By FRANCES LAMBERTS
Since the year of the first Earth Day in 1970, the League of Conservation Voters has published a National Environmental Scorecard annually. This reviews critical environmental legislation considered in the Congress during the past year and the legislators’ votes on the given bills.
The Audubon Society and Parks Conservation Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, Wildlife Federation and other national groups make the selection of any year’s important environmental legislation to be reviewed. In the recently released Scorecard for 2015, some 35 major votes in the US House and 25 votes in the Senate are analyzed.
Many past presidents identified with need for environmental conservation, including Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Under the last, many of the nation’s important environmental laws were passed and the Environmental Protection Agency was established to administer them.
Three currently serving U.S. Senators are now aspiring to the presidency. However, it appears that only one of them, if elected, would assume responsibility to enforce these laws.
The difference in their 2015 Environmental Scorecard could not be more stark: The two Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida both scored zero percent with Vermont’s Democratic Senator Sanders at 100 percent.
The public lands could see vastly increased drilling for energy, with little citizen input allowed, if the GOP senators’ votes had carried the day.
America’s heartland ranchers would be forced to cede land to a foreign company to let the world’s dirtiest oil, from the Canadian tar sands, be pumped to the Gulf coast for export.
To further industry profits, natural gas export operations would not be subject to thorough review, through the Department of Energy, of potential impacts on people’s health and the environment, nor would tar sands oil producers have to pay into a spill liability fund, leaving taxpayers on the hook for any clean-up costs.
Several measures reviewed sought to hamper citizens’ ability to gain enforcement of protections for imperiled plants and wildlife through the courts, or to undermine the scientific work of the Fish and Wildlife Service in administering the Endangered Species law.
Others sought to block a regulatory rule, developed over almost a decade by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, to protect small streams and wetlands that feed into a third of all Americans’ drinking water.
An exemption from regulation under the Safe Drinking water Act, given to the hydrofracking industry in 2005, was upheld despite efforts to close this dangerous loophole.
A series of measures dealing with climate change – from its acknowledgment as a reality to a grant funding program to develop science curricula for solutions – all saw the extreme environmental-votes divergence among the three senators.
A fifth-grader’s letter to Senator Gaylord Nelson, the father of Earth Day, stated the hope that “me and you can work out some way to stop pollution.”
That appeal, essentially to assure a healthful future world for the children, including America’s legacy of public lands and wildlife, should be heard and upheld by all presidential aspirants.