Protect environment with legislation

FBy Heather Cusick

from Enron to WorldCom, corporate scandals dominated the headlines this summer. Now, as Congress returns from its August recess, senators and representatives will have the opportunity to hold companies responsible for the messes they’ve made of our economy and environment. Congress can choose to protect our families and communities or to protect polluting special interests.

Cleaning up our air

in a giveaway to big polluters and campaign donors, the Bush administration is working to weaken the clean air protection known as New Source Review. This would cripple the Clean Air Act by creating new loopholes that allow factories, including power plants and oil refineries, to spew more asthma-causing pollution from their smokestacks. This summer, Minnesota experienced days when it was unsafe for our children to play outside. We urge Sen. Paul Wellstone to stand up to these polluting power plants and ensure that we have healthy air to breathe in Minnesota.

Holding polluters responsible

congress will also have the opportunity to address the problem of toxic waste that often pollutes our most vulnerable communities. While President George W. Bush has let polluters off the hook for cleaning up toxic wastes dumps, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., introduced a bill aimed at making polluters, instead of taxpayers, clean up their own messes. The Superfund Trust Fund, which is paid for by polluters’ taxes and used to clean up toxic Superfund sites, is expected to run out of money by 2004.

If the money runs out, taxpayers will be left with the bill to clean up Superfund sites around the country. We urge Wellstone to support this legislation, which will restore the original excise tax on polluting companies.

Enforcing Environmental Laws

we expect Congress to continue making budgets for key environmental programs. These programs keep our water safe to drink and our air clean to breathe. Specifically, the Senate increased overall funding for these environmental programs by $679 million more than the Bush budget proposal. This funding will help to protect our community from water and air pollution. We urge Wellstone to support the enforcement of our clean water laws and make sure there is funding to do so.

Opposing a dirty energy bill

after months of contentious debate, Congress still does not have an energy bill that provides a safe, clean and affordable energy future. Neither the House nor Senate energy bill moves our nation’s energy policy in the right direction. A responsible energy policy would decrease our dependence on oil, save money by investing in energy efficiency, support clean, renewable energy and make our electricity grid more secure and reliable. Congress must be vigilant as this important legislation moves through its conference committee. Wellstone should reject any energy bill that moves us backward.

Environmental protection isn’t an abstract issue. It’s about the rivers and lakes we swim and fish in, the water we drink and the air we breathe every day. Minnesotans should call Wellstone and tell him to vote to protect Minnesota’s clean water and clean air and protect us from toxic waste.