THE BLOG
11/05/2010 02:26 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Congress Should Remember that Voters Want Strong Environmental Safeguards

[This post is written by NRDC Action Fund's Peter Lehner, who is the Executive Director of NRDC]

As Congress starts filling leadership positions and charting its new legislative agenda, there is something Members should keep in mind.

NRDC Action Fund stands ready to work with anyone interested in creative ways to safeguard the environment and create a clean energy future. But if Members of the new Congress think the election brought a mandate to block the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job of protecting public health and the environment, they are grossly misinterpreting the votes cast on Tuesday.

American voters went to the polls demanding a revival of the dismal economy. They did not ask for turning back the clock on America's environmental safeguards.

And the surveys prove it.

In election-day polling of voters in 83 battleground districts, Americans supported the EPA's actions to reduce greenhouse gases by a margin of 22 percentage points: 58 percent in favor compared to 36 percent opposed.

Nearly 70 percent of voters agreed with the statement that "we need to hold corporations accountable for pollution," while only 27 percent disagreed.

There is no mandate for reversing anti-pollution measures or for undermining the EPA. Indeed, the agency enjoys extraordinary support from voters of all parties. A poll conducted in September by Opinion Research Corp/Infogroup found 71 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 93 percent of Democrats back the agency.

Americans value the EPA because its programs for cutting pollution have saved hundreds of thousands of lives and slashed rates of respiratory disease, developmental delays, and non-melanoma skin cancer. Even the Office of Management and Budget in the George W. Bush White House said that the benefits of the Clean Air Act over the previous ten years had far outpaced the costs, by up to $545 billion.

Yet over the past few months, several members of Congress have tried to undermine EPA's authority, especially its ability to reduce carbon emissions. While these efforts benefit polluters, they do not reflect the wishes of the American people.

Voters have made their position clear, both in responding to surveys and in overwhelmingly rejecting Proposition 23 in California. The New Congress would be wise to listen.