“The TRAIN Act Cuts The Heart Out Of The Clean Air Act” – Rep. Henry Waxman


by Marcia Yerman

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the TRAIN Act (H.R. 1705) made it through the House of Representatives. Its goal is to stop the Environmental Protection Agency dead in its tracks from moving forward with both the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, in a letter opposing the passage of the TRAIN Act, referenced the legislation as creating “a closed committee of cabinet secretaries and other high-level officials to scrutinize the economic impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) upcoming standards.”

But as Yogi Berra would say, It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

One of the signees to that correspondence was Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). He is working full time to push back against the anti-regulatory cabal and to create transparency and awareness around the extent of the anti-environmental votes, through an online searchable database. The public can now check the voting records of representatives on a range of topics from pollution prevention and clean energy, to climate change and pipeline safety.

I interviewed the Congressman via e-mail about a number of issues: to learn about his continued commitment to safeguarding The Clean Air Act, to hear his response to the vow of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) to repeal “job-destroying regulations,” and to gain insight into how the TRAIN Act evolved.

Interview with Rep. Henry Waxman:

MCAF: You have been working since 1990, when you were a key author of the Clean Air Act, to guarantee Americans the right to an environment free of toxins and hazards. You have launched a searchable online database on anti-environmental votes by the 112th Congress. Could you outline your goals on this endeavor and how it can help educate the public?

Rep. Waxman: I felt it was important to assemble all the anti-environment votes in one place so the public could see how destructive this Republican-controlled House has been for our environment. It has voted to block environmental progress at every possible point, by refusing to address climate change, stopping actions to prevent air and water pollution, and undermining protections for public lands and coastal areas. These regulations were put in place for good reason – to protect the public health of the American people. The public deserves to know that the Republicans are attempting to undo all the progress we have made through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

MCAF: On August 29, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) sent a memo to House Republicans under the title of “Upcoming Jobs Agenda.” It focused on what Cantor qualified as a “repeal of job-destroying regulations.” Among items targeted were the Cross-State Air Pollution Ruling and the Ozone Ruling. Why do you think Republicans continue to tie regulations, which would promote better health for Americans, to being detrimental to the economy?

Rep. Waxman: The Republicans continue to blame the EPA and strict environmental regulations for the economic downtown. But in fact, it was the lack of regulation of Wall Street banks that caused this recession—not environmental regulations that protect children from breathing dirty and dangerous air.

The Republicans continue to claim that they support environmental protection, but actions speak louder than words. Earlier this year, when Republicans voted to block the EPA’s carbon pollution rules, they said they wanted to clean up other air pollution, just not carbon pollution. Earlier this month, when they voted to block the air toxics rules for boilers and cement kilns, they said they care about air pollution but denied the health benefits from reducing air toxics such as mercury. Later, they attacked the cross-state air pollution rule, which controls smog and soot.  It doesn’t appear that there is any pollution that they actually want to control.

MCAF: The TRAIN Act was passed on September 23, by a vote of 249-169—primarily along party lines. Nineteen Democrats, some of whom come from coal-producing states, also voted for passage. Could you share how the bill was amended in committee from its original form and intent, and the backstory on the bill’s evolution—including how you requested a delay of the legislation until the Congressional Budget Office had scored the bill?

Rep. Waxman: The TRAIN Act was originally proposed as simply a study of a number of EPA regulations. I had a several concerns about the bill. The study was unnecessary and duplicative for the most part, but it also required an analysis of regulations that had not yet been proposed and also analyses of potentially hundreds of state and local regulations and permitting decisions. Complying with such a burdensome requirement would not be feasible. Additionally, the entire approach did not seem balanced. A huge focus was on studying the effects on the coal and oil companies, but there was no mention of asthma, premature mortality, birth defects, or the other avoidable health impacts associated with air pollution.

The Energy and Power Subcommittee held a hearing on the bill on April 7, 2011. On May 24, 2011, the subcommittee marked up H.R. 1705.  This bill did not comply with the Republican leadership’s rules on discretionary CutGo. Discretionary CutGo rules are new with this Republican Congress: they have no effect on how much money is actually spent, but they create an additional hurdle for legislation. I don’t support the rules, but if the Democrats have to live by them, then the Republicans should as well. Subcommittee Ranking Member Rush and I sent a letter to Chairman Upton raising concerns and asking him to delay the legislation until the Congressional Budget Office could score the legislation to give an accurate assessment of costs.

A new version of the bill was introduced as H.R. 2401, and this bill complied with CutGo by slashing the authorization for an effective and popular program that reduces toxic air pollution from diesel engines. We marked that bill up in subcommittee on July 8, 2011.

During two subcommittee mark-ups and a hearing, this legislation had always been described as simply wanting to provide better information on EPA rules. But when the bill came before the full Committee, Rep. Whitfield offered an amendment to block and indefinitely delay two of the most important air pollution rules in decades.

When the bill came to the floor, Rep. Whitfield offered an additional amendment that nullifies these rules and blocks the EPA from ever reissuing them. Combined with the Latta amendment that gutted the way we have set clean air standards for 40 years, the TRAIN Act now cuts the heart out of the Clean Air Act.

MCAF: Moms Clean Air Force is working to disseminate information on the fight for clean air regulations. You have actively worked on “right to know initiatives” and The Children’s Environmental Protection Act. Do you see these efforts as being under threat?

Rep. Waxman: None of our environmental laws are immune from attack in this Congress. I’d encourage you to review the database of votes I put on my website to see the truly breathtaking scope of this onslaught.

MCAF: Could you comment on the President’s request to the EPA to withdraw the ozone regulations?

Rep. Waxman: The Administration has taken many strong actions to protect the environment, but I was disappointed by the Administration’s decision on ozone. They should have moved forward with the regulation by setting a standard to protect public health. I do hope that the White House continues to defend the environment and support the other pollution reduction actions that the EPA is working on. I think the American people want government to protect the environment and public health.

MCAF: Why do you believe that it is specifically important to regulate toxins that are harmful to babies and children?

Rep. Waxman: My basic belief on the role of government is that we have a responsibility to others in our society. We should help people who cannot help themselves. We have a responsibility to the American people to ensure that they are protected from and not unknowingly exposed to toxic substances. And we have to be especially careful when it comes to children and babies, who are the future of our country.

MCAF: What can citizens do to push back on this ongoing fight against EPA regulations for clean air?

Rep. Waxman: Individuals should make sure their views and voices are heard. They should talk to their elected representatives and urge them to fight for clean air.

Here is a video of Rep. Waxman’s floor statement on the TRAIN Act.



Related Stories:

Senator Udall: Moms Matter More Than Ever

Ozone-Related Deaths Expected To Increase Over Next 60 Years

The TRAIN Act Is On The Wrong Track



William C
William C3 months ago


W. C
W. C3 months ago

Not surprising, thank you.

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer6 years ago

Ann J (cont'd)
There are over a hundred dirty energy sector corporations who are members of ALEC along with the Kochs, it is their combined monetary, legal and business assets that are fueling these attacks on the EPA and any legislation enacted to protect the many from the polluting of our environment by the few. There is absolutely no evidence at all that Soros or any other billionaire are funding these protests, you are just trying to blow a smoke screen over these debates with unfounded innuendos.

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer6 years ago

Ann J
Please save your dumbing down of the debate by trying to say there is no Koch Agenda for the other ditto-heads like you and leave the thinking to people who actually research their facts rather than getting them from FOX news or the political right (which has been admitted to be one and the same). Their is a direct money trail from the Koch brothers/ALEC to Dick Armey's Freedomworks and direct money trail from FreedomWorks to the Tea Party organizations that have done the dirty works for them in disrupting Town Hall Meetings across the country during the health care and financial reforms debates. There is a direct paper trail from the Koch Brothers to the state Republican Governors and Legislators of legislation frameworks, drawn up by ALEC lawyers, given directly to those Republicans attending Koch Brother /ALEC retreats, that were lavish affairs in resorts around the country, that started the attacks on union rights that has gone from a covert Koch/ALEC action to an overt action. The Koch brothers have been trying to do away with the EPA for years because their foundation business is of the dirty energy sector. Billions and billions in profits are not enough for them, they want to be able to pollute air, land and water at will
without any financial impediments put in place by the EPA. There are over a hundred dirty energy sector corporations who are members of ALEC along with the Kochs, it is the combined monetary, legal and business assets that are fueling

Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

As Ira H said--A healthy country is a more productive country. And How much does dierty air cost us--even more than the high cost of keeping the air clean. This is why we might be much better off with excise taxes on pollution designed to capture external costs than with non-tariff regulatory burden designed to minimize pollution.

Robin T.
R T6 years ago

Frankly I don't give a damn about party politics, what is important is how the politician is going to work to improve the environment. Henry Waxman's database provides an ideal weapon against these ignorant, self-serving opponents of the EPA's efforts and supporters of potential oil and coal disasters. As 'Ira H' says "a healthy country is a more productive country"
We have very little time left to get things right on the environmental front, if we haven't already left it to late, so use Mr Waxman's database and let all the ignorant, greedy politicians know that they have ignored your wishes for the last time. VOTE THEM OUT.
You can be sure of one thing. When elections come around the party throwing the biggest parties, advertising the most, making the most noise, has the most support from dirty money. What do you expect from them when they don't even consider the environment during their election campaign.
Greed is what has got us to the situation we are in today. Your greed, my greed, political greed, business greed. It has caused us to demand higher salaries, bigger cars, bigger homes, everything must be bigger, better, brighter than our neighbours so we have all played our part in the environmental disaster we now face. So lets all play our part in reversing the situation lets start with ourselves, lets buy smaller cars, lets stop demanding higher salaries, bigger homes etc. Lets force the economy to slow down, reduce the amount of oil and coal we use and remove the ne

Ira Herson
Ira Herson6 years ago

When people think that spending money to improve the environment is a waste, remember that a healthy country is a more productive country. A well educated country has lower crime rates. this means a safer country.

Clean air may cost money but what is the cost for dirty air? What is the cost of bad health? I remember the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

Remember who voted for dirty air and VOTE THEM OUT!

Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey6 years ago

Oooooo Diane O has a new sock puppet, Ann J!

How many duplicate Care2 Accounts can she make? Or maybe she suffers from MPS (that's multiple personality syndrome, dear) since trying to believe in all the lies she gets from Faux News has made her poor lil head explode.

Well when Diane O and her split personality Ann J live downwind from the refineries in El Paso, or in Crossett Arkansas where residents say that the toxic pollutants being dumped for years by a Koch Industries plant is killing them (only 15 families reside around Penn Road and already 11 people have died of cancer. Even more are sick) then they can talk about there not being a Koch Bros. Agenda. If they can still talk, you know, with their lungs going, cancer infesting them, and their livers giving out.

Ira Herson
Ira Herson6 years ago

Good on you Henry Waxman. - You have been a staunch supporter for over 30 years and I guess that is because you are doing things right.

I cannot understand the Republicans moves against the EPA as it was Nixon that put it in place and gave it some teeth.

I hope that the people will look at the database remember who legislated to reward polluters and VOTE THEM OUT!

Penny C.
penny C6 years ago