ADVERTISEMENT

Bryan Bosch, ASSOCIATED PRESS

David Durenberger: Don't undercut Clean Air Act

  • April 5, 2011 - 9:44 PM

Commentary

As a Republican U.S. senator from Minnesota, I worked to craft a bipartisan law to strengthen the Clean Air Act in 1990.

President George H.W. Bush led efforts to ensure a strong bill, and in the end 89 senators voted to pass it.

Now, more than 20 years later, Republicans and Democrats in Washington are working to roll back our progress.

The Clean Air Act is one of the great public-health achievements of American history -- especially for kids.

The act has prevented more than 18 million child respiratory illnesses and 300,000 premature deaths, and has dramatically reduced the number of children with IQs below 70 by taking lead out of gasoline.

Cutting mercury, soot, smog, carbon dioxide and dioxins means fewer Americans suffer from asthma attacks and respiratory diseases. Further, it will prevent more than 250 million skin cancer cases by 2075 by phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals.

When we passed the sweeping Clean Air Act amendments in 1990, we sought to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency had the tools to tackle new and emerging air pollution problems.

Today, the EPA is in the process of acting on recent scientific findings to update and modernize air pollution standards as we envisioned over two decades ago.

To this day, I remember the passage of the Clean Air Act as a model for the way national policy should be made where there are a variety of economic, regional and ideological forces at work to challenge its effectiveness as law.

The cooperation between President Bush and the Democratic leadership of the Senate enabled us to move toward practical, realistic and economically feasible health standards and implementation deadlines.

It enabled the Senate to withstand pressures from the House to increase the regulatory pressure. I can't imagine today anyone wanting to undo an effort that was so fair and so effective.

My understanding of recent public opinion is that Americans -- Democrats, independents and Republicans -- all support a strong Clean Air Act. This Congress is out of step with both public opinion and history.

David Durenberger represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate from 1978-1995 and was a member of the conference committee that crafted the Clean Air Act amendments in 1990.

© 2014 Star Tribune