New Names, Same Games

The Republican Leadership Is Determined to Dismantle Environmental Regulation; Earthjustice Is Determined to Stop Them
The gloomy, overcast weather hovering over Washington, D.C. days after the election last November matched the mood of many in the environmental community. The Republican, anti-environment takeover of the House of Representatives and parts of the Senate will no doubt make achieving environmental gains more difficult, but not impossible. The environmental movement successfully navigated these choppy waters during the Bush years and will do it again by holding the line in multiple ways on environmental protection.

One ray of hope in the otherwise dismal election was the resounding defeat of Prop. 23, which would have suspended California’s landmark global warming law. The defeat demonstrates the public’s hunger for clean, green economic policies that bring with it jobs and energy independence. More than 500,000 Californians now work in clean tech jobs in the state, and since 2005, California green jobs have grown 10 times faster than other sectors of the state’s economy. As California goes, so, too, can the nation.

But there are some serious obstacles ahead. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaled its willingness to reign in carbon emissions as a result of the Supreme Court’s 2009 endangerment finding, which found that the EPA has the power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. Now, Senate Republicans are determined to overturn the endangerment finding—the finding that greenhouse gas emission threaten public health and the environment. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) promises there will be bipartisanship on the issue, since increased regulation would impact all manner of businesses and industries and could—detractors say—hurt the U.S. economy. A similar measure is underway in the House to overturn the EPA’s ruling.

And new leadership in the House have also promised to aggressively investigate the EPA’s actions on environmental regulation concerning air and water pollution from coal plants and other facilities, essentially gumming up the works and keeping government regulators from doing their jobs. House Republican David McKinley (WV) for example, said one of his top priorities is to end “the ware on coal that has been underway now for several years from the EPA.” Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee has gone so far as to deny global warming, saying “many scientists do not even believe [it] is happening.” In addition, attacks on the EPA are likely to ramp up as industry strives to prevent or soften rulemaking on climate and coal. The environmental community, backed by Earthjustice, plans to vigorously defend against industry, state and congressional attempts to weaken or prevent the implementation of new pollution regulations.

Before the election, the environmental community had come to realize that Congress wouldn’t solve the nation’s most pressing environmental problems. Now, it is clear that the new Congress can’t solve them. Fortunately, there are laws on the books that citizens can enforce to make progress in reining in pollution and protecting our wildlands. Lawyers at Earthjustice will hold the line against ill-conceived moves on the public lands and the nation’s waters, and force the government to comply with laws that protect our air and water when political will comes up short.