The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Chicagoland Pols not looking out for Chicagoland skies…or lungs...

By JoshMogerman in News on Mar 5, 2011 9:00PM

Fisk Power Plant swanksalot
Chicago isn’t exactly known for its pristine, healthy air, given our smoggy history and one of the nation's highest asthma rates. But air pollution issues have soared to unusual prominence of late with highly visible battles around the coal plants in the City, concerns about pollution wafting over from just outside of town, and even some of the local commuter trains. Those issues don’t seem to have dented the consciousness of much of Illinois’ Congressional delegation in DC, where the local battles pale in comparison to open warfare on the Environmental Protection Agency and pollution laws.

The first skirmishes broke out a couple weeks ago in the midst of the House of Representatives’ federal budget legislation process. Their first draft budget for the remainder of the year (the continuing resolution, HR1) included a number of policy amendments that would have rolled back mercury emissions limits and other air pollution protections. Despite a House vote that largely followed party lines, there were some surprises in the Illinois delegation including Democrat Dan Lipinski votes for the pollution-laden budget proposal from Republicans like Adam Kinzinger and Judy Biggert. A recognition that these and other amendments to the budget would lead to a standoff and the specter of a federal government shutdown eventually led to a two-week time out while issues can be sorted out. A new budget will come up for a vote later this month. It will be interesting to watch where the Land of Lincoln votes fall should similar policy amendments make their way back into the resolution---though we have to ask why those sorts of policy decisions are even being discussed in the budget process?

The White House has felt so much heat from Congress over other proposals to rollback air and water pollution protections, as well as eliminate the EPA, that they put out a report explaining the economic and environmental benefits of the Clean Air Act. While we find it is shocking that the bedrock legislation protecting Americans from air pollution is even being questioned, the report outlines some pretty impressive health results from the law, including prevention of 160,000 premature deaths in 2010 alone.

This might not be the most political site in Chicago’s blogosphere, but we like breathing. And given the entrenched problems this region already has, we would hope that Illinois’ Congressional delegation wouldn’t go out of their way to make it worse…sadly, so far this year, it hasn’t worked out that way.

Update: Rep. Lipinski's Communications Director emailed to say that
"Rep. Lipinski voted against H.R. 1, the House Republicans’ spending bill. Moreover, Rep. Lipinski’s voting record is indisputably pro-environment. For instance, he received a perfect score of 100 from the League of Conservation Voters on its 2010 National Environmental Scorecard."