It is not clear what the environment has ever done to Republicans in the U.S. House, but it is clear that they are out to get it.
For now, either the more moderate Republicans of the Senate will repel the assault or President Clinton will veto it. The environment probably will be spared for the moment.But the House's GOP truehearts have clearly signaled that they mean to do the environment in if next year's elections give them accomplices in the Senate and White House.
Never mind that there is no discernible public clamor for foul air, dirty rivers and iffy drinking water. The House majority hears instead the clarion importunings of lobbyists seeking license to have their way with Mother Nature.
After all, the lobbyists have paid for the privilege, or are about to.
As obscene as Democrats sometimes were in their recent management of Congress, they didn't come close to the wantonness with which supposedly public business is now routinely conducted.
Big contributors to GOP campaigns are literally writing legislation to suit their own interests; industry lobbyists have been sitting in on drafting sessions. The financially laggard, with as-yet-unmet legislative needs, are being hit up by Republican bagmen.
Public policy is now somewhere between a retail operation and a shakedown racket.
(An aside: Have you noticed that the radio ranters who were unglued daily over lesser Democratic transgressions are as passive as dozing doves about GOP misfeasance? Does this tell you anything?)
Here are a few of the lowlights of the 17 environment-killing provisions adopted by the House. The amendments would:
- Limit enforcement of clean-water standards, end the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to set standards against industrial water pollution and favor lesser state standards for air quality over federal minimums.
- Allow untreated waste onto beaches and in some instances even into city streets.
- Bar EPA from protecting drinking water from radon and arsenic.
- Restrict EPA's ability to set safe levels for pesticides in food and limit approval for bioengineered plants that could reduce the need for pesticides.
- Prohibit enforcement of cleaner standards for the Great Lakes, which contain 95 percent of the nation's fresh water.
And on and on.
The House provisions not only would end further environmental progress but would begin undoing 25 years of incremental gains.
It might be one thing if there were compelling economic need for backsliding, but the U.S. economy is growing. Careful environmentalism has been more boom than bother.
To phony up a case for radical retreat, the special-interest foes of EPA have used the technique perfected in demonizing the benign National Endowment for the Arts: find a few legitimately exceptionable policies or actions and use them as a club to beat the whole program to death.
You know, with just one more election and a little bit of effort, we, too, can achieve the same air and water quality enjoyed by folks in the Third World.