US EPA says big budget cut would hurt public health

Wed Mar 2, 2011 11:07pm GMT

* EPA: money fighting pollution is preventive medicine

* Debate on this year's budget continues

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ability to protect citizens from premature death and other health problems would be gutted if Congress slashes funding as threatened by Republican lawmakers, its chief said on Wednesday.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have been trying to cut the EPA's budget for this year, saying its regulations on clean air and water hurt businesses.

"Big polluters would flout legal restrictions on dumping contaminants into the air, into rivers and onto the ground," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee.

Jackson said every dollar that goes to protecting federal clean air and clean water laws saves as much as $20 or $30 in costs for health problems requiring visits to hospitals.

"I'm simply saying it's preventive medicine," Jackson said.

The EPA released a report this week that said cutting pollution under the Clean Air Act will save $20 trillion by 2020 in health costs. It will also have prevented 230,000 premature deaths annually from heart attacks, and other health problems that can be brought on by smokestack pollutants such as soot, it said.   Continued...

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