by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund, Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 11:10:12 AM EDT
The list of bedrock American laws that Rand Paul is opposed to keeps growing longer. In addition to the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Paul has made it clear that he doesn't like the Clean Air Act either. Last weekend, Paul said that President Obama should leave Kentucky alone, especially when it comes to pollution. "You need to keep the EPA out of our affairs," he called on the president.
Paul prefers to have things "handled on a local level."But unlike Paul, I grew up in Kentucky, and I question this logic.
My elementary school sat on a cliff above an Ashland Oil refinery, and our playground was about eye level with the top of their smokestacks. When the paint on teachers' car started to peel and children started getting sick, the PTA tried to make Ashland Oil do something about it. After some fighting, the company finally installed air monitors on the kickball field - and a few months later the school closed its doors.
What sticks with me still is the way the problem was solved: As far as I can see, Ashland Oil didn't clean up its act at all. Our school shut down instead.
Federal efforts to cut pollution aren't perfect, but they are the last line of defense for places like my hometown. They literally save our lives: the Clean Air Act, for instance, has been documented to prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths.
Kentucky has a long dark history of environmental injustice. Amazing groups like Appalachian Voices have been fighting for cleaner water, cleaner air, and better safety rules for miners. They often find local solutions, but they also turn to federal agencies like the EPA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration when they need to.
Paul may call it "federal overreach," but I call it protecting the health of Kentuckians.
Of course, Paul trots out the old saw that cutting pollution kills jobs. But I think Paul is more concerned about ideology than jobs, because if he really wanted to create jobs for Kentucky, he wouldn't turn his back on clean energy and climate legislation. Clean energy jobs are growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs. Paul would rather shoot down federal climate solutions than bring the jobs of the 21st century to his state.
Instead, he is banking on the same old dirty industries, and he seems to think that if children get asthma because they played on a field next to a refinery, that's alright because someone had a job. I am sorry, but I can't accept the misconception that my classmates and I were the collateral damage of some polluter's payroll. Good companies that are following the law and being good neighbors provide jobs every single day.
Companies have found time and again that a clean business model is part of the recipe for a successful company. That is why 5,171 small businesses from across the country are supporting the climate bill. That is why some of the largest companies in the nation are calling on Congress to take action immediately.
The parents I know in Kentucky have no interest in working jobs that sacrifice their children's health. They want to provide for their families AND keep them safe at the same time. This isn't an either or situation. Paul seems to forget this in the midst of his fixation with "federal overreach." I too respect states rights, but states still have to be good neighbors. Local empowerment doesn't give you the right to endanger your residents' health, export pollution into nearby states, or block national solutions to fight global climate change.
If leaders like Paul forget these lessons in responsibility, then I am glad federal agencies like the EPA can step in and remind them.