Some Republicans in Congress would like to roll back the progress made in the past two years to curb global warming, clean up the air and protect the land. That would be a grievous mistake for the country, both economically and environmentally.
Several measures proposed by GOP House members in the first weeks of the 112th Congress would allow greenhouse gases to continue to undermine the health of Americans and warm the planet. Clearly, those lawmakers put a higher value on oil and gas industries, polluting factories, coal-fired power plants and refiners than on the lives and health of Americans.
Touted as job-promoting legislation, Republican House bills would hamstring the Environmental Protection Agency in its efforts to curb global warming and clean up America's air. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that the EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, but Republicans are trying to sidestep that ruling with a variety of measures.
One bill would change the Clean Air Act so the law couldn't be used as a basis for controlling greenhouse gases; another would delay EPA regulations requiring polluting industries to clean up their act; and a third would block funding needed to enforce the EPA regulations.
Dirty air, with which Utahns are all too familiar, causes thousands of premature deaths each year and exacerbates breathing problems for millions of Americans. Research has even shown a link between air pollution and the rising incidence of autism in children.
The argument that reducing carbon emissions will eliminate jobs is a fossilized way of thinking. Clean energy is clearly driving the next wave of innovation that will spur economic development around the world. If we cling to the old methods of producing power and fuel, we risk conceding preeminence in clean energy research and development to others, such as China, which has made them a priority.
On another front, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee has spoken out against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's order to the Bureau of Land Management to move ahead to protect lands with wilderness qualities. The mandate overturns a deal made by former Gov. Mike Leavitt and former Interior Secretary Gail Norton to stop the BLM from doing its lawful duty to preserve Utah land treasures.
Lee wants a return to the "no more wilderness" policy that opened Utah's scenic and culturally sensitive lands to rampant all-terrain-vehicle use and oil and gas drilling.
A backward march to that era would be a mistake.