Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton

Delaying new federal regulations could kill nearly 140,000 Americans? That's what a couple of major environmental groups are now claiming. But they aren't showing how they came up with such an allegation.

In a news release titled “Walberg Blasted For Votes Endangering Public Health,” the League of Conservation Voters said legislation supported by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, RR-Tipton, “could result in as many as 139,500 American lives lost to air pollution over the next seven years.”

The same statement also appears in a news release under the Sierra Club of Michigan banner. A Washington, D.C., telephone number for news media inquiries is listed on both of the releases.

At issue is H.R. 2681, the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011, commonly referred to as the TRAIN Act. It would establish a committee, chaired by the Department of Commerce, to analyze the impacts of a number of Environment Protection Agency regulations. It would also delay implementation of the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and proposed Maximum Achievable Control Technology, coal combustion residuals, and cooling water intake requirements for power plants.

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The news releases were issued in conjunction with TV ads that began airing this week attacking Rep. Walberg for his “yes” vote on the TRAIN Act. These ads are part of a campaign run by environmental groups against Rep. Walberg and nine other U.S. House members who are seen as vulnerable who voted for H.R. 2681. The measure was passed by the U.S. House this past summer.

The ad features a baby being spoon fed a variety of toxic chemicals.

Click here to see the ad.

“Tim Walberg voted to require regulations from Washington bureaucrats to be reviewed to determine their economic costs and these groups decide to go way over the top instead of having a reasonable discussion,” Walberg spokesman Joe Wicks said, responding to both the ad and the 139,500 deaths claim. “Tim Walberg will continue to advance policies that protect both our environment and Michigan jobs.”

According to the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters, which are sponsoring the instate ads, the spots will air for a week in the Lansing market. The Lansing market might have been chosen because it covers portions of Walberg's district that would potentially be receptive to its message. The fact that a lot of lawmakers spend their time in Lansing is probably another reason the area was targeted.

Capitol Confidential telephoned the Washington, D.C., telephone number and asked Kate Geller, director of media relations for the League of Conservation Voters, how the 139,500 deaths had been estimated. She directed the inquiry to the Pete Altman Blog and an article titled “US House Passes Lethal TRAIN Legislation.”

The question of how the 139,500 figure was calculated was then forwarded to Altman via email. So far there has been no response.

 H.R. 2681 was drafted primarily to counter the attempt by President Barack Obama to use the EPA to impose rules and regulations without Congressional oversight or approval. Many Republicans argue that Obama's use of the EPA in this fashion is unconstitutional. Although the legislation was passed by the U.S. House, few expect it to pass in the U.S. Senate.

Supporters of the TRAIN Act argue that the EPA is jumping the gun on the regulations. They say the new rules would:

  • Cost the power industry $21 billion per year;
  • Cause an average loss of 183,000 jobs per year;
  • Increase electricity costs by double digits in many regions of the country;
  • Cost consumers more than $50 billion more for natural gas; and
  • Reduce the disposable income of the average American family by $270 a year.

The League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C., appears to have been the actual source of the ads and news releases. It has described Rep. Walberg's support of the bill as “opposition to new clean air standards that would curb air pollution from toxic pollutants like mercury and arsenic.” The group describes H.R. 2681 as and attempt by the U.S. House to “block clean air protections against life-threatening air pollution.”

Those opposing the legislation seem to be winning the webpage rhetorical battle. A search for Internet articles on the TRAIN Act reveals several pages posted by Anti-TRAIN Act groups, before even one posting that supports the bill is found.

However, polling shows environmental concerns of American voters are relatively low. On air and water pollution alone, Gallup has recently measured 25 percentage point plummets in concern. In 1989, Gallup found that 69 percent of Americans worried “a great deal” about “contamination of soil and water by toxic waste,” and 63 percent expressed the same concerns about air pollution. Last year, the numbers had fallen to 44 and 38 percent, respectively.

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See also:

The Economic Punishment Agency

The EPA's War on Energy

Sierra Club’s War on Coal Blamed for 53k Lost Jobs in Michigan

The Lone Star State's stand against the EPA