The swearing-in of the 114th Congress this week spells trouble for our food, water and environment, and for all those who seek to champion healthy, safe communities for our families. We may be looking at the most hostile Congress ever in terms of protecting the environment.
Here are a few examples of what we could face over the next few years:
James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a notorious climate change denier and an unabashed champion for the fossil fuel industry, will likely chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Expect the committee to intensify its bullying of environmentalists, especially in light of the game-changing decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking.
We’ll also see attacks on the credibility of groups that do environmental work – in fact, we already have, and it will only get worse.
Last July, Inhofe released a report that targeted environmental groups and their funders in an attempt to silence groups working in the public interest. This should surprise no one, given that David Vitter (R-LA), who headed the minority staff at the time, receives a majority of his campaign cash from the oil and gas industry.
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Then, in November 2014, a subcommittee released a report on fracking calling its opponents “extremists.” It’s chilling to see policymakers taking a page from industry-backed astroturf campaigns and front groups whose discredited attacks have no place in serious policy discussions.
Given the mounting evidence that fracking harms public health and the environment, we anticipate chilling attacks by the industry (via the politicians they support) on environmental advocates, academics and any other voice that raises concerns about fracking.
But we won’t be cowed by the bullying and McCarthy-like atmosphere. Environmental advocacy is not illegal.
Food & Water Watch will continue to support one good piece of legislation: the bill to ban fracking on public lands, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). With the help of our supporters, we will continue to fight for our right to clean drinking water and safe food; for our right to know what ingredients are used in our food; for our right to preserve our health and our environment; for our right to create a better, healthier world for our children and future generations.