Phone lines at the offices of the two California senators were kept busy today when more than 70 UCSB students called to ask their elected representatives to oppose an air pollution bill.

The UCSB chapter of the California Public Interest Group (CalPIRG) set up a table adjacent to the Arbor store where members offered passing students the opportunity to call Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to voice their concerns regarding the Clear Skies Act of 2003. The bill is currently awaiting public comment in Congress. Seventy-four students used the personal cell phones of UCSB CalPIRG members at the table asking Boxer and Feinstein to oppose the bill.

“We’re asking them to vote ‘no’ on the Clear Skies Act,” said David Wight, a UCSB CalPIRG member and freshman history major. “We’re also asking them to champion the cause and to be vocal about it in the Senate.”

A summary from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states the bill “amends Title IV of the Clean Air Act to establish new cap-and-trade programs requiring reductions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury emissions from electric generating facilities and amends Title I of the Clean Air Act to provide an alternative regulatory classification for units subject to the cap-and-trade programs.”

CalPIRG UCSB Chapter Chair Kerry Vineberg, a senior literature major in the College of Creative Studies, said the bill contains loopholes for power companies and it would be a setback to the Clear Air Act of 1972.

“I think the reason they called it the ‘Clear Skies Act’ is because they wanted to give power companies more freedom to determine if we have clear skies or not,” she said.

Vineberg said about 50 percent of the people who visited the table were unaware of the Clear Skies Act. Although they did not know of the bill’s existence, the vast majority of students were supportive of CalPIRG’s stance against it, said Lucy Hellier, a junior EAP student from the U.K. majoring in environmental studies.

“About 50 percent of the people actually called,” she said.

Hellier said the remaining students did not call because they were on their way to class.

Sarah Heerhartz , a junior biology major in the College of Creative Studies, attempted to call the offices of both Boxer and Feinstein, but was unable to reach anyone and instead got an automated answer. She said she would probably try again later.

“I think it’s important that our environment is protected and our air stays clean,” she said.