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The Rollback 105th Congress
ENVIRONMENT, PUBLIC HEALTH AND CONSUMERS STILL AT RISK
Over the last three decades some of the most basic environmental and consumer protection laws were enacted. Intended to clean the nation's waterways, rid the air we breathe of toxins, clean up the most hazardous waste sites, and protect our health and safety in many other ways, these laws have drastically improved the quality of life of every American. However, we still have a long way to go.
- There are over 85,000 known or suspected hazardous waste sites across the country.
- Every year, up to 50,000 plant and animal species become extinct the greatest rate of extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
- More than 100 million Americans breathe unhealthy air, and more than 40,000 premature deaths occur each year due to air pollution.
- 40% of our rivers, lakes and streams are unfit for fishing, swimming or other uses.
- Almost 50 billion taxpayer dollars in anti-environmental subsidies are being given to polluting industries.
THE 105TH CONGRESS
Ignoring facts like these, the 104th Congress became the most hostile Congress of the last quarter century when it came to protecting the environment, ensuring public health, and standing up for consumers. Its highly publicized actions were a litany of attacks on the air we breathe, on the water we drink, and on basic health and safety protections.
While less publicized, the 105th Congress' attacks on the environment and consumers have been serious, substantial and a major threat to our health and safety. To cite a few examples:
- A key Senate committee and House subcommittee has moved to gut the Superfund toxic waste cleanup law.
- A proposal in the House would block the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act.
- A bill to dismantle the Endangered Species Act has passed out of a key Senate committee.
- A key Senate committee has moved to weaken enforcement of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Three anti-environmental riders which will subvert the road-building moratorium in our national forests, allow construction of a multi-lane highway in the Petroglyph National Monument, and protect a $100 million royalty for the oil industry were passed this month as part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill.
Why aren't these attacks getting the media play similar attacks during the 104th Congress. Anti-environmental and anti-consumer members of the 105th Congress are somewhat less ambitious in their proposals than they were three years ago. They've adopted a more surgical approach, attacking specific provisions of environmental laws like the "polluter pays" principle of the Superfund law that are the most objectionable to lobbyists for polluting corporations.
They've also toned down their rhetoric. You won't hear members of Congress comparing the EPA with the Gestapo anymore. You're more likely to hear the sponsors of anti-environmental and anti-consumer measures describe them as "reforms," or even give then "environment-friendly" names.
STOPPING THE ROLLBACKS
While U.S. PIRG and its allies have been successful so far in stopping most of the attacks on the environment and consumers, special interests and their PACs have invested record sums to retain their influence in Congress.
Nearly all the leaders of the rollback 104th Congress have retained their leadership positions, giving anti-environment and anti-consumer special interests important friends in high places. While more likely to do their dirty work behind the scenes, special interests continue to keep up their assault in the 105th Congress.
U.S. PIRG and the state PIRGs will continue to challenge this sustained attack on the environment and consumers. Our staff of researchers, policy advocates and organizers will work with PIRG members and other citizens across the country to stop the rollback by:
- Releasing reports and studies documenting environmental and public health problems, consumer rip-offs, and special interest campaign contributions to Congress.
- Helping to deliver hundreds of thousands of messages to Congress and the President in the form of postcards, petitions, emails, faxes, and phone calls from citizens asking that the environment and public health protections not be put on the chopping block.
U.S. PIRG will continue its work to inform and energize millions of citizens to take action against the rollbacks. Giving citizens the information they need, like this scorecard, is one key way people will make the difference on Capitol Hill and stop the rollback of the nation's environmental, public health, and consumer laws.