04/18/2011 10:24 am ET Updated Jun 18, 2011

Stopping the Republican Attack on Our Country's Clean Air Protections: Lessons from California

In California's 15th District, we know that technological innovation and environmental stewardship go hand in hand to enhance our quality of life. That is why I strongly opposed an attack on California's revolutionary clean air work that unfortunately passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month.

H.R.910, authored by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, wages the largest assault in recent memory on our public health protections and undermines California's pioneering efforts to rid our air of harmful tailpipe emissions. Chairman Upton's bill also blocks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing life-saving measures to clean up dangerous carbon emissions and rejects the scientific consensus that global warming poses a threat to human health.

H.R.910 impacts Californians more than most because California has made significant progress in tackling air pollution and cutting oil consumption by putting more fuel efficient cars on the road.

Environment California's report, "Clean Cars in California: Four Decades of Progress in the Unfinished Battle to Clean up Our Air," shows that our state's clean car standards have helped cut total automobile air pollution in California by more than 85 percent since 1975. I am proud that California has implemented landmark legislation to cut global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050, and California's work to improve automobile fuel economy and rid our air of debilitating pollution is a critical part of meeting this challenge.

These state-level efforts have been essential to keeping Californians healthy. However, the truth of the matter is that pollution does not stop at any state's border, and we can and should be doing more to build upon California's progress, not tear it down.

As a country, we continue to depend heavily on sources of energy like coal, oil, and natural gas that spew dangerous pollution and put our health at risk. Carbon dioxide pollution emitted from power plants and cars fuels global warming, which scientists predict will lead to more unhealthy air days, asthma attacks, and trips to the hospital for Californians.

In California, more than three million people - including nearly 900,000 children - suffer from asthma, according to the American Lung Association. While California has laws to limit carbon pollution and curb global warming, there are currently no limits on carbon pollution the federal level, leaving the health of many of our citizens at risk from the effects of global warming caused by unchecked out-of-state sources.

Thankfully, EPA is moving forward to protect the health of all Americans by updating and implementing long-overdue national limits on many pollutants from power plants, including carbon.

Powerful polluters want Californians to believe that cleaner air means fewer jobs. The facts do not support them. The Clean Air Act has proven to be one of the greatest tools we have to cost-effectively protect Americans' health and our environment. A new EPA analysis finds that in 2010 alone the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 lives nationwide and that the implementation of this single law will lead to $2 trillion in economic benefits by 2020. The Clean Air Act's health protections have also made us more productive by preventing 3.2 million missed school days and 13 million missed workdays last year alone from avoided illness.

As EPA moves forward on enforcing the Clean Air Act, however, some in Congress, like Chairman Upton, are working to stop them, claiming that new pollution limits will make the lights go out and destroy our economy. From where I sit in Silicon Valley, we are living proof that this rhetoric is utterly false.

Indeed, forty years of cleaner air and cleaner cars demonstrates that we can become healthier and more prosperous at the same time. The truth is that Chairman Upton's bill poses direct threats to the health and innovativeness of Californians.

H.R. 910 is unlikely ever to see the light of day in the U.S. Senate, where our Senators, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, have been outspoken critics of attacks on California's clean air progress.

Nevertheless, I vigorously oppose this attempt to let America's biggest polluters continue to jeopardize our health without limit, and I will continue to defend the health and well-being of the people of the 15th district against all attempts to weaken or delay California's clean air protections.

Rep Mike Honda represents California's 15th district, serves on the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, and is a member of House Budget and Appropriations Committees. Follow Rep Honda on Facebook and Twitter.