The Mark UP

Mitt Romney Wants to Force EPA to Lie to Americans About Whether the Air is Safe to Breathe

What is it with Mitt Romney and his penchant for lying to Americans about air pollution?

NRDC Action Fund director, Heather Taylor wrote about him lying to an Iowa audience this week with the falsehood that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate farm dust. It’s a lie that he has repeated before in an effort to frighten farmers and deceive voters.

It turns out Romney has also vowed to change the Clean Air Act to require EPA to lie to Americans about whether the air is clean and healthy to breathe. Romney wants to eliminate the exclusive health basis that has been the foundation for our landmark clean air law for over 40 years. Romney’s approach would force EPA to depart from scientifically-grounded, health-protective standards and respond instead to cost complaints by industry lobbyists and political interference by White House economists.

In the process, he would overturn a unanimous Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Antonin Scalia that ruled clean air standards must be based on what is necessary to protect Americans’ health, based on medical science rather than industry cost complaints.

As I have noted previously:

For over 40 years the Clean Air Act has required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set honest air quality standards that are “requisite to protect the public health” with an “adequate margin of safety.”  Clean Air standards must be honestly based on the best health science and medical understanding concerning how much pollution is harmful to humans. Standards may not be weakened or distorted by political or other non-medical factors.

The New York Times recently reported however, that Romney supports eliminating the longstanding health foundation for clean air standards. Instead he wants compliance costs by polluting industries to factor into determining clean air standards. This would pervert the question of how much air pollution is unhealthy for humans to breathe as a matter of the best scientific and medical understanding, letting economic factors force EPA to depart from truly protective air quality standards.

Romney’s approach is the same dirty agenda pushed by Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives, which passed a bill this year to dramatically weaken clean air protections following this very playbook.

I have described what the House Republicans’ bill would mean if it became law:

The bill would force the head of EPA to adopt unhealthy clean air standards for smog pollution if someone decides it costs too much to set healthy standards. The legislation then would compel EPA to misrepresent those unhealthy air quality standards to Americans as sufficient to achieve “clean air.”

This is no different from Congress forcing doctors to lie to patients about their correct diagnoses if some government bureaucrat or economist or insurance company says it costs too much to treat the honestly diagnosed illness.

The American Lung Association has rightly dubbed this bill the “Gasp Act,” and ALA opposes it along with many other medical organizations. Fortunately the Senate and President Obama oppose the legislation too, so the Tea Party’s House bill has stalled. That could change if the GOP takes over the Senate and Romney becomes president.

It’s ironic that Romney condemns so-called “death panels” that do not exist under President Obama’s healthcare law, then turns around and pushes a process under the Clean Air Act in which bureaucrats and economists and politicians get to decide that some lives are not worth saving or protecting because it allegedly costs industry polluters too much.

Romney wants to replace a clean air process with dirty air panels that will deny health protections to Americans if the safeguards don’t pass a politicized cost-benefit calculation that the Clean Air Act has abhorred for over 40 years.

Lying during the campaign is a terrible thing. But it’s so much worse that Romney is running on actual policies to weaken clean air protections and require EPA to lie to all Americans about whether our air is safe to breathe.