Wednesday marks the 100th day of the current Congress. This milestone is traditionally used to assess the new leadership, and by all measures of public health and the environment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is failing miserably. He has used the first 100 days to attack clean-air laws, undermine water protections and block climate action.
None of his efforts has succeeded (they are too out of step with what most Americans want), but the next 100 days are likely to bring more assaults on environmental protections. McConnell has already vowed to use the upcoming appropriations process to handcuff agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.
People aren't asking for more pollution in our communities. Quite the contrary. Most Americans value clean air and water, and the vast majority support government efforts to address climate change.
They want solutions, but Senator McConnell isn't offering any. The majority leader's plan for the environment entails nothing more than constantly saying "no." He offers no plan whatsoever to address climate change or protect our air, land, water, oceans or wildlife.
Instead of providing solutions, Senator McConnell is urging his party to side with big polluters. These oil, gas and coal companies invested $721 million in the past two years to support their candidates and interests in this Congress. Senator McConnell alone brought in $608,000 from the fossil-fuel industry for his 2014 campaign.
Here are just a few examples of the steps Senator McConnell has taken to carry out the big-polluter agenda to undermine our health and environment:
Blocking Climate Action and Clean Energy
- The first bill Senator McConnell introduced in the new Congress would have forced the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar-sands oil. This project would create a dramatic surge in carbon pollution and threaten communities with hard-to-clean-up oil spills. The president vetoed the bill.
- Senator McConnell and his colleagues voted against amendments to acknowledge the scientific consensus that humans are contributing significantly to climate change and that the problem needs to be addressed.
- One amendment to the Keystone XL bill would have blocked the renewal of important tax incentives for wind energy. The Senate also rejected another amendment calling for a national renewable-electricity standard.
- During the budget process at the end of March, Senator McConnell coordinated an attack on the Clean Power Plan with Senator Rob Portman, who introduced an amendment that would allow states to treat the first-ever carbon limits for power plants as optional, giving states the ability to continue dumping unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air.
Thwarting Clean-Water Protection
- During the recent budget debate, the Senate passed an amendment that would undermine the Clean Waters Rule -- a safeguard that will protect the streams that feed drinking-water sources for one in three Americans. Attacks on the Clean Waters Rule will leave these water supplies vulnerable to pollution from mining, agriculture and other industries.
Liquidating Public Lands and Wildlife
- In January the Senate considered an amendment to the Keystone XL bill that would have opened up millions of acres of wilderness areas to devastating activities like oil and gas development. The amendment failed.
- As part of the budget process the Senate passed an amendment that would sell off large chunks of publicly owned land to the highest bidder.
- Nine bills and amendments would undermine the Antiquities Act, which eight Republican and eight Democratic presidents used to protect the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and other iconic places.
- Twenty-two measures would either gut the Endangered Species Act or put specific wildlife species on the chopping block.
These attacks reflect Senator McConnell's plan to make dismantling bedrock environmental laws the heart of the Republican Senate agenda. This is a radical attack on laws that have held firm for four decades and protected generations of Americans from dangerous pollution.
It's time to stop this big-polluter agenda before it does real damage. The best way to counter fossil-fuel influence is to raise our voices and tell lawmakers to protect the environment and act on climate change.