Environmental Groups Assail Bush and GOP Congress on Environment by Mitch E. Perry


A day after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to allow oil and gas drilling as close as 50 miles off Florida’s coastline, officials with 3 of the biggest environmental groups in the country blasted that vote, as well as other events that took place as part of the House’s co called “Energy Week�.

Karen Wayland is the legislative director with the Natural Resources Defense Counsel. She slammed Congress for their so called Energy Week, which consisted of one action all week – last night’s vote on off-shore drilling (roll tape#1 o.q.�energy future�)

Tiernan Sittenfeld is the Legislative director with the League of Conservation Voters. She said that her group hopes to target some members of Congress in elections this fall who the League considers to have failed when it comes to dealing seriously with energy issues. (roll tape#2 o.q.�a new energy future�)

The members of Congress called out by Sittenfeld, were Republican representatives Bob Ney from Ohio and Heather Wilson of New Mexico, both in competitive races this fall.

Mike Daulton is the Director of Conservation with the Audobon Society. He called yesterday’s vote in the House, sponsored by Northern California Republican Richard Pombo, as ‘reckless’ and irresponsible’ (roll tape#3 o.q.�they already have�)

Following yesterday’s vote, both of Florida’s Senators, Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, said they would filibuster the legislation when it gets to the Senate, because it lacks an adequate buffer for the state.

Miami Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart says that while he understands what Nelson and Martinez are trying to accomplish, he will NOT support them. He said he worries that simply doing nothing will hurt Florida in the long run.

Before the House voted as they did last night, 2 Amendments to the legislation were defeated – one submitted by Tarpon Springs Republican Mike Bilarakis. That would have extended the buffer for drilling near Florida’s coast to 125 miles out.

The other was by Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markie. Anna Aureliio with the US Public Interest Research Groups said his amendment would have tried to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (roll tape#4 o.q.�for big oil�)

In addition to the potential filibuster Florida’s Senators may engage in, critics of the legislation had taken solace that the Bush Administration would fight Pombo’s bill, as a letter from the Interior Department expressed concern when it came out of a committee last week. But a White House statement says that President Bush supports passage of the bill "to advance the legislative process�.

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