Last weekend, tens of thousands of Texans gathered in Fair Park to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. We’ve made a lot of progress since 1970 in reducing air and water pollution and building a cleaner, healthier future.
And as a Republican, I’m proud that the GOP has played a major role in environmental protection throughout American history. Abraham Lincoln established Yosemite National Park in 1864, and George H.W. Bush signed into law a stronger Clean Air Act in 1990.
Here in Texas, then-Gov. George W. Bush signed into law one of the nation’s first renewable electricity standards, a measure that has helped propel Texas to the undisputed national leader in wind power.
And recently, Georgetown, with the population 63 percent Republican, signed contracts to get all of its electricity from wind and solar power.
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The fact is, we Republicans want clean air and clean water. We care about parks and natural areas and hope our grandchildren get to have some of the great opportunities we have had to experience the wonders of the Great Outdoors.
But these days, if Kermit the Frog thinks it isn’t easy being green, try being a green Republican.
The Republican-held Texas Legislature is unraveling some of our state’s best environmental achievements.
The House has voted to pre-empt cities from adopting health and safety standards on oil and gas drilling.
The Senate has voted to repeal the renewable energy law and to reduce the rights of Texans in challenging permit applications for companies to pollute.
Any day now, the Legislature will vote on bills to weaken building energy-efficiency standards and reduce penalties cities can seek when polluters break the law.
These actions aren’t just bad for the environment and public health, but they go against many conservative principles, the wishes of many conservative voters and economic development.
The principles of local control and self-determination are deeply held conservative values, but some lawmakers are working to take away the rights of cities to make decisions for themselves on things including drilling policy, plastic pollution and tree preservation.
My alma mater, Yale University, found that 56 percent of Texans think the Legislature should do more to address global warming.
That’s especially good advice as new federal environmental regulations are coming, and if Texas doesn’t stop refusing to even plan for them, we’ll be left with D.C. officials writing the plan for us.
Well-crafted environmental policy can be very good for the economy. Texas’ market-based renewable energy law helped attract $26 billion in investment by wind energy companies.
The governor’s office reports that more than 100,000 Texans work in the renewable energy industry today.
And according to Environment Texas, over the last four decades clean air standards have reduced air pollution by 70 percent in the United States while GDP has tripled.
Many businesses get this and support stronger environmental protection.
It was President Ronald Reagan who said, “[W]e want to protect and conserve the land on which we live — our countryside, our rivers and mountains, our plains and meadows and forests. This is our patrimony. This is what we leave to our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.”
Trammell S. Crow of Dallas is a longtime environmental activist.