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Statement on Earth Day

April 20, 2005

Each Spring we commemorate Earth Day, a celebration of our environmental accomplishments as well as a renewal of our commitment to protecting the Earth for our generation, our children and our grandchildren. Since Earth Day was founded in 1970, our country has taken many strides towards protecting public health and environmental resources, from the Clean Air Act to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

But today, 35 years after the first Earth Day, America's environmental legacy is quickly unraveling and special interests are gaining more power in Washington. In the past several years, nearly 400 laws and regulations that protect our public health and environment have been rolled back.

The energy interests have fought to undercut the Clean Air Act, persuading the EPA to allow high levels of mercury emissions into the environment. This rollback fails to protect the health of the American people, particularly America’s children. We know that maternal consumption of unsafe levels of mercury in fish can cause neurodevelopmental harm in children, resulting in learning disabilities, poor motor function, mental retardation, seizures, and cerebral palsy.

Oil companies are working to open one of the this country’s most beautiful wild treasures – the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – to drilling. Sadly, they are willing to exploit this treasure for only a few month’s worth of oil at best.

Other special interests have fought to allow companies that cause toxic pollution to get away with not cleaning up their mess. All across America, 70 million people - and 10 million children - live within four miles of a toxic Superfund site. These polluters leave toxic messes in our communities and then make the American people pay for the mess – with both their health and their money. The polluters should pay to clean up Superfund sites, not American taxpayers.

The special interests that produce pesticides even sponsored an EPA study called "CHEERS" to test pesticides on children. Fortunately, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and I were successful in convincing the EPA to cancel the program.

One common denominator for all these rollbacks is that time and again special interests have put short-sighted considerations above the interests of all Americans. We cannot afford to continue down this path. If we put off until tomorrow what should be done today, can you imagine the extraordinary economic, environmental and health costs? By delaying sound environmental policy now, these special interest groups are shifting an environmental deficit to our children and grandchildren.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about "moral values." I cannot think of a more moral issue than ensuring that every American has access to the basics ingredients of life – clean air and safe water.

Regardless of your political affiliation or economic status, you are affected by environmental hazards: by lead or mercury in water, by the smog in the air and by toxins in the food you eat. Whether you are the President of the United States, a farmer in Kansas or a CEO in New York, you are affected by the health of the environment. The health of the environment concerns all Americans.

Over 1,500 years ago, the great Rabbis wrote, "When God created the first man, he took him around to all the trees in the Garden of Eden and said to him 'See my handiwork, how beautiful and choice they are... Be careful not to ruin and destroy my world, for if you do ruin it, there is no one to repair it after you.'"

This Earth Day, let’s make a commitment to ensure our children and grandchildren inherit a healthy, livable world.

On my Senate website www.boxer.senate.gov/earthday, I have prepared an Earth Day Feature page which lists Earth Day events in communities throughout California, a history of Earth Day, and some fascinating facts about our Earth and its environment.

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