Victory on the Environment

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works gave a great victory to those of us concerned with cleaner air and water. A coalition of Democratic, Independent and Republican Senators said no to the proposed "Clear Skies Initiative," a deceptively named bill that would have weakened the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act has helped the U.S. enjoy healthier, more breathable air for over 30 years. Nonetheless, the power industry, and its allies in the Bush administration and in the Senate, wanted more. They wanted changes in the law that would delay crucial clean air regulations from coming into effect. Among the changes in law requested by industry were delays in lowering levels of mercury from our water, allowances for certain industries to "opt out" of pollution laws, and weakening regulations requiring power plant modernization.

But, fortunately for America, concern for the environment is not a partisan issue. Mercury has no party affiliation, and smog pollutes both "red" and "blue" states. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) was pressured by every party official the Bush administration could muster, but he was willing to fight his own party in order to protect the environment. Committee chair James Inhofe (R-OK) offered Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) a variance that would benefit Montana coal over coal coming from neighboring Wyoming, but Sen. Baucus understood the importance of clean air for all Americans. Independent, and former Republican, James Jeffords (I-VT) ensured that the coalition could not be fractured.

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those Senators who stood with us. But, more than anything else, we should take this moment to pat ourselves on the back. 20/20 Vision members with Senators on the committee contacted their Senators to remind them that we care about the environment. We reached out to our legislators with every tool of activism at our disposal. From personal phone calls to letters to the editors of our local newspapers to e-mail to demonstrations, we ensured that our message was heard.

And we will continue to do it. At 20/20 Vision, we understand that partisan noise and bickering don't lead to results. Results come from working with everyone, on every side of the political fences to find common ground in common sense. That commitment will be crucially important as we work to promote our agenda of peace and environmental awareness.

So let's take a few moments to bask in our success. Then, let's get ready for more victories as we continue to work for a cleaner, safer world. Working together, we can ensure that this will be the first of many victories this year!


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März 2005

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