On Breaking the Clean Air Act: A Letter to a Texas Senator

It’s a rare thing that a Congressman respond to an e-mail the same day you send it.  It makes sense, considering that this means he or she isn’t checking for new messages every hour as some of us do. 

But it’s interesting to hear them write back.  It’s more cordial than an ad.  They know by then that you cared enough to write to them– they don’t need to rile you up to get your interest.  They know that you talked to them– they don’t need to simplify.  And there’s not a news camera or picket sign in sight.

I wrote to Texas Senator John Cornyn earlier this week, only to hear from him this morning.  I’d told him about an upcoming change to the Clean Air Act, which classified greenhouse gases as “an endangerment to public health and welfare” and now limits their use.  Cornyn’s was supporting Senate Joint Resolution 26, a new measure to block that clause of the Clean Air Act.

He explained himself for a full page.  He said he agreed with the science of climate change and greenhouse gases, but didn’t want it to charge stakeholders, states, industries and citizens to make them cut their emissions.

 Here I share with you what I hope was a modest response.

“Dear Senator Cornyn,

I’m not sure to what extent you read follow-up e-mails such as this one.  It’s a pleasure to hear from you, in any case.

It’s good to hear a reasonably-worded argument for your case on the Clean Air Act, but I politely disagree.  Your priority is in the economy.  It is that each person have more money.  My priority, as a voter, would be that the Legislative branch keep Texas’ climate where it is.  The mass extinctions, the number of deserts we would create and the irrevocable changes in our rain patterns cannot be treated by money.

I’d rather be a poor man in Texas than a wealthier man in a Texas forever warped by the effects of Climate Change.  I’d rather pay the cost of not polluting now, instead of watching Corpus Christi and Galveston shredded and sunk by the winds and the rains, and instead of wading through a Houston that’s been flooded by a hurricane.  I’d rather drive through the countryside in a more costly low-emissions vehicle than get a dirtier car cheap and watch the miles of cracked desert roll by where grassland once was.  I won’t save money now so that twenty years from now, I can afford to condition my house and box the climate out.  Someone else down the road won’t be able to afford to do the same.

That is a fate I don’t wish on anyone.  Not on myself, and not on this next generation.

You see I don’t only measure the worth of a state by its richness, John.  I measure it by the one and only thing that every citizen gets.  Everyone gets the weather.  All the old words of hope about “breathing the free air,” and every stretch of land from sea to shining sea, were literal.  And if the energy sector produces one less smokestack, and I have to pay even one-and-a-half times the energy bill that I pay now from regulations that keep some CO2 out of the air, we will have guaranteed something essential in America.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Have a good day.  The weather’s supposed to be nice outside.”

As of press time, it is 71 degrees and cloudless with a light breeze.


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