Monday, April 27, 2015

GOP Congress Gets Environmental ‘F' Grade So Far

Dan Heyman, Public News Service (PA)

PHOTO: Conservation and environmental groups are harshly criticizing the first few months of a GOP-led Congress they say has done nothing to benefit clean air, clean water or wilderness protection. Photo credit: Beth Little.
PHOTO: Conservation and environmental groups are harshly criticizing the first few months of a GOP-led Congress they say has done nothing to benefit clean air, clean water or wilderness protection. Photo credit: Beth Little.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The 114th U.S. Congress gets a failing grade from conservation and environmental groups for the lawmakers' first four months of the session.

The Climate Action Campaign, Defenders of Wildlife, The Wilderness Society, Clean Water Action – among others – have tallied a report card for the Republican-led Congress under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, says the lawmakers haven't done much of anything to protect land, water or wildlife, or to fight climate change.

"It's an F from our perspective,” Karpinski states. “Polluters and their allies in Congress, who invested over $700 million in this new Congress, are doing all they can to try to wreck with our public health protections and destroy the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act."

Congressional Republicans say they are trying to promote growth by easing regulations. But critics contend GOP lawmakers are helping the corporations that have been major campaign donors.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed stronger protections for drinking water and limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and GOP lawmakers have tried – so far, unsuccessfully – to stop the agency.

Polls show strong national support for action to slow climate change, even among Republican voters.

Karpinski says under McConnell, party members seem to be answering to the big-money donors in the fossil fuel industries.

"EPA's mission is to protect our health, protect our air, protect our water,” he stresses. “They're moving forward with historic steps – and Sen. McConnell is trying to block them."

Karpinski accuses Republicans in Congress of trying to undermine some bedrock conservation laws – threatening a longtime consensus that's protected the national parks and forests, wildlife refuges and federal wilderness.

Ed Zahniser is the son of Howard Zahniser, the Pennsylvania conservationist and principal author of the Wilderness Act. He says the Act has preserved what are now some of the nation's greatest treasures – but he thinks today, it would not have passed.

"One could hardly think of a vote today – even on motherhood or apple pie – that would result in a vote of 370-some to one in the House, and 78 to 12 in the Senate," Ed Zahniser says.

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