Sweeping retreat on environment forging ahead in Washington, D.C.
Former Senators Muskie and Stafford join NRDC to warn congress against
undermining 25 years of environmental success
supplied by the National Resources Defense Council
he senate leaders who moved Congress to enact its landmark
environmental laws in the 1970s and 1980s joined the Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC) in warning the public of the profound and damaging effects
of environmental legislation now racing through Congress.
The bipartisan warning came as the National Resources
Defense Council (NRDC) released Breach of Faith: How the Contract's Fine
Print Undermines America's Environmental Success. The report documents the
effects of HR 9, a key bill implementing the House leadership's Contract
With America, on nineteen environmental statutes.
Breach of Faith first documents the bureaucratic obstacles
that would be imposed on each environmental statute and reviews how those
obstacles would apply to the 19 laws.
The key findings of Breach of Faith show that the Contract's
"Some members of this Congress seem so eager to
change Washington that they are losing sight of how damaging their changes
can be to people's everyday lives," warned Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-ME),
chairman of the Senate Environment Committee in the 1970s and lead author
of the original clean air and water acts.
- Dismantle laws that have worked. HR9 will expressly override the health
and environmental protection mandates of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water
Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Protection Act,
and virtually all the other environmental laws. Had this law been in place,
it would not have been possible to save the bald eagle from extinction,
protect the ozone layer, remove lead from gasoline, clean up the sewage
in our waters, or improve the air in our cities.
- Block improvements to public health. HR9 creates new hurdles that
will delay or block a long list of important health and environmental protections
that are about to be proposed, including: Safe Drinking Water Act standards
to control the pervasive parasite that made more than 400,000 people ill
in Milwaukee in 1993; Clean Air Act standards to control toxic pollution
from medical waste incinerators; safeguards to deter oil spills under the
Oil Pollution Act; water pollution stndards for hazardous waste treatment
facilities, and rules to protect food from contamination.
- Pay polluters and bloat the deficit. The "takings" provisions
would require taxpayers to pay billions of dollars in compensation for the
costs of complying with health and environmental safeguards. These provisions
would block implementation of numerous important laws, including: the Endangered
Species Act, the wetlands protection provisions of the Clean Water Act,
and the hazardous waste disposal requirements of the Resources Conservation
and Recovery Act.
- Give away the public's land. The "takings" provisions provide
that, if the agency does not have adequate funds to provide for compensation
for a "taking," the President will find the money elsewhere or
award federal lands (Section 9002). This provision allows for unrestrained
giveaway of protected federal lands, including, for example, lands in National
Parks, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness Areas.
- Dramatically increase bureaucracy and litigation. HR9 creates an endless
bureaucratic maze, where more than 20 new analyses are required before any
government action. It creates numerous new opportunities for lawsuits, including
challenges to the adequacy of each of the new analyses. EPA administrator
Carol Browner has estimated that the EPA alone would need 980 new employees
and more than $220 million just to comply with the risk assessment requirements.
"The proposals before Congress today would overrun
our nation's health, safety and environmental protections. They would halt
25 years of accomplishment and turn the clock back to the days when the
special interests made the rules and the people absorbed the risks. The
good old days weren't all that good when it came to smog, product safety
and accidents on the job," Muskie said at the report's release.
"Anyone who remembers the condition of our rivers,
air and land 25 years ago knows how much we have accomplished with our environmental
laws and how much they have improved the quality of life for us all,"
commented Sen. Robert Stafford, Senate Environment Committee chairman in
the 1980s, in a prepared statement sharply critical of HR9. "We should
build on our accomplishments, not reverse them."
Gregory Wetstone, NRDC legislative director and editor
of Breach of Faith said the report demonstrates specifically and thoroughly
how this legislation would apply to key environmental laws. "In each
case, the public would get more red tape, more litigation, more bureaucracy
and far less protection. That is the reverse of this Congress's promises.
It is a breach of faith to the American people," he said.
Key portions of HR9 have cleared the House Commerce
and Judiciary committees. The full bill could reach the House as this issue
goes to press.
"This legislation has been assembled so hurriedly
and debated so little that members of Congress have no idea how much damage
it will do. Certainly, the American people deserve this information,"
Wetstone said. "They also deserve to know how much we have achieved
with our environmental laws. Without a full understanding of what we have,
we cannot truly appreciate what may soon be lost."
Copies of Breach of Faith can be ordered from National
Resources Defense Council Publications, 40 W. 20th Street, New York, NY
10011 for $7.50 per copy plus $1.45 postage and 7.25 % sales tax (CA residents
only.) For more information, call (202) 783-7800.
To let your congressperson know how you feel about HR9,
call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and ask to speak with your
The NRDC is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting
the world's natural resources and ensuring a safe and healthy environment
for all people.