THE BLOG
01/26/2015 11:39 am ET Updated Mar 28, 2015

The Past Is the Present: When the Republicans Liked the Environment, Water, Parks Diversity and others?

Co-authored with Grant Cooke

In what must seem like the greatest of ironies to the current Republican Party, President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, the most infamous Republican president of all time, was a huge hero for the environment.

Nixon was following in tradition of another Republican president, the iconic Teddy Roosevelt, whose love for our land's natural beauty awakened a national respect for the environment and lead to the creation of the U.S. parks system.

Nixon promised in his 1969 State of the Union Address to protect the environment, and his ambitious and direct efforts lead Congress to establish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 1970, which focused on Clean Air and saving land and water in America from pollution. It was the first time any administration specifically addressed environmental problems through a newly created, independent agency. At the EPA's establishment, Nixon claimed that "a new era of environmental protection began."

Water was another issue that Nixon and other Republican leaders and Presidents protected. They were concerned about the environment, national parks and rivers, lakes and the oceans. Another area that people fail to acknowledge Nixon's role as the American tribal land and their self-determination. Another issue that few remember from the Nixon era is his applying Four (IV) Title in 1972 on "gender bias at colleges and universities that as then applied to all federal workers" which unlocked women's rights and set the groundwork for immigrants, tribes and others to have the democratic rights of all Americans.

Nixon's actions left an extraordinary legacy of environmental sensitivity for the Republicans that has sadly been under attack ever since. Even President Reagan balanced his James Watt-led raids on public land with 38 bills signed into law that added more than 10.6 million acres of spectacular forests, mountains, deserts, and wetlands to the National Wilderness Preservation System.

But, from then on, the Republicans have relentlessly trumpeted the benefits of the fossil fuel interests who in their greed have treated the environment and the atmosphere as their garbage can. Now with the mid-term elections over and the additional seats in the House and Senate filled by Republicans, the "Grand Ole' Party" has been creating as much environmental mischief amid corporate pillage as possible.

The newest outburst comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, under the signature of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, the chamber's affiliate, and a lobbying group for the domestic fossil fuel industries. In a recent email blast, they accuse the EPA, along with President Obama, of trying to take over the U.S. electricity system. They go on to claim that President Obama's agreement with the Chinese to jointly reduce greenhouse gas emissions "gives an unfair advantage to Chinese manufacturers... will raise prices, threaten reliability, and increase the burden on hard working American families."

For those who do not know, the Institute for 21st Century Energy, started in July 2011 as the Partnership to Fuel America. This is a Nebraska front group to recruit businesses to support the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project that would transport crude oil from the Athabasca Tar Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma, and further to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

According to a February 2010 SolveClimate News analysis, based on publicly available records the Koch brothers through their Koch Industries is responsible for close to 25 percent of the oil tar sands crude that is imported into the United States. They are in a key position to benefit from Keystone.

A Koch Industries operation in Calgary, Alberta, called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, supplies about 250,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day to an oil refinery in Minnesota, also owned by the Koch brothers. Flint Hills Resources Canada also operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, the starting point of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. The company's website says it is "among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters." Koch Industries also owns Koch Exploration Canada, L.P., an oil sands-focused exploration company also based in Calgary that acquires, develops and trades petroleum properties.

And now early in the New Year, northern Texas, Oklahoma and surrounding states have been hit by earthquakes. The basic question is what caused these unusual earthquakes? Some people claim that they were due to the weather while others document the problem as being connect to the use of fracking in the region. A report (January 5, 2015) just out about a 3.0 magnitude earth quake in March 2014 in Poland Township, Ohio documented that fracking was the cause.

Further investigation is needed. But these events come at a time when the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that further impacts these areas and others. The New Year will be "interesting" in terms of environment, pollution costs from health to insurance and prices from fueling to the U.S. continuing and now enlarged dependency upon fossil fuel supplies for the future of America.

Stay tuned. There is more to come from Washington, DC and around the world.