U.S. Senate votes on critical environmental legislation

By Environment Illinois

CHICAGO — Early Saturday morning, March 23, the U.S. Senate voted for increased resources for our parks and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has protected beloved places like Cyprus Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Shawnee National Forest in Illinois from overdevelopment and pollution.

The Senate also rejected polluter-friendly measures to block the cleanup of global warming (amendment No. 359) and mercury pollution (amendment No. 514), but voted to advance the dirty Keystone XL tar sands pipeline (amendment No. 494). All of these measures, offered as amendments to the Senate budget resolution, were non-binding, as was the underlying budget resolution itself.

Seth Berkman, federal field associate with Environment Illinois, issued the following statement:

Protecting Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, tackling global warming and saving children from mercury pollution should all be no-brainers. When it came to defending our progress cleaning up harmful mercury pollution from dirty power plants, senators [Mark] Kirk and [Dick] Durbin chose the environment and our health over polluters’ interests. Unfortunately, Sen. Kirk chose to side with industrial carbon polluters by voting to hamper the clean-up of dirty power plants and advance the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Last year — the hottest year on record in the U.S. — global warming contributed to extreme weather events like the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, Superstorm Sandy and wildfires that raged in the West. Sen. Durbin knows that we can’t afford any major steps backward combating the carbon pollution fueling global warming. I applaud him for defending the cleanup of new power plants — which, without strong standards — would be able to spew carbon pollution without limit. Sen. Durbin also admirably voted down an amendment to green-light the dirty Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would facilitate the reckless extraction of one of the most carbon-rich deposits on the planet.

I am disappointed that Sen. Kirk voted to move us backwards in our efforts to limit carbon pollution from dirty power plants. Sen. Kirk also wrongly voted to force the approval and construction of the dirty Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved by the State Department and President [Barack] Obama, would further destabilize our climate and endanger our health and environment in Illinois.

Lovers of Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge should be thrilled that the Senate voted to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a landmark program that keeps development and pollution away from the best of our natural heritage — and with a track record of success in Illinois. Going forward, I hope the Senate will do more to advance real solutions, like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to our most pressing environmental challenges.”

From the March 27-April 2, 2013, issue

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