At his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Senator John Ashcroft responded to questions about his environmental record by stating, “I happen to be a private environmentalist.” Environmentalists concerned with his appointment to the position of Attorney General found the statement surprising.
“As a U.S. Senator, John Ashcroft’s environmentalism has been very private indeed – so private that it is impossible to find evidence of it in his voting record,” said Joan Mulhern, Legislative Counsel for the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. “In fact, he has kept his concern for the environment an absolute secret. In the last four years, Senator Ashcroft voted against every major environmental bill or amendment considered by the U.S. Senate. His lifetime environmental voting record, as scored by the nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters, shows that he voted for the environment less that 4 percent of the time during his entire Senate tenure.”
“If he is a private environmentalist, he certainly had us fooled,” added Mulhern. “He even cosponsored bills in the last Congress to weaken key provisions of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, two of the nation’s most fundamental and important environmental protection and public health laws.”
The U.S. Attorney General is one the most important environmental appointments made by any President. As the nation’s chief law enforcement official, the Attorney General is charged with the responsibility of enforcing all federal laws, including the laws designed to protect the nation’s precious natural resources and the public’s health.
“Whatever his “private” feelings, as public servant in the United States Senate, Mr. Ashcroft consistently demonstrated hostility towards the nation’s environmental and public health protection laws – laws that the Attorney General is obliged to enforce,” Mulhern said. “Because his record is extremely anti-environmental, and the position of Attorney General is so central to whether the laws will be enforced, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund opposes John Ashcroft’s his confirmation as Attorney General.”