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April 13, 2007
Senate Passes Stem Cell Legislation
The U.S. Senate has again passed legislation on stem cell research, despite President Bush’s threat to veto the bill for a second time. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (S. 5) passed in the Senate by a vote of 63-34, just two votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a Presidential veto. The House of Representatives vote on an identical measure in January also failed to secure the veto-proof majority.
The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), would significantly alter current federal policy by requiring that the federal government conduct and support embryonic stem cell research, regardless of the date on which the stem cell lines were derived and provided that the embryos used were originally created for in vitro fertilization, would otherwise be discarded, and were donated by fully informed, consenting individuals.
The current bill is almost identical to legislation passed by both the House and Senate in July 2006. The Administration’s position is at odds with the recommendations of National Institute of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D., who commented on the stem cell debate during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing last month. "From my standpoint, it is clear today that American science will be better-served, and the nation will be better-served, if we let our scientists have access to more stem cell lines," said Dr. Zerhouni. He added that the NIH should lead embryonic stem cell research because the agency has more scientific expertise than any other institution in the world. The ATS Washington office thanks all of the Society’s members who contacted their representatives in support of the bill and will keep members informed of further developments.
U.S. Supreme Court Rules to Clear the Air
In a 9-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Environmental Defense (formerly the Environmental Defense Fund) in its case against Duke Energy Corporation regarding air pollution emissions. The ATS participated in the litigation as an amicus curie or “friend of the court” petitioner in support of the Environmental Defense position.
The key issue in case was the definition of “modification” as it is applied to two separate programs within the Clean Air Act: 1) the New Source Review (NSR) program, which requires industrial facilities to install available pollution control equipment when they modernize their physical plants, and 2) the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program, which requires that industrial facilities conduct appropriate upkeep of their physical plants to prevent deterioration that could result increased pollution.
According to the section of the Clean Air Act that covers the legislative authority of the NSR program, modification is defined as any change that results in an increase in the hourly rate of pollution emissions. Under the PSD program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines modification as any change that results in an increase in the total annual pollution emissions.
In this case, Duke Power renovated eight power plants in North and South Carolina. As a result of the maintenance, the plants now run several hours longer each day (at the same pollution/hour ratio), thus increasing total pollution output.
In its lawsuit, the EPA initially claimed that Duke had violated the PSD program by increasing total annual pollution. The power company, on the other hand, argued that the EPA’s definition of modification was invalid, and that the NSR program’s definition of modification should apply. Because the maintenance Duke conducted did not increase the pollution/hour ratio (even though the plants were running longer each day), they claim they were in compliance with the Clean Air Act.
Prior to the Supreme Court decision, two lower courts had sided with Duke. After these initial losses, the EPA adopted Duke’s reasoning and drafted regulations that, if uncontested, would have lead to significant increases in air pollution. When the EPA refused to pursue the issue, the Environmental Defense took the lawsuit to the Supreme Court.
In the Supreme Court case, the ATS outlined the known health respiratory effects of power plant emissions and demonstrated how the court’s decision would impact the public’s health.
ATS Joins Patient Groups in Call for Increased Research Funding
On March 28, the Society’s Research Advocacy Committee (RAC) held another successful joint Advocacy Day with the ATS Public Advisory Roundtable (PAR) in Washington, D.C. At the annual partnership event, ATS physicians and researchers joined together with patient representatives to focus on health research issues and influence federal public policy.
The one-day event included more than 20 scheduled appointments with House and Senate offices. The RAC/PAR representatives sought support from representatives on three specific legislative issues:
- Support for increased funding for the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Veterans Administration;
- Support for the creation of a national coverage policy for pulmonary rehabilitation services under Medicare (through S. 329/H.R. 552);
- Support for alleviating the shortage of critical care specialists through new legislation (the Patient-Focused Critical Care Enhancement Act, S. 718).
Participating PAR representatives included: Donna Appell, President of the Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Network; Pamela DeNardo of COPD International; Willard Fry, M.D., of Northwestern University; Gregory Porta, President of the Children’s Interstitial Lung Disease Foundation; Theresa Geiger, Vice President of Patient Outreach and Advocacy with the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis; Karen Fulton, President/CEO of the American Lung Association of the East Bay; Suzanne Pattee, Vice President of Public Policy with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; John Walsh, President of the Alpha One Foundation; and Eileen Zacharias, President of the ARDS Foundation.
The RAC was represented by committee chair Judith Neubauer, Ph.D., James Brown, M.D., Mark Fuster, M.D., Daniel Salerno, M.D., and Jordan Metcalf, M.D.
Points of Contact
|Gary Ewart||Senior Director, Government Relations|
|Nuala Moore||Senior Legislative Representative|
|Joe Kirby||DC Office Administrator|