A vote for the environment is a vote for N.H.

Last modified: 2/15/2011 12:00:00 AM
Asked last summer where he stood on global climate change, candidate Charlie Bass told WMUR: "The overwhelming scientific evidence points to the existence of global climate change. A debate continues about the sources of this climate change, and it should continue within the scientific community. I support commonsense policies that will seek to reduce emissions that, at least in part, can be linked to climate change."

This week Bass, now the Republican congressman for New Hampshire's 2nd District, will have a chance to support such a commonsense policy. Here's hoping he'll vote for his constituents, rather than for the oil and gas industries placing considerable pressure on members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to do the opposite.

At issue is legislation sponsored by Bass's committee chairman, Fred Upton, to strip from the Environmental Protection Agency the ability to regulate global warming pollution. You'll recall that back in 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that global warming gases are pollutants covered by the existing Clean Air Act and that the EPA was required to make a determination on their impact on human health. Having found that such pollution is, indeed, harmful to us all, the agency intends to set limits on such pollutants from their largest sources: power plants and refineries, trucks, buses and cars.

This was the conclusion of scientists - not Democratic politicians. The head of the EPA under George W. Bush wanted the same authority as President Obama's EPA. He said science and the law left him no choice. Plans for limiting global warming pollution under both administrations are similar.

The debate, however, continues.

The Upton bill, and companion legislation in the Senate, would prohibit the EPA and the states from strengthening future vehicle fuel-efficiency and tailpipe air-pollution standards. It would block the agency from reducing emissions from power plants, refineries and cement kilns.

Upton and his supporters argue that such regulation would hurt the economy. It's the same line used in the 1970s when the government started requiring catalytic converter technology in cars to reduce air pollution and in the 1980s when the government attacked acid rain pollution. In fact, the air grew cleaner and new technologies sprung up to meet the challenge.

Generations of 2nd District congressmen (including Bass himself, in an earlier congressional tenure) have consistently argued that representing New Hampshire means looking out for the environment. In this case, the health of Bass's constituents could be improved by better regulation of aging power plants to the west. The health of everyone's constituents will be improved by more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. And, of course, there is an economic component to that environmentalism too: New Hampshire's tourism and recreation industries depend on climate protection.

Will Bass's vote make a difference on the committee or in the House? Alas, Upton's bill appears to have considerable support. But in taking a stand for his constituents, Bass will nonetheless be representing the 2nd District in the manner his constituents have long appreciated. Additionally, he will be setting an example for freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte about what it means to be a New Hampshire Republican in Washington. And in the Senate, a strong stand from Ayotte could help kill such legislation.

We urge Bass to vote for science and the environment and reject the Upton legislation.

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