Assault on environmental laws disturbs some in GOP

By ROBERT P. STOLL, DDS, a REP member in Florida

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: letter to the editor, St. Petersburg Times, September 30, 1995.

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I am very disappointed in what this session of Congress has done to tear down the major laws providing us with environmental protection. Many of these laws were passed with strong bipartisan support. They set this nation above others in recognizing that nature is neither a limitless larder nor a bottomless sewer, but rather a diversity of systems in balance.

A recent Harris poll confirmed the widespread public opposition to any weakening of environmental regulations, with a majority of Americans believing that environmental laws and regulations are not strict enough. By almost two to one, people are opposed to proposals to reduce the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.

And yet Republican leaders act as if they had some sort of mandate to cut EPA funding by 33 percent, to “reform” the Endangered Species Act, to allow for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to eliminate protection for 75 percent of this nation’s remaining wetlands, to cut the Clean Water Act and to severely curtail funding for a variety of other environmental protection measures.

I have been a conservative Republican for over forty years. During that time the term “environmentally concerned Republican” has gone from platform to oxymoron.

Barry Goldwater, the father of modern conservatism and my idol, is a lifelong environmentalist. Richard Nixon encouraged and signed into law such monumental environmental protection laws as the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act. Now the conservative Republicans in Congress are taking giant strides backward.

Many of my friends are also conservative Republicans. We share a sadness when we see what this session of Congress has done to environmental protection. Those laws are particularly important here in Florida, where the pressures of a rapidly expanding population threaten to destroy the fragile ecosystems along the waterways where everyone wants to live. If these waters and the flora and fauna are not protected, the damage will be irreparable.

I recently joined an organization called Republicans for Environmental Protection. The fact that such an organization has been formed should serve as a wake-up call to conservative Republicans in Washington.

All is not well out here! The majority of us have repeatedly said we want environmental protection. So far, we have been ignored. But we do vote, and next time it may not be for Republicans.