GOP's Environmental Siege

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

The Republican Party has a long tradition of environmental stewardship - but today's GOP is turning its back on that proud legacy.

It was Teddy Roosevelt who established the national park system, Richard Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency and supported the Clean Air Act, Ronald Reagan who championed the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer and George H.W. Bush who embraced the cap-and-trade program that reduced acid rain.

In recent years, Republicans have done an about-face, staking out the wrongheaded position that protecting the environment conflicts with conservatism, damages the economy and costs jobs. Denying climate change, increasing U.S. reliance on fossil fuels and rolling back bedrock environmental regulations have become litmus tests for Republican lawmakers and for anyone seeking the party's presidential nomination.

Nowhere has this Republican transformation been more evident than in Congress. GOP lawmakers are trying to cut a broad swath through environmental regulations, including clean air and water protections stretching back to the Nixon presidency. Tea party Republicans, many of whom ran for office promising to eviscerate the EPA, are leading the charge, heedless of opinion polls that show a majority of Americans still want clean air and water, and support regulations to achieve those goals.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats, backed by a presidential veto threat, defeated a Republican bid to block the EPA from setting the first federal standards to reduce toxic air pollution from power plants. …