Thirty years ago, Richard Nixon — a Republican president — signed into law some of our strongest environmental protections, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. Back then, environmental protection was not a partisan matter. Ensuring that our children breathe clean air, that our lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, and beaches are clean, and that our most precious public lands were protected was neither a Republican nor a Democratic issue — it was an American priority.
Unfortunately, President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress have taken a totally different tack. They view environmental protection not as an opportunity for a better future, but as a hindrance to corporate bottom lines. Rather than protecting public health and our natural world, they have sought to reward campaign contributors by loosening critical environmental regulations.
Nowhere is this failure more evident than in federal energy policy. Our country is in critical need of policies that lead us to a sustainable energy future to end our unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels. Rather than adopting meaningful measures to increase fuel economy standards in cars, promote energy efficiency, and encourage the use of renewable sources, however, Republicans have chosen to give tax breaks to oil, gas, and coal companies even at a time when these companies are raking in record profits.
This backwards energy policy, which pretends that we can drill our way out of our energy problems, is making the looming threat of global warming even worse. Unfortunately, President Bush and Congressional Republicans have blinders on when it comes to global warming, alleging falsely that scientific opinion is divided as to whether human behavior is a contributing factor. Such a failure of leadership is inexcusable. We need to wean ourselves of our addiction to fossil fuels and take concrete actions to reduce the threat of global warming in the long term.
Our responsibility to protect the environment continues at the local level. It is essential that we preserve open space and wetlands, which play a valuable role in decreasing the frequency and severity of floods like the ones that have hit towns throughout Central New Jersey in recent years. We also need to protect our beaches and oceans from the threat of offshore drilling or other sources of pollution that could pose threats to beachgoers and to marine life.
Protecting our natural environment should be a primary responsibility of all levels of government. This nation â€“ and especially New Jersey â€“ needs leadership from its elected officials to put the public’s interest in protecting the environment, seeking a sustainable energy future, and preventing dangerous global warming above corporate interests.