The Mark UP

Rep. Altmire: Your Pants Are Officially On Fire

Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire is learning a hard lesson this week: When you vote repeatedly for bills that will mean more illness and death for your constituents, you have to expect to “own” those votes.

And make no mistake about it, Rep. Altmire has repeatedly voted to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from protecting public health and Pennsylvania families from dangerous mercury pollution and smog. (HR2250, House Vote 791, 10/13/11; HR2681, House Vote 764, 10/6/11; HR2401, House Vote 741, 9/23/11; HR1, House Vote 86, 2/17/11).

That’s why the League of Conservation Voters and the NRDC Action Fund is running this TV spotin Rep. Altmire’s congressional District.

In his defense … well, it isn’t much of a defense, really. So, let’s let Rep. Altmire speak for himself and then look at the facts in each case.

Altmire complains that “Once again, a Washington, D.C.-based special interest group has come into western Pennsylvania…”

Funny, Altmire doesn’t seem to have any problem with Washington, D.C. when it comes to fat-cat campaign contributions from energy and other industries. In fact, an analysis of his contributors reveals that his four biggest donors have Washington, D.C. addresses and five out of his top ten donors are based in Washington, DC.

Altmire says: “When I travel around Western Pennsylvania to discuss the factors holding back our economic recovery, onerous EPA regulations are at the top of the list.”

We say: Not so much. According to polling conducted by several different business groups, regulations are NOT on the top of the list:

  • The Small Business Majority (SBM) recently released a report, “Small Business Owners Believe National Standards Supporting Energy Innovation Will Increase Prosperity for Small Firms,” which found only 13 percent of small business owners believe regulation is the biggest problem facing their businesses.
  • McClatchy/Tribune News Services recently surveyed a random sample of small business owners nationwide and found Big Business rhetoric over regulation to be completely overblown. Under the headline “Regulations, taxes aren’t killing small business, owners say”, McClatchy/Tribune News reported that “McClatchy reached out to owners of small businesses, many of them mom-and-pop operations, to find out whether they indeed were being choked by regulation, whether uncertainty over taxes affected their hiring plans and whether the health care overhaul was helping or hurting their business. Their response was surprising. None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it.”
  • The National Federation of Small Business (NFIB) polls reveal that only 14 percent of their members consider regulations the “single most important problem” their business faces.
  • Even the U.S. Chamber’s own survey of small business shows small business owners do not name regulations as a major cause holding back job growth. Only 8% of Chamber members say that “Too much regulation” is the greatest obstacle to hiring new employees.

Altmire says: “I represent 700,000 residents of Western Pennsylvania and live here myself, along with my family,” said Altmire. “To imply that I would support any legislation that would promote an unhealthy environment and pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink is preposterous.”

It is preposterous to think that any Member of Congress would do such a thing. The only problem here is that’s exactly what Rep. Altimire did.

Here are the facts:

  • One of his anti-EPA votes repeals a clean air standard estimated to save as many as 2,900 lives per year in Pennsylvania alone.
  • Another Altmire vote would allow out-of-state power plants to continue dumping smog and soot pollution into the air would harm the 260,000 asthmatic kids in Pennsylvania, including the 32,500 kids in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence Counties – not to mention the more than 120,000 asthmatic adults in those counties.
  • And as our ad mentions, nearly one in ten women of child-bearing age in the region have blood mercury levels high enough to pose a risk to a developing baby.

Altmire says: “These regulations would dramatically raise our electricity rates and make it impossible for local energy producers to compete economically and to continue employing thousands of western Pennsylvania workers.”

Nonsense. Exelon and Constellation Energy, both major power producers with coal and fossil-fuel plants in Pennsylvania, support the stronger standards. In fact, a group of power companies subject to stronger EPA standards said of them: “these air regulations will not impact rates dramatically. Rather, the capital investments related to these regulations will create needed jobs and will yield many hundreds of billions of dollars in annual health benefits.”

Given that none of Rep Altmire’s rationales for stripping away health protections from his own constituents holds up to scrutiny, constituents can fairly ask the question: why is Representative Altmire protecting polluters, instead of our kids and families?