Sunday, March 06, 2016

Poisoning The Air We Breath Is Part Of The Corrupt Conservative Agenda


Some corrupt conservatives thought of a way to save some money

I don't remember the last time I drank tap water in Los Angeles, which is probably because I never did. Over the weekend the Associated Press put out a feature emphasizing a poll that found that only 47% of Americans say they're extremely or very confident about the safety of their drinking water.
The lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, has been in the headlines for months, and more than half of Americans believe it's a sign of widespread problems in the U.S. About seven in 10 drink tap water, but about half of them first run it through a filter.
As we discussed Friday, a lawsuit against the EPA-- Michigan vs EPA-- and a vote in the House by all 231 Republicans plus 7 corrupt conservative Democrats would permit deadly mercury gases to be released into the air to save a few dollars for manufacturers. One of the points of that post was that if all Republicans are corrupt conservatives, not all corrupt conservatives are Republicans. That more and more so called "moderate" (meaning right-wing, a word with negative connotations the corporate media never uses to describe establishment politicians) Democrats are conspiring with Republicans to realize the GOP agenda is illustrated in a move to poison Los Angeles' air, Los Angeles, a city with few actual Republicans in power, just some Democrats who enable then and behave like them when they can get away with it.
Southern California's air quality board moved forcefully to weaken pollution regulation Friday, firing the agency's longtime leader and reaffirming new smog rules backed by oil refineries and other major polluters.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District board dismissed Barry Wallerstein in a 7-6 vote during a closed-door session, a month after Republicans took control of the panel vowing a friendlier approach to industry.

Wallerstein, 62, was appointed executive officer in 1997 and presided over the agency charged with protecting the health of 17 million people in the nation's smoggiest region. During his tenure, pollution diminished sharply across the region, but remains far from meeting federal health standards.

The board's actions are expected to delay Southern California's progress toward achieving those standards by allowing industry to avoid costly air quality improvements.

Dwight Robinson and other new board members have been outspoken about the need to shift the balance between air quality regulation and economic impacts on businesses.

“With every rule-making and regulation we need to be looking at the economic impact as well as the environmental impacts,” Robinson said in an interview this week. The board's seven Republicans voted to fire Wallerstein. Its five Democrats and one independent opposed the dismissal.

The firing came just three days after board members posted an agenda item to evaluate Wallerstein's performance. The board named Michael B. O'Kelly, the air district's chief financial officer, as acting executive officer.

The ouster followed an emotional public hearing with dozens of speakers opposing Wallerstein's removal. They said he was an effective, fair-minded regulator and urged the agency not to veer further from its mandate to protect their health.

Board members heard testimony from residents of smoggy communities of the Inland Empire and near South Bay oil refineries and from people who struggle with asthma and other pollution-triggered health problems. No one spoke in favor of Wallerstein's firing.

“Your names will be etched on the lungs of our community members,” Sylvia Betancourt of the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma told the panel before the vote.

Board members did not speak publicly about Wallerstein before their closed-door vote. No allegations of wrongdoing or mismanagement were made in the public hearing.

...Republicans gained a seven-member majority on the board in February after elected officials from Orange County cities voted in Robinson, a Republican councilman from Lake Forest, to replace Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, a Democrat.

Environmentalists said Friday that Southern California's progress in cleaning its once-notorious smog shows clean air and economic growth are not mutually exclusive.

...Friday, the board voted 8 to 5 not to reconsider its controversial December vote to adopt an industry-backed plan to reduce smog-forming emissions. The regulations apply to refineries, power plants and other major facilities whose nitrogen oxide emissions have leveled off in recent years rather than continue to improve.

California legislators, state air quality officials and environmentalists criticize that vote as a violation of state law and harmful to public health.

The new plan, weaker than a version Wallerstein and his staff proposed, will delay the installation of costly pollution controls at the region's six major oil refineries and set back progress toward clean air.

...State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) vowed legislative action in response to the board's move, calling it “only the latest in a disturbing trend of dirty energy interests dismantling clean air rules that the public overwhelmingly supports.”

“We need strong leadership to address some of the worst air quality in the nation, not a rubber stamp committee for the oil industry agenda,” De León said.

The Los Angeles County Business Federation called for the agency's new leadership to act with sensitivity to the effects of its actions on industry and “with the active partnership of the business community.”

“Children deserve to breathe clean air and they deserve the healthy homes that result when a parent has a good-paying job,” said David Englin, the group's executive vice president.

The agency has been in the spotlight in recent years over its handling of years of dangerous lead and arsenic emissions from the now-closed Exide battery plant into communities of southeast L.A. County, its response to a massive gas leak near Porter Ranch and restrictions targeting smoke from beach bonfire pits in Orange County.

Business interests, however, have complained of the costs of complying with increasingly strict regulations. Regulated industries mounted a vigorous campaign to weaken the smog rules proposed by staff in December, arguing that they would force refineries and other facilities to spend billions upgrading pollution controls.

The plan that the board approved in December and affirmed Friday is backed by the Western States Petroleum Assn. and other industry groups.

Several Southern California political leaders are up in arms about this. Lou Vince, the progressive congressional candidate against pollution-protector Steve Knight in the Santa Clarita Valley area, was incensed "The last thing that Southern California needs is weaker air pollution standards," he told us this morning. "California leads the nation in environmental protections and now is not the time the start weakening any of our protections. As a congressman, I want to push Congress to follow California's lead and really start addressing climate change on the federal level." As a congressman, Ted Lieu (D-CA) has already been doing that. Earlier today, he told us "The action of the Republican majority in firing a dedicated public servant because he supported the environment can only be described as SHAMEFUL. If this makes you angry, make sure you vote for progressive officials at all levels of government." Thanks, Ted... I couldn't have said it better myself!

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