation to regulate 15 more contaminants under the Clean Water Act.

Our senators can stand strong against political pressure. They have protected Maine’s residents from hazardous and dangerous pollutants in the past, and they must not waiver in this endeavor. Republican leadership may attempt to force Collins and Snowe to support the Murkowski resolution. But we are the people whom our senators must listen to.

Maine residents: Call Snowe and Collins and tell them to “protect our health and safety. Reject the Murkowski resolution.”

Taj Schottland lives in Bar Harbor where he is a senior at College of the Atlantic. He attended the Copenhagen climate negotiations in December as part of the college’s observer delegation.

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