September 22, 2014

California Coasts, Air and Water Threatened by Congress

 

PHOTO BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN, MESSENGER, 2012

California Coasts, Air and Water Threatened by Congress

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, second from left, with Malibu City Councilmember John Sibert, Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte at a press conference at Pepperdine University on Aug. 9 where Waxman presented a scathing report about the 112th U.S. House of Representatives' attack on clean air, water and the national coastal areas. Some of the anti-environmental votes in the Republican-led House could threaten the $43 billion annual California beach tourist industry.

More than four decades of coastal, water, health and environmental protections are now under severe attack according to a scathing new report titled “The Anti-Coastal Record of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Rep. Henry A. Waxman released the details of the “withering” staff report that reveals the most egregious votes taken against the nation’s longstanding water, coastal and environmental protections by the Republican-led 112th House of Representatives.

The report was compiled by the Committee on Energy and Commerce and reveals Congress’ intentions to undermine decades of safe and effective environmental legislation. (See the full report at http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov).

Waxman, who represents California’s 30th Congressional District including Santa Monica and Malibu, said federal laws protecting coastal areas have been a major target of these House votes.

According to the report, under a Republican majority, of the 297 anti-environment votes in the House, 117—or almost 40 percent—were for policies that would undermine protection of America’s coastal areas, including the coast of California.

The report reveals that the House has voted repeatedly to cut funding for the National Ocean Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as block implementation of the National Ocean Policy, which President Obama established to improve the country’s stewardship of the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.

Rep. Waxman announced the findings during a press conference on Aug. 9 at Pepperdine University, that overlooks Malibu, to further emphasize the threat to the $43 billion annual California beach tourist industry.

“Our most beloved resource is the ocean, and Malibu is a good example of some of the most beautiful coastline in California,” Waxman said. “You can look out at the ocean and see what’s at stake.”

Waxman was joined during the press conference by Scott Valor from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission; Fran Diamond from the Regional Water Quality Control Board; Liz Crosson of the L.A. Waterkeeper; and Stefanie Sekich of the Surfrider Foundation, who all collaborate in efforts to improve environmental protection in the Santa Monica Bay Watershed.

“We have come together for the habitat and special protection for water quality, and health and safety issues,” Valor said. “We have sought partnership, not partisanship.”

Other members of the panel feared for the very ocean they love, noting that oil interests may override vital environmental protections.

“We the people send representatives to Washington to protect public resources,” Sekich said. “Surfrider begs Congress to break the deadlock.”

Waxman blamed the hijacking of bi-partisan support for the environment by the extreme right-wing Republican members of the House, many of them from California.

“Protecting our coastal areas should be a national priority,” said Rep. Waxman. “Yet the House Republican assault on coastal water, marine life and the environment has been relentless. Coastal protections were established because the American people want clean beaches, clean water, and development that protects our seashores. Twelve million jobs in California depend on our coast. Congress should be strengthening coastal protections, not turning the clock back.”

Crosson warned of the extreme damage to be done to California’s economy by the destruction of the coasts and wildlife due to pressures to increase offshore drilling.

The report reveals that the House has voted repeatedly to force new oil and gas drilling along the California coast, as well as in other coastal areas where drilling is not currently permitted.

Other local environmental leaders spoke out, including how the House has voted 20 times to undermine Clean Water Act programs and protections for coastal areas and nearby waterways.

“The environment is not partisan,” said Dennis Washburn, president of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM). “Almost all environmental management is done on the ground at the local level by people who will get their hands in it.”