Happy Earth Day! I co-chaired America’s first Earth Day celebration in 1970 as a Republican Member of Congress from California, working with the late Senator Gaylord Nelson, a legendary Democrat from Wisconsin, on this landmark event.

Our work was successful, and the official Earth Day website points out:

“The first Earth Day in 1970 mobilized millions of Americans for the protection of the planet. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet.”

That year, President Nixon formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by consolidating environmental responsibilities of the federal government into one agency.

Since then, many important environmental policies have been passed by Republican presidents and Republicans in Congress, demonstrating that protecting our environment and climate is a bipartisan priority.

Environmental policies passed under Republican leadership include the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Montreal Protocol that saved our world’s ozone layer.

As our environment becomes cleaner, the economy benefits: a 2013 study reported that, “the EPA has produced as much as $640 billion in benefits and only $45 billion in costs to the economy over the last decade.”

Today I ask myself, “Who are these Senators who call themselves Republicans?”

These Republican Senators have been squandering our legacy by reversing environmental policies, and endangering our health and quality of life, especially that of minorities and younger Americans.

As a founding member of Republicans for Integrity, I feel today’s Republican Senate is showing no integrity on the most critical issue of protecting our health and environment.

Examples abound:

Rollback of environmental protection regulations: many of these rollbacks benefit high-dollar campaign donors

Attacks on clean and efficient new energy production: clean energy is affordable, creates jobs and benefits the environment

Rollbacks of vehicle mileage standards: these mileage rollbacks will stifle innovation and create dirtier air for our children.

Worse water quality: as one columnist wrote, “Trump’s plan for the economy: Make Drinking Water Dirty Again”

Denial of science: for years, Republicans have denied scientific facts on the environment, climate and now public health, with deadly results as we struggle with the kind of pandemic that previous presidents had foreseen  

With an ever-growing list like this, is it any wonder that Americans are struggling to defend their health against Republican neglect and outright assaults?

Is it any wonder why more and more children are once again suffering increased respiratory problems?

Is it any wonder that the residents of Flint, Michigan are still having to drink bottled water nearly five years after a local pediatrician began raising the alarm, only to have Republican officials in Michigan try to discredit her frightening health findings?

As a reminder: the fox is guarding the chicken coop in today’s Washington swamp. The current EPA administrator previously worked as a coal mining lobbyist!

Instead of ensuring accountability and oversight, today’s Republican Senators march in lockstep with polluters and anti-science zealots.

For example, Republican Senator — and Senate Majority Leader — Mitch McConnell has voted to gut environmental protections.

His lifetime voting record of 7% from the respected League of Conservation Voters speaks volumes about his lack of concern for Kentucky’s future.

On this year’s Earth Day (which was Wednesday), let’s recommit to making our world’s environment healthier and cleaner, so that our great-grandchildren can read this column in 2070 and realize that we honored the longtime Republican values of economic growth through environmental stewardship.

PETE MCCLOSKEY is a Republican former United States Congressman who served from 1967 to 1983. He is a founding member of Republicans for Integrity which brings together Republican former Members of Congress who seek to put “country before party.”

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