Environmentalists blame GOP for government shutdown

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Environmentalists are railing against Republicans for the government shutdown, saying environmental protection and people will suffer.

“The government shutdown we now face means no cops on the beat against toxic pollution,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

“The Sierra Club’s 2.1 million members and supporters agree with President Obama and Senator Reid: any proposal demanding that Americans sacrifice the health of our planet and our communities in exchange for keeping the government open is not a deal, but blackmail of the worst kind,” Brune added. “Rather than make the American people pay the cost in lost jobs and polluted air and water, House Republicans need to ditch the political posturing and get back to work.”

The government shut down after Democrats and Republicans failed to come up with an agreement to fund the government.

Specifically, environmentalists have pointed to national parks being closed as a way to show how a government affects the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.

“It means that we’ll have to dress like oil executives if we want to visit our national parks and monuments,” Brune said. “And it means House Republicans who couldn’t achieve their reckless agenda through elections or legislation are willing to sacrifice the health of our families and our communities to simply score political points.”

However, free-market groups argue that if environmentalists and their Democratic allies really cared about national parks, they would have voted with Republicans to fund the government.

“This is a totally phony complaint that comes up every time there is a federal shutdown or threat of a shutdown,” Myron Ebell, director of International Environmental and Global Warming Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Those who are against closing the National Parks should support the House legislation to keep the federal government funded.”

“If Majority Leader Reid and Senate Democrats insist on shutting down most of the federal government, they should have first passed legislation to keep the National Parks open.  They have had the votes to pass such legislation for years in both the Senate and the House,” Ebell added.

In the 1990s, visuals of people being turned away from the Grand Canyon and other national landmarks fueled anger that helped end the shutdown.

“During the ‘96 shutdown, the White House put out a single topline message — ‘the shutdown imperiled Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment’ was the mantra,” Paul Bledsoe, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, told Politico. “One reason the environment rated was that closed and gated national parks, wildlife refuges, and public lands, turning away American families, became perhaps the iconic image on television, day after day. The issue had a real impact in forcing an agreement.”

One of the favorite sequestration talking points of the Obama administration was how budget cuts would hit the national parks system — making it harder for people to visit their favorite monuments.

In fact, President Barack Obama invoked the closing of national parks and monuments in a statement on Monday night.

“Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed,” Obama said, talking about the government shutdown. “And of course, the communities and small businesses that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.”

There are libertarians who argue that shutting down the parks would not even be an issue if they were privatized. Letting private companies run the parks would make them cleaner, safer, and better places to visit, argues Fox Business’s John Stossel.

“[T]he creative minds of the private sector invent solutions that never occur to government bureaucrats,” Stossel writes. “If government would just get out of the way, entrepreneurship and innovation, stimulated by the profit motive, will make our lives better.”

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