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Senate Firewall Key for Health and Environment

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On July 25 the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee voted to allow the Safe Chemicals Act to go to a full Senate vote. When I heard the news I literally shouted out in excitement; the approval of this legislation is a big deal for many reasons.

This was the first vote ever taken on updating the Toxic Substances Control Act, a law that failed U.S. citizens by not protecting us from dangerous chemicals in products since it passed 36 years ago. The TSCA's outdated standards permitted the majority of the 80,000 chemicals available for use in the U.S. to remain on the market even though they have never been tested for their health effects.

Many of our Senators chose to defend our health by sponsoring this bill. We tweeted, posted, and wrote blog posts sharing the good news.

But this victory, decades too late, also gave me pause. Shouldn't protecting families' health from toxic chemicals and environmental issues share broad bipartisan support?

The success of the Safe Chemicals Act reminded me of the criticalness of this upcoming election. The health of citizens and our air, water, and land shouldn't be issues divided along party lines. Protecting our health and the fragile world we live in should be a moral obligation shared by all parties.

But most of the time, it isn't. Political infighting over these kinds of issues has been at the expense of our health for too long. The Toxic Substances Control Act is a prime example.

If we want to protect our well-being and quality of life, we must vote to create a firewall of at least 41 Senators who are willing to do what it takes by filibustering the most egregious attacks on our health and environment.

There's a lot at stake.

Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives waged an offensive assault on public health and the environment, passing 125 anti-environmental bills since January 2011. These attacks have made the current House of Representatives the most anti-environmental in our nation's history.

The best way to turn things around in November isn't simply by tweeting and posting about environmental and health-related issues. These mini-messages do help, but they go off into the ether, having little profound impact. We need to support and vote for the candidates who will make it their obligation to serve the public with their moral compass.

Here are several key Senate races across the country with a stark contrast between the opposing candidates on public health and environmental issues. The League of Conservation Voters' scorecard is a terrific, non-partisan resource to help voters determine which candidates will protect our health and the environment. The higher the LCV score, the stronger the candidate.

MONTANA: Sen. Jon Tester (D) has a lifetime LCV score of 87 percent and is defending his seat against Rep. Denny Rehberg (R), who has a lifetime LCV score of 6 percent.

VIRGINIA: Former Gov. Tim Kaine (D), a clean energy champion, is up against former Sen. George Allen, who has a lifetime LCV score of 1 percent and has been named a member of LCV's 2012 Dirty Dozen list.

NEW MEXICO: Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) has a lifetime LCV score of 95 percent and is running against Heather Wilson (R), who has a lifetime score of 15 percent. Her website declares "Build the Keystone Pipeline," and she has been placed on LCV's 2012 Dirty Dozen list. Wilson was also named to the list during two previous election cycles (2002 and 2006).

ARIZONA: Dr. Richard Carmona (D), who served as surgeon general, is committed to strengthening environmental laws that protect public health. He is running against Rep. Jeff Flake (R), who has a lifetime LCV score of 9 percent.

OHIO: Sherrod Brown (D) has a lifetime LCV score of 93 percent and is running against climate-denier Josh Mandel (R).

NEVADA: Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) has a lifetime score of 87 percent and is running against incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R), who has a lifetime LCV score of 14 percent.

MISSOURI: Claire McCaskill (D) had a score of 91 percent last year. She's running against Rep. Todd Akin, who had a LCV score of 9 percent in 2011 and a lifetime score of just 4 percent.

WISCONSIN: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) has a lifetime LCV score of 97 percent and is running against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R).

MASSACHUSETTS: Elizabeth Warren (D), who has a deep commitment to protecting public health and building a clean-energy future, is running against Sen. Scott Brown (R), who has a LCV score of 22 percent in his first two years in Congress.

Let's educate and encourage others to vote so we can stand in solidarity again. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to protect our health, our bodies and the very fragile world we live in.

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