Earlier this week, behind closed doors, top aides to members of the House energy and Senate environment committees met with industry lobbyists to ask for a favor.
For what you ask? Helping the struggling middle class? Improving public education in our schools? Helping families facing foreclosure stay in their homes?
No, the request was not about any of these issues. These lawmakers had other things on their mind; specifically, they wanted help in threatening public health and safety.
No, this wasn't a typo. Let me explain.
Recently, aides to Congressman Fred Upton, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senator Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, met with representatives of the energy industry -- reportedly, big players like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute.
According to reports, aides of these two public officials asked the energy representatives for their support in launching a legislative and public relations war against measures to protect and enhance our environment. The beginning of this effort is to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Their ultimate goal is to prevent ALL federal and state bodies from having this authority.
To no one's surprise, the energy industry agreed to support this attack on our environment. In some ways, it's fitting that this deal was done behind closed doors because, if this group had their way, the open air wouldn't be safe enough to breathe anyway.
Naturally, such backroom deals raise questions. Are these lawmakers hearing from the other side: the communities who live near toxic and hazardous conditions?
While they focus on the short-term interests of their friends, are they at all considering the long-term impact that their actions will have on our entire nation? It doesn't seem like it.
The shame of it all is that they are doing it under the guise of "saving jobs." The truth is that what's good for the environment isn't bad for the economy. In fact, the growth of the clean energy sector, which makes our communities more sustainable, is also creating good-paying jobs that put people to work.
At Green For All, we look at the big picture and see that it is in the nation's environmental and economic interests to build a green economy. We believe that America must make a serious commitment to this industry now; otherwise we'll fall further behind China and, eventually, the rest of the world. Such a commitment would be good for the public and economic health of our country.
When elected officials refuse to see this -- is it because seeing clearly isn't good for their friends? (Or is the air too smoggy to see through?)
It's appalling that the special interests continue to undermine the public interest, and an issue as important as climate change has become the subject of petty political games.
As a result, all of us will suffer at the hands of lawmakers and lobbyists who want to help each other, even if it means hurting everyone else.
Follow Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/phaedraEL