September 18, 2012

Dear Representative,

On behalf of our millions of members and activists, we urge you to reject H.R. 3409, the Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012.  This bill purports to address coal, but in fact takes aim at a staggering array of basic laws that keep the American public safe; it fundamentally weakens the Clean Air Act and eviscerates the protections of the Clean Water Act.  It will increase disease and deaths of Americans as well as threaten the wellbeing of communities.   It is nothing short of a deliberate assault on public health.

H.R. 3409 repackages many of the same attacks on health and environmental safeguards attempted earlier this Congress.  Having the House vote again on these rehashed messages just before Congress adjourns for the year is a waste of time.  And no amount of rebranding will change the facts: dirty air, undrinkable water, climate change, and decimated mountains won’t create jobs or improve the economy, but they will put our children's and communities’ health at risk.

Every day the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act prevent millions of families across this nation from being harmed by uncontrolled pollution.  These safeguards prevent big polluters from causing more toxic air pollution, flooding, drinking water contamination, birth defects, illness, and even deaths. If passed, this single bill would undermine and even end many of those protections.

We believe Congress has a responsibility to protect the public from the harms of pollution, not cater to polluting industries. We urge you to oppose this bill.

American Rivers
Appalachian Voices
Center for Biological Diversity
Clean Water Action
Clean Water Network
Environment America
Environmental Defense Fund
Friends of the Earth
Green For All
League of Women Voters
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
Southern Environmental Law Center
Tennessee Clean Water Network
US Climate Action Network
Union of Concerned Scientists
Waterkeeper Alliance

Below, please find a detailed reminder of what’s at stake in this sweeping piece of legislation.

DIRTY WATER AND DEVASTATED COMMUNITIES: Title I would prevent the Department of the Interior from protecting natural resources from the ravages of strip mining, if any such regulation would prevent even a single lump of coal from being mined.  This title also prohibits the Department from fulfilling its obligation under SMCRA to designate certain lands unsuitable for mining, such as Indian burial sites and land bordering national parks.  As a result, this title would allow mining companies to proceed unfettered as they poison and destroy rivers and ecosystems, threatening the communities that depend on them, and shielding even the most egregious mountaintop removal mining operations from new public safeguards under the surface mining law.

DIRTY AIR: Title II, or H.R. 910, is an all-out assault on public health. The bill would give the biggest polluters a free pass for unlimited carbon pollution by repealing EPA’s science-based endangerment determination and simply declaring that carbon dioxide is no longer an air pollutant. This title would also cost consumers at the pump by eliminating final EPA clean car standards. EPA has documented how carbon pollution and other climate-changing pollutants are bringing Americans death, illness, and injury in many ways:  by causing more killer heat waves, more intense smog, the spread of infectious diseases, and stronger storms, floods, and hurricanes.  Blocking EPA from reducing carbon pollution would mean more lives lost and more illness and injury.

DIRTY AIR: Title III, or TRAIN Act (H.R. 2401), blocks and stalls significant clean air protections, allowing their permanent delay. It would repeal critical clean air safeguards against deadly soot and smog pollution. The bill forces EPA to delay by at least six to seven years the implementation of smog, soot, and toxic air pollution replacement standards. Recognizing that compliance is delayed at least six to seven years, blocking these standards for just one additional year would result in up to 19,300 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, and 5,700 more hospital and emergency room visits. The bill would also repeal health safeguards protecting the public from out-of-state air pollution and weaken legal authorities for reducing that pollution in the future.

DIRTY WATER: Title IV aims to maintain the dangerous status quo that led to the Kingston, TN coal ash disaster in 2008. It won’t protect American communities from the leaching of toxic pollution from coal ash dumping or guarantee the safety of coal ash impoundment dams. It shields utilities from their responsibility to upgrade unsafe ash dumps, clean up contaminated sites, or close leaking and unstable ponds. It lacks deadlines for states to implement whatever permit program they may create, even though there are over 1000 aging coal ash dumps, many of which lack adequate safeguards to prevent water contamination. In lieu of a federal rule with standards based on science, it creates a loophole-ridden system cooked up by utility lobbyists more concerned with their client’s liability than the health of the communities around their sites.

DIRTY WATER: Title V, or H.R. 2018, would reverse decades of progress in cleaning our nation’s waters. It undermines the cooperative state-federal partnership at the core of the Clean Water Act.  Under this title, EPA would be stripped of its important authority to ensure that water quality standards are enforced and reflect the latest science. The title also undermines protections of critical aquatic resources from discharges of dredged and fill material; it would gut EPA’s ability to “veto” the most destructive and health-threatening proposals—even though EPA has used this authority sparingly (only 13 times in the past 40 years). It could unleash the “race to the bottom” that the 1972 Clean Water Act was designed to stop.