Hiding Behind Children: Democrats are using issue of children’s health to disguise expensive regulation

On June 8, 2011 the Senate committee on environment and public works held a joint hearing titled, “Air Quality and Children’s Health.” Senator Thomas Carper opened the hearing by declaring his grave concern for the health of America’s children, “As a parent, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about my own children’s health. As a U.S. Senator, I worry about every child’s health.” But there is more than heartwarming concern for children’s health going on here.  President Obama and the EPA are currently trying to enact a series of strict environmental regulations which would cost energy producers hundreds of billions of dollars, and drive up energy prices across the nation. In reality, this hearing was an attempt by Senate Democrats to use concern for children to disguise their support for increased regulation that will impose billions of dollars of new costs on families all across the country, making it more difficult for them to provide for their children’s health care.

The Democratic senators at the hearing tried to frame the debate on new restrictive EPA regulations as a discussion on the health of children. Three of the five witnesses brought in were members of the medical field and testified to the adverse effects that air pollution, specifically ozone and particulates, can have on children with asthma. In all cases, stricter EPA regulations were presented as a necessary protection for children with asthma. The real debate should be on the economic consequences of the new EPA regulations. By turning the debate on regulation into a debate on children’s health, proponents of increased regulation hope to distract America from the high cost of increased regulation.

America’s air is the cleanest that it has been in decades. Asthma rates are rising, but not because of air pollution, which has actually decreased in recent years. Air pollution can be a trigger for asthma attacks in children and adults with asthma, but it is only one of many potential triggers which are not fully understood. Furthermore, over the last thirty years emissions of the six primary air pollutants have actually decreased by 57%. Concern for children’s health is clearly important, but there is no hard evidence to suggest that new EPA regulations would improve the health of children with or without asthma. What the regulations would do is harm our economy by: adding huge compliance costs to businesses and energy producers, creating job loss by driving corporations that can’t meet the new standards out of business, and driving up the cost of energy. For children suffering from asthma and other medical conditions, access to medication and healthcare is important. But rising energy costs raise expenses for low-income families leaving less income free to be spent on access to healthcare.

Obama’s new EPA regulations would be disastrous for our economy.  One of the witnesses at the hearing, Dr. Margo Thorning from the American Council for Capital Formation presented data from the EPA’s own reports which estimate that by 2020 annual GDP will be $110 billion lower due to already existing Clean Air Act amendments. New EPA regulations will only further increase the costs to American businesses and consumers. During the hearing, Senator Barrasso said that the EPA regulations would, “drop a hammer on our already faltering economy.” He pointed out that just new ozone regulations, by themselves, would cost around $90 billion a year in compliance costs. Most power plants do not conform to the new standards and would either have to undergo high costs to renovate their facilities, or go out of business. Higher costs to energy producers would inevitably lead to skyrocketing energy prices, which would be harmful to all sectors of the economy.

Senator James Inhofe the ranking member on the Committee on Environment and Public Works, believes that the real motivation behind the regulations is not to improve children’s health but to raise the costs of traditional energy sources.  During the hearing, he pointed out how President Obama and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu have both been quoted advocating increases to the price of energy. In his statement Inhofe claims that new environmental regulations are intended to “choke off traditional, American energy so that prices will increase to the point that ‘green’ energy is the only alternative.” New energy regulations would be an economic disaster driving up energy prices and harming both American businesses and families. Americans need to understand the true cost of these regulations and not allow the advocates of increased regulation to hide their true intentions behind insincere concern for children’s health.