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Mon Dec 1, 2014, 12:23 PM

GOP House Leader from Polluted-Bakersfield Leads Fight for Dirtier Air

Different men, same policies.


Newly-minted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) knows something about air pollution. A decade ago, his part of California averaged 153 bad ozone days a year and, while improved by force of regulation, it’s still the worst in the state. He’s averse to changing that situation in the near future.

McCarthy, who was promoted from whip this year when Eric Cantor lost his House seat, vowed to do what he could to thwart a new, stronger standard proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for reducing smog-producing ozone. Ozone is so geographically problematic in California, the federal government has a given the state a longer timeline to meet the standards.

In a statement, McCarthy called the Central Valley’s “cleaner air year over year” acceptable “progress.” But now, “EPA’s latest ozone regulation kicks the ladder out from underneath us.”

There isn’t that far to fall. San Joaquin Valley led the nation this year with 97 bad ozone days. If the new ozone standard were applied, the region would be out of compliance on 146 days. That’s not good. Ozone is hard on humans. It wrecks their lungs, wreaks havoc with asthmatics and has been linked to nervous system disorders and heart ailments.

There may be some disagreement about how low the particulate count has to be before people can breathe easy, but the consensus is we’re not there yet. The only question is do we want to pay the price to go lower.
McCarthy’s opposition to the EPA standard was echoed throughout the GOP hierarchy. Republicans are taking over the Senate and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), a vociferous climate-change denier, will become chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The ultra-conservative U.S. Supreme Court is business friendly and the surging GOP is one presidential election away from controlling all levers of the federal government.

Voters in Bakersfield and Congressional District 23 might be close to getting the kind of air they voted for.

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