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Official White House Response to Protect Children from Dangerous Air Pollution
This response was published on November 16, 2011.

Protecting the Air We Breathe

By Nancy Sutley

I want to thank Alexandra for her petition. For those of you who don't know, Alexandra also recently wrote a guest blog post on telling the story of her son's struggles with asthma and his book about bringing his fight for cleaner air to DC, where he met then-Senator Obama.

As anyone who has followed President Obama's record knows, protecting the health of our families is a top priority for this Administration. One of the key ways we have delivered on that commitment is by taking sensible steps to reduce dangerous pollution in the air we breathe.

One of the most important steps the Administration has taken to reduce harmful pollution, save families money, and cut our reliance on foreign oil has been establishing historic fuel economy standards for the cars and trucks we drive. In fact, on November 16, 2011, the Administration issued proposed fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks that will roughly double the efficiency of these vehicles by 2025. Taken together, the President's programs for cars and light duty trucks represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in three decades and will save American families $1.7 trillion in fuel costs, reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels, and eliminate 6 billion metric tons of carbon pollution. The Administration also recently announced the first-ever national fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, which will save vehicle owners $50 billion in fuel costs and reduce carbon pollution by an additional 270 million metric tons.

In March of this year, the Administration proposed a new Mercury and Air Toxics Standard to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants. The reductions in mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, acid gas emissions, and particulates will particularly benefit children's health, preventing 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis each year. The Administration has also committed to updating ozone standards based on the best and new science when the science review is completed in 2013.

In July, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action to cut harmful smokestack emissions that threaten the health of communities downwind from power plants by issuing a Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. This would help control emissions of air pollutants that lead to soot and smog using widely available and cost-effective technology that is already deployed at power plants across the country. It will also help protect hundreds of millions of Americans living downwind, preventing 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 1.8 million sick days per year.

None of this progress has come easy. Some the nation's largest polluters and their allies in Congress have been fighting these common-sense standards every step of the way, but the President has made clear that he will continue to oppose efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act, and the protections it provides our families.

The benefits of these protections are real. A recent report by the EPA estimates that direct benefits from the Clean Air Act will reach almost $2 trillion in 2020. In 2010 alone, Clean Air Act standards prevented 1.7 million asthma attacks and helped American children avoid over 3 million missed school days.

As the President has said, we cannot let the economic crisis be used as a tool to roll back the basic protections that families have counted on for decades. That is why we will vigorously oppose any efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act or dismantle the historic progress this Administration has made to date.

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Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality

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