The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has long supported vigorous efforts to protect the environment and public health. Many pressing energy and environmental issues facing the nation and world are overdue for action and should become priorities for the new Administration and Congress. We urge that the following priority issues receive prompt attention:
Energy: The JCPA supports the development of a comprehensive national energy policy that increases U.S. energy independence by reducing dependence upon fossil fuels – particularly oil from the Middle East – through energy efficiency and the development of environmentally clean affordable alternative energy sources and technologies. U.S. energy policy should include commitments and mechanisms to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S. should play a leadership role in international efforts to address global warming, including finalization and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. should not seek to increase energy independence by drilling for oil or gas in environmentally sensitive areas, particularly those that are unique natural areas or critical habitats for threatened species. Rather, increased energy efficiency, the rapid development of renewable energy technologies, significant increases in vehicle fuel economy standards, and building and increased use of mass transit should be achieved. Changes in the regulation of utilities should be done in a manner which promotes significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions, including eliminating subsidies to fossil fuel industries so that environmentally friendly energy production will become increasingly competitive. Should measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions lead to significantly increased costs for transportation, home heating fuel or residential electricity, thereby placing a burden on the poor, Congress should generously fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and other programs to reduce the negative impact on poor people. The JCPA urges Congress and the President to take swift action to assist communities facing energy crises in a manner consistent with the goals described here.
Biological diversity: The U.S. needs a comprehensive approach to preserving and restoring biological diversity at home and abroad. Congress should reauthorize a strengthened Endangered Species Act (overdue for reauthorization since 1993) and provide generous and permanent funding for the acquisition and protection of sensitive land and water habitat.
Health: The U.S. needs a comprehensive and precautionary approach to protecting all members of the public from environmental health threats. Congress should adopt policies which require pre-market testing of potentially harmful commercial, industrial, and agricultural products and processes; provide for the protection of children, women in their childbearing years including pregnant women, and the elderly in all environmental standards; establish comprehensive registries for both disease and environmental exposure that will provide data for identifying environmental causes of disease; and provide funding for research into the interactions between the genetic and environmental causes of disease.
Furthermore, we urge Congress not to repeal, delay, or otherwise impede the full implementation and enforcement of existing environmental laws and standards, and we urge the new Administration to stringently enforce all existing environmental laws.