The head of the Environmental Protection Agency under former President George H.W. Bush on Tuesday called on Republicans to defend clean-air regulations from “demagogic assaults” by members of Congress.
“It’s time once again to put on battle gear, to charge out and remind the country that Republicans, whose party has an admirable record on environmental issues going back to Teddy Roosevelt, in fact still do care about asthma and allergies, about the effects on the young, the ill and the elderly of particulates and hot polluted air, about hospital admissions and lung impairment,” William Reilly said in prepared remarks at a summit on the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.
Reilly was instrumental in the Clean Air Act amendments, which were aimed at limiting acid rain and air pollution. Reilly called the effort “George H.W. Bush’s monumental contribution to the environment.”
But about 20 years later, Republicans in Congress are targeting the Clean Air Act and EPA efforts to impose a slew of new regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mercury emissions and other air pollutants.
Reilly, a Republican, defended EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s clean-air agenda.
“These rules are grounded in the best available science, and what’s more, given the priority we all hold for the economy, they will result in job creation as companies acquire and install pollution controls,” he said.
Reilly slammed House Republicans for passing legislation in recent months to block or delay EPA regulations to limit pollution from cement plant and industrial boilers, as well as blocking the agency’s climate-change and coal ash rules.
“But for some of the most prominent leaders of the Republican Party, science has left the building,” he said. “It scarcely features.”
The former EPA administrator — who was co-chairman of the BP oil spill commission — lamented what he sees as a changing Republican party, noting that George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan made major environmental strides.
“Republicans once were the party of science where environmental policy was concerned,” Reilly said. “When the Reagan administration became persuaded that CFCs were destroying upper atmospheric ozone, it led a reluctant Europe to embrace the Montreal Protocol — and the Bush administration we served made America the first developed country to ratify the Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
Reilly also criticized centrist Democrats in Congress who have supported efforts to roll back EPA rules.
Speaking to former H.W. Bush administration officials who worked to enact the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, Reilly said Republicans need to defend the country’s environmental laws.
“My message to you to whom the country owes so much for your efforts to effect a genuinely transforming new law on clean air in 1990, one that served more than any other in American history to integrate the nation’s environmental aspirations with its economic goals, is simply this: Stand up and speak out in its defense,” he said.