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After Months of Tea Party Attacks on the Environment, Glimmers of Sanity Emerge

Frances Beinecke

Posted August 9, 2011

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Even as the nation’s attention turned to the debt crisis in the past few weeks, the Tea Party’s assault on environmental protections continued unabated. Republican party leaders brought an Interior and Environment spending bill to the House floor loaded with an unprecedented 39 policy riders—measures that won’t save a single penny, but will block the government from upholding basic environmental standards.

And yet cause for optimism has started to emerge.

A growing number of GOP lawmakers are starting to question the Tea Party’s reckless overreach. They realize that anti-environmental efforts do not reflect the wishes of the American people.

Earlier this month, ten GOP lawmakers voted against a misguided effort to repeal energy efficiency standards for light bulbs that will save consumers money and preserve their choice of bulbs at the same time.

Last week, 37 Republicans joined together with Democrats to successfully block a Tea Party measure that would have prevented the Department of Interior from protecting additional wildlife and plants under the Endangered Species Act.

More recently, there has been talk that the House Interior and Environment spending bill may not pass this fall as a free-standing measure because of its many destructive riders. Some lawmakers see the hazard in voting for a bill that allows polluters to dump waste into rivers and streams and to foul our air, and that repeals protections for iconic places like the Grand Canyon. They know their constituents want to preserve—not degrade—America’s air, water, and special landscapes.

But the battle is not over. Republican leaders and the Tea Party will continue to press for the riders as spending debates come to a head this fall.

We must continue to press the fledgling efforts of GOP lawmakers to break from the Tea Party’s war on environmental protections. And we must urge the Senate and the White House to oppose bad riders, as they did earlier this year with the Continuing Resolution.  The White House has already issued a strong veto threat against the riders in the Interior and Environment bill, and it must take as strong a line against anti-environmental riders in any spending measure.

August is a potent time to do this work. Town hall meetings during summer recess have helped shape the debate over health care reform and other recent legislative efforts. Now they give us a chance to ask lawmakers point blank: do you stand for Americans who want safe air, clean water, and protected landscapes for their families? Or do you stand for polluters who want to trash our environment and endanger our health?

I urge you to attend town hall meetings and pose these questions. Let your representatives and senators know your views in letters and calls. Lawmakers from all parties need to know their constituents value environmental protections and will fight to maintain them.  



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cynthia shugartAug 9 2011 10:26 PM

I can see protecting the environment to a certain measure but when it comes to a minnow blocking water to your vineyards and you losing your income and having you wait in line for free cheese, which is just one of the many species that you liberals want to protect, it is too BAD that your job and income does not involve an endangered species because maybe then you would know what it was like to lose everything due to a species.

Jessica DiCerboAug 12 2011 10:54 AM

Short-minded thinking is part of our current economic problem. We need to protect the EPA, not slash away recklessly at its funding because we "think" it is devastating businesses. If you want to preserve the high standard of living that many Americans and other developed countries enjoy, you'd be highly mistaken and naive to support trudging along at current pace.

On the topic of our economic woes, we should look at the structural problems of the tax code, of sneaky riders on bills, of entitlements, of corporate loopholes, and of runaway spending. The EPA is NOT the root of our economic problems but rather, the arrogant patriotism to political parties and pathetic refusal of compromise and learn.

Ali KoenAug 12 2011 02:27 PM

I can understand frustration at losing solvency due to a species, but as the ruling species on this planet we have slashed and burned our environment, and caused the extinction of animals already. we are also losing jobs to the globalization of business, as businesses look overseas to exploit cheap labor. The best we can do proceed cautiously, live frugally, and not put all of our financial eggs in one basket. The world is changing, and our role as christian stewards of the Earth must be fulfilled to ensure our long term survival on this planet

Dona LaSchiavaAug 12 2011 04:24 PM

I beg to differ with one of the comments posted insinuating that because individuals are very concerned about our environment that this somehow equates them with being liberals. I found this statement to be a rather presumptuous assumption. I am a registered Independent and while I can also empathize with individuals that have lost their livlihoods to environmental protection (which is rarely the case without hard evidence of its justification), I am extremely concerned that because of insatiable appetites and unconscionable quests for profits, corporations relentlessly evade and resist any responsibility for environmental stewardship and/or remedial measures once their damage is done. I site as a heartbreaking example; 60,000 cancer victims in the Appalachian Mountain regions whereby coal companies have willfully & maliciously dumped their toxic wastes into nearby community rivers and streams causing horrifying ground water toxicity. My taking issue with this abhorrent behavior does not make me a liberal, it makes me an outraged human being at the unconscionable acts of other human beings catering to their greed as opposed to their human decency!

hebintnAug 12 2011 05:21 PM

How can the T-party or any other group be against a clean healthy environment? It is beyond my ability to reason. Do these people really want to return to the days of burning rivers and water so polluted that you can't swim in it or air so foul that daily warnings are issued. Do these people really want to reduce our mountains to barren, flat, moonscapes? What do they want? Do they really expect the corporations to police themselves? Do they actually think that State regulators and legislators will do anything to step on the toes of their benefactors in big coal and other environment wreckers? We need the EPA to continue to do the fine job that they've done recently and even take it up a notch in some areas. We need our congress to do what is right and ban all surface coal mining, by passing HR 1375.

BarbaraAug 14 2011 12:42 AM

With the continuous butting of heads between democrat and republican party leaders, tit's very encouraging to see that some republican lawmakers know just how important it is to protect the environment and that they are questioning the teabaggers' motives for wanting to block bills meant to preserve our air, water, and natural resources. I applaud these leaders for standing up for our right to a clean and healthy environment for all, and especially for our children whose future health and wellbeing depends on it.

Nick WintersAug 14 2011 03:11 PM

I wish you Americans would go out and riot in the streets until your government gets their act together and gets down to work. It's absurd and sad how your two political parties do nothing but tear each other down, waste the taxpayers' money and worst of all, don't support the President. Shame! The environmental issues we all face on this planet need you, America, to smarten up and make your government accountable. Enough with the childish bickering already!

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