When The Clean Air Act was signed into law back in the peace, love and flower-child days of the 1970s, I'm sure there were plenty of parents who believed their children and grandchildren would be able to inhale a little deeper and breathe a little easier as they grew up. But in the decades since its passage, air pollution has continued to be a source of concern, not just to have bluer skies, but also to cut the numbers of premature deaths, respiratory illnesses and missed days of work that can be attributed to dirty air.
It just seemed to make common sense, after all - coal-powered and oil-powered fuel plants spew smoke and chemicals, including mercury, into the air we all breathe.
Social momentum and true bipartisan negotiation led to the groundbreaking clean air law. It was a good starting point, but some things got derailed along the way. George W. Bush became President and he and his 'less government regulation is better' administration repealed part of the law, replacing it with that cap and trade thing that's really more environmental sleight of hand than a commitment to better air quality. Instead of requiring those power plants to adjust their emissions, including mercury and other toxic chemicals, companies polluting the air can get around required fixes by buying or trading credits with another power plant. If Company A pollutes in one area but Company B pollutes less, they can buy credits from Company B to make up for their pollution but neither power plant has to take any significant change in actually protecting the atmosphere. It looks like environmental protection on paper, but it doesn't feel that way in our lungs.
But a recent court order reversed the Bush administration's policy, allowing the Environmental Protection Agency finally to issue and implement rules that could really give us cleaner air. Not surprisingly, many lawmakers on Capitol Hill don't like that idea and are working actively to move us back to the cap and trade days.
Am I the only one who thinks that doesn't sound like a recipe for cleaner air?
If you're like me and you're scratching your head about whether there's anything you can do about this, I have excellent news. If there is an inner PunditMom in you who wants to make sure clean air is around for your children and grandchildren, I'd like to introduce you to the Moms Clean Air Force and getting your message about clean air to the EPA!
Don't be afraid. I know the whole legislative process can be a little intimidating, especially when I start writing about things like rule-makings and comment periods, but this is actually one of the EASIEST ways to make your voice heard on important topics from the comfort of you own laptops!
For next 50 days, Uncle Sam actually wants to hear what you think and will be taking comments from everyone. Trust me, the companies who oppose this and the lobbyists they hire are going to be on top of this and submitting comments with as much "science" and cost information as they can to keep these rules from being implemented. But I have no doubt that an army of mothers who don't want their children to breathe potentially cancer-causing air can take on those lobbyists.
One mom can make a huge difference, not only by submitting a comment during the comment period, but if one mom asks another who asks another, think of the millions of us who, if we take just a few minutes to let the EPA know directly how we feel about the importance of clean air, can battle those lobbyists who are paid to keep the status quo in place until we don't have any clean air left.
Because clean air is important to the whole PunditFamily, I'm pleased to be a part of a new effort called the Moms Clean Air Force, supported by the Environmental Defense Fund. I'm joining with some other amazing women to raise awareness of what's going on with the EPA's efforts clean up the air we all breathe and to let you know how you can be a part of that effort, as well.
Send your comments in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org . You can keep it short, so it will only take a minute. Just let them know that you like the idea of keeping the air clean for our kids. At the top of your email, make sure you include these two referral numbers:
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0044 (NSPS action)
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0234 (NESHAP action)
And don't forget to add your name, hometown and state at the bottom.
Just think - if this works, you can tell your kids that you helped clean up the environment, just like we ask them to do picking up trash at their playgrounds! I know my fifth-grader will like that.
Image by Joanne Bamberger
Joanne Bamberger writes about politics and current events at her place, PunditMom. Her forthcoming book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, is available now for pre-sale on Amazon.com.