Clean Air Act good for Montana businesses

Billings Gazette

by Kathleen Hadley

A Virginia-based political group, Americans for Prosperity, funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, owners of a petroleum and manufacturing industry conglomerate, is telling Montana’s leaders in Congress how to vote on issues that affect our state’s economy and clean air.

AFP is lobbying hard, recently making false and misleading remarks about the EPA’s authority to implement the Clean Air Act in the Montana press. They falsely assert that the EPA aims to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from hospitals to lawn mowers, saying efforts to keep Montana’s air clean will hurt our economy.

The truth: The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the EPA to limit greenhouse gas pollution because, according to the Clean Air Act, this pollution “endangers public health and welfare.” Using the best available control technology, the limits would apply to major sources of emissions, not hospitals, schools or homes.

Preventing premature death

For 40 years, the Clean Air Act has prevented millions of premature deaths due to toxic air pollution and saved billions in health care spending by reducing hospital visits due to asthma attacks and other pollution-related health problems. Leading health authorities, including the American Medical Association and American Lung Association agree that greenhouse gas pollutants have and will increasingly contribute to serious health problems that, tragically, put the elderly and small children at greatest risk.

Americans and Montanans support air pollution limits. A recent poll shows that three out of four voters support the EPA setting tougher standards on specific air pollutants, including carbon dioxide; a recent State of the Rockies Project survey found that 62 percent of Montana voters support EPA regulation of carbon pollution.

As Montana workers and business leaders, we understand how, over the past 40 years, the Clean Air Act has fueled American innovation, making the U.S. a leader in the multi-billion dollar environmental technology sector. The catalytic converter, a pollution-control device for cars, is one example of these innovations. These devices are manufactured with palladium produced by Montana’s Stillwater Mine. Similarly, SCR technology, developed to remove nitrogen oxide, a pollutant, in boilers and diesel engines at coal plants and other facilities has created tens of thousands of construction jobs in the last 10 years.

Setting clear, long-term standards gives businesses the market certainty they need to innovate, invest, and grow.

Proposed clean air rules regarding mercury and air toxins alone are projected to create 31,000 short-term and 9,000 long-term jobs for iron workers, pipe fitters, electricians, and boilermakers.

Weakening the Clean Air Act also sends a powerful signal that the United States is not interested in the clean energy market. Congressional inaction is already costing the U.S. investments and jobs. Deutsche Bank recently announced that billions slated for clean energy investment in the U.S. will be redirected to other countries.

“You just throw up your hands and say…we’re going to take our money elsewhere,” a top Deutsche Bank official said.

Job creation opportunity

Montana must not lose out on this opportunity to create new business and jobs in our state. A study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts shows that transitioning to clean energy could bring up to $460 million in investments and 6,000 new jobs to Montana. With the potential to be a top producer in clean energy, we should encourage economic growth like this, not throw up roadblocks.

Finally, self-serving outside interests fail to understand that the stakes are high. Our agricultural and recreational industries bring billions of dollars to our state’s economy each year and depend on clean air, soil and water to thrive. We stand behind our leaders in Washington who support these common sense protections for our state’s health and economy.