Congressman Waxman is one of the most influential members of congress and has rightly earned his reputation as being a mover and shaker. He likes to investigate and uncover issues (just Google his name). So when Surfrider was invited to participate in a press conference with the Congressman to release a report highlighting Congress’s poor coastal voting record, we jumped at the opportunity.
(Press Conference Speakers L-R: Fran Diamond, Member, Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. Liz Crosson, Executive Director, Los Angeles Waterkeeper. Congressman Waxman. Stefanie Sekich, California Policy Manager, Surfrider Foundation. Scott Valor, Director of Government Affairs, Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission)
The report, entitled The Anti-Coastal Record of the U.S. House of Representatives: 112th Congress; has an executive summary that will make you shudder, concluding: “The House of Representatives in the 112th Congress has become the most anti-environment House in the history of the United States”.
The report finds that since January 2011, the House has voted 297 times to weaken basic environmental protections. The main focus of the report was to expose how coastal laws and policies are often targeted. Of the 297 anti-environment votes, 117—39%—were for policies that would undermine protection of America’s coastal areas. Here is a break down of the votes cast to weaken coastal protections:
- 13 votes to require oil and gas drilling in new coastal areas, including six votes to force new drilling along the California coast. Other votes directed new oil and gas drilling off Florida’s Gulf coast, along the Atlantic seaboard, and in other areas without active drilling.
- 26 votes to allow offshore drilling operations to meet weaker environmental and safety standards, including votes to limit environmental review of new offshore drilling projects; to block minimum standards for blowout preventers and oil spill response; and to weaken Clean Air Act protections for offshore drilling activities.
- 24 votes to block action to address climate change, which could cause significant sea level rise and ocean acidification, including votes to overturn EPA’s scientific findings that climate change endangers human health and welfare; to block EPA from regulating carbon pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and vehicles; to prevent the United States from participating in international climate negotiations; and even to cut funding for basic climate science.
- 20 votes to undermine Clean Water Act programs and protections for coastal areas and nearby waterways, including votes to strip EPA of authority to set water quality standards and enforce limits on industrial discharges and to block EPA from protecting wetlands that are linked to important waterways and coastal areas.
- 16 votes to weaken protections for fish and marine species, including votes to remove protections for salmon, sea turtles, sea otters, sea lions, and other species.
While some of the legislation passed the House, the Senate now has the power to vote against extreme measures. Surfrider feels confident most of the legislation will not garner support in the Senate. However, we are concerned about the over all emerging trend to undermine environmental laws (at both the state and federal levels). Many of us within the environmental field have fought against the trend to circumvent protective policies, but quite frankly, we were totally shocked to statistically see the break down of votes.
Despite Congress creating poor legislation, Surfrider is working hard to protect our coastlines from new offshore oil drilling through our “Not the Answer” campaign. We are also working to combat the trend to gut coastal policies and programs—such as the work we are doing to ensure the BEACH Act is funded so States can conduct water quality testing.
Regardless of political affiliation, we “The People” send our Representatives to Washington to protect our public resources. Currently there are opportunities sitting in front of our Representatives that need to be taken advantage of—not neglected. There is the National Ocean Policy that President Obama established to coordinate federal, state, local agencies managing coastal issues. Learn more here.
The message from this report and environmental leaders is clear—Congress must work past gridlock, seize collaborative opportunities, and begin upholding policies that protect our oceans, beaches and waves.
And take some time to call or write your federal representatives to let them know you care about the ocean. Our elected officials in Washington DC need to hear from you!