'Green' groups attack Altmire
Two environmental groups on Thursday began airing a television ad attacking U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire for "siding with corporate polluters" by voting for bills to block or repeal Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on airborne toxins from boilers, incinerators, power plants and other sources.
The nonprofit League of Conservation Voters and the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund spent $350,000 to produce the 32-second ad that will run for two weeks on network and cable channels in Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District, which runs from New Castle to Murrysville. The ad is offered amid growing debate between clean air advocates and energy companies over implementing EPA regulations intended to cut the amount of carcinogens, smog and soot caused by power plants and heavy industry.
It urges people to tell Altmire, a McCandless Democrat, "to stop voting against kids' health." It cites a 2009 federal study that says the mercury level in 9 percent of women of child-bearing age in the Northeast is generally higher than levels found in women ages 16-49 elsewhere.
Altmire said in a statement that the ad was a baseless, negative attack engineered by an out-of-state special interest group.
"When I travel around Western Pennsylvania to discuss the factors holding back our economic recovery, onerous EPA regulations are at the top of the list," Altmire said. He said he voted to block "heavy-handed" regulations that would raise electricity rates and make it impossible for energy producers who employ Pennsylvanians to compete.
"I represent 700,000 residents of Western Pennsylvania and live here myself, along with my family," said Altmire. "To imply that I would support any legislation that would promote an unhealthy environment and pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink is preposterous."
Peter Altman, of the NRDC Action Fund, said the groups are targeting Altmire because of his repeated votes against clean air rules covering cross-state pollution and his district's proximity to Pittsburgh, a metro area that often registers unusually poor air quality.
A 2010 study by the Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based nonprofit environmental group, found the nation's highest yearly rates of mortality risk from coal-fired power plant pollution are in areas around Johnstown; Cumberland, Md.; Steubenville, Ohio; and Weirton, W.Va.
An EPA air toxin assessment released in March put Allegheny in the top 10 percent of counties nationwide for the risk of cancer or neurological diseases from breathing outdoor air pollutants.
"Pennsylvania is one of the states that stands to gain the most in terms of health benefits from letting the EPA do its job," Altman said. "He should be standing up for the health of constituents, not for polluters."
Similar TV ads criticized the "dirty air votes" of U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, and Tim Holden, D-Schuylkill, and legislators in Massachusetts, Montana and Michigan, said Kate Geller, a spokeswoman for the League of Conservation Voters.