Last Election Day, Americans went to the polls and chose their political leaders. For the most part, this was not an election about the environment. But unfortunately, now that the election is over, there are senators who are planning a 2003 budget-bill rider for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There are administration officials who are promoting a road through the biggest undeveloped wilderness in the eastern United States. The Environmental Protection Agency has stopped cleanups at seven Superfund sites that are still dangerous to people's health.
Americans never asked for these things. In virtually every race last November where environment was an issue, the environmental candidate won. We know from the polls that Americans of both political parties care about the environment and rank it high on their list. Yes, voters may have other priorities when they're in the voting booth, especially at a time when war and terrorism are first in many people's minds. But Americans do not want environmental destruction. Whenever an environmental issue gets into the media, the public's support for protecting air, water, and land is unmistakable and it is widespread.
The problem is that those who do not respect the environment are using stealth. In Congress, riders for road-building, logging, and drilling are tacked onto budget bills at the last minute and approved before the public hears about them. The White House can make policy by inertia: Stop funding Superfund cleanups. Cut the budget for prosecuting polluters. Let the chemical industry keep safety measures slack at its plants. And the White House also uses spin. The Bush plan for logging national forests is called the "Healthy Forests" initiative. The Bush plan for keeping sooty coal plants burning is called the "Clear Skies" initiative.
NRDC's crack legal, scientific, and media teams are fighting these stealth attacks daily. We're hunting down the backroom deals, bringing the schemes to light, and taking the schemers to court. And we are also working proactively -- building working relationships with politicians who support environmental protection, whatever their party affiliation. We may take some serious losses in the days to come, but we will make it our mission to recoup the damage -- and to move forward on urgent problems, from global warming to the degradation of the oceans.
Environmentalists are the majority. The future is up to us. We must make clear that there are depth, passion, and commitment behind the broad public support, and that we will oppose those who would sacrifice our future for their short-term profits. NRDC's work, and your participation and support, have never been more important.
John H. Adams