On Wednesday, Congressman John Shadegg (R-Arizona) attacked Earthjustice in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, and called on Congress to prevent environmental organizations from suing to prevent expansive offshore oil drilling. Here is the response from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen.
Congressman Shadegg's misguided opinion of environmental laws is unfortunate, yet not entirely unexpected. His recent introduction last week of a bill that authorizes the President or his designee to "waive any legal requirements to a covered energy project" (H.R. 6887) is perhaps the biggest insult to the millions of American who depend on these laws to ensure clean air, clean water and protections for our lands, oceans and environment.
Mr. Shadegg conveniently ignores that environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which include specific provisions for citizens to challenge government and polluters to ensure they protect the environment, were approved by Congress at a time when rivers caught fire, bald eagle populations were decimated, and beaches were flooded with oil spills and pollution. Congress, when drafting these and other environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, recognized the reality that government often doesn't have the resources—or the will—to enforce laws that protect our environment, and specifically included citizen enforcement provisions. Our legal and democratic rights in these environmental laws remain the envy of the rest of the world.
Earthjustice works tirelessly to guarantee these oil and gas leases follow the laws as Congress designed them, an important role considering this industry does not have a proven track record of environmental protection. Mr. Shadegg would do better to lead our country towards a clean energy future rather than line the pockets of Big Oil by making it easier for them to just "Drill, baby, drill."