05/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dirty Polluters Rewriting the Clean Air Act

On Wednesday, dirty energy lobbyists took a big step towards achieving a long-cherished goal: shredding the Clean Air Act.

Leaks from a closed-door meeting between these industries and Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) suggest some serious challenges for the future of our fight against climate change.

One can make the argument that the progress displayed by the leak of a draft Senate roadmap on Wednesday is at least somewhat encouraging since it shows evidence that a bipartisan, comprehensive climate bill process is moving forward in the Senate. But judging by what may be sacrificed in the draft, it is increasingly hard to make that argument with a straight face.

It has never been more critical to keep the Clean Air Act intact. The Obama administration has carried on the Clean Air Act's 40-year tradition of regulating dangerous pollution by tightening our fuel mileage standards and beginning to crack down on pollution from the oldest, dirtiest, coal plants. It is also critical that we don't override some of the state laws that have led the way in our domestic fight against climate change and provided some glimmers of hope in that fight.

Unfortunately, according to leaked reports on Wednesday, the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman draft does both of these things: it would gut the Clean Air Act and over-ride existing state laws that provide critical environmental protections. One must always be cautious of rumors and leaks in Washington D.C., but one must also be on guard against bad policy first floated out as a trial balloon.

All three senators should know that, while compromise is the business of the day in a deeply divided Congress like the one we now have, you cannot compromise away basic environmental protections like the Clean Air Act that have served Americans well since the Nixon Administration.

In the end, we would also caution progressives in the U.S. Senate against rushing to embrace any roadmap that the long time-lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems to approve. That lobbyist, Bruce Josten, was quoted on Wednesday giving a general approval to the Senate draft -- and that alone should give advocates of strong and comprehensive language pause. The Chamber's record on this issue is atrocious, consisting of recent remarks debating the very existence of climate change and longstanding attacks against comprehensive legislation. When you factor in this week's front page Washington Post story detailing the obscene amounts of money the group is preparing to spend on its radical agenda in the fall elections, it would seem clear that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is not looking out for the best interests of forward-thinking Americans who want to start building the clean energy economy.

1Sky is asking all allies and supporters to call Senator Kerry, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and the head of the White House's Climate and Energy office, Carol Browner. We need to shut down their phone lines in order to make sure our message is delivered loud and clear: the Clean Air Act must stay intact.