WASHINGTON - October 6 - Environmental voters are hoping the upcoming presidential debates provide a forum for addressing some major differences between John Kerry and George W. Bush, and they registered their concerns in a poll on what questions should be asked.
Topping the online poll are questions about how the candidates propose to curb global warming, whether they support transferring the burden of toxic cleanup from polluters to taxpayers, and whether or not the government should base energy policies on secret meetings with energy industry representatives.
"Environmental issues can reveal a lot about the candidates' values and priorities. They definitely deserve a role in the debates," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director. "Do the candidates respect or ignore good science? Do they believe polluters should clean up their own mess or do they think the cost should be shifted to taxpayers? Should government protect the public or represent special interests?"
The Sierra Club polled subscribers of RAW, the organization's twice-weekly electronic newsletter tracking the Bush administration's environmental record, to find out what questions they would want to ask in the next debate, which is slated for October 8. That debate will be conducted in a town hall format with unscripted questions coming from audience members. While global warming, toxic waste cleanup and the nation's energy policy topped the list of issues in the unscientific poll, many respondents also were concerned with mercury pollution and opening up sensitive lands to oil and gas drilling.
"Polls show that the American people overwhelmingly care about the environment," wrote one RAW subscriber. "They care about clean air, safe drinking water and the protection of endangered species. They want these things protected."
To check the progress of the online poll, visit http://www.sierraclub.org/raw/debatesurvey. The full list of survey questions appears below:
1. There is ample evidence that America's oldest and dirtiest power plants continue to pollute dangerous levels of soot and smog, increasing asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Why has this problem persisted for so long and what will you do to ensure our air is safe?
2. Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and other research bodies have recently concluded that mercury in fish is a more widespread and dangerous problem than previously thought, yet the Bush administration is proposing to delay mercury cleanup with a plan that was partially drafted by power industry lobbyists. Do you think the current provisions of the Clean Air Act should be enforced, and do you have any other suggestions for the quickest and most effective ways to reduce mercury pollution?
3. The National Academy of Science, Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, and the General Accounting Office have all raised major concerns about the Department of Energy's current designs to store the nation's nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. If that is the case, does it make sense to move ahead with transporting the nuclear waste across the country to Yucca Mountain?
4. A year ago, the Superfund trust fund which pays for the cleanup of toxic waste sites went bankrupt. Previously, the cost of cleaning up toxic waste sites had been covered by the polluters themselves, but now the cost has been shifted to the taxpayers. Do you think those who make the messes should be covering the cost of cleanups?
5. There are those who believe that any place that might have oil and gas should be opened to drilling while others believe that there are some natural treasures that are so special that they should be protected for future generations. Do you believe that certain areas, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, should be off limits to oil and gas drilling? Where do you think it would be appropriate to drill for oil and gas?
6. The Russian government recently announced that it will put the international global warming treaty into effect by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. The current administration has pulled the United States out of the agreement, even though this country accounts for 25 percent of the world's global warming pollution. How will the United States do their part to curb global warming and stabilize the global climate?
7. According to Justice Department files, there has been a 23% drop in the criminal prosecution of environmental lawmakers since 2001. How do we ensure that our nation's environmental laws get adequately enforced?
8. Recently, the Supreme Court heard a case about Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force to determine whether or not government should base energy policies on secret meetings with energy industry representatives. Do you feel there was a conflict of interest here and do you think the White House should be forced to reveal who attended the meetings and helped write energy policy?