In Focus

Published: Sunday 30 June 1996

In another attempt to improve their green image, the Republicans issued a new set of guidelines for their future environmental proposals. Prepared by the 70-member study group set up by Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republican from Georgia, the 'vision statement' calls for consensus, innovation and a greater role for states, local communities and the private sector . This was done after intense debates on several bills offered by the new house leadership since gaining power in 1995.

It is still to be seen what actual effect the poliCy statement will have on the several pieces of environmental legislation before the congress, including those that have already been passed by the House. The Republicans in their statement said that they would "offer common sense, flexible and effective approaches that build on consensus, private property ownership, free enterprise, local control, sound scientific evidence and the latest technology."

The statement recedes from some of the more extreme proposals offered by Congressional Republicans. For example, it assures greater certainity to private property owners when their land is regulated but it says nothing about compensating landowners for any decline in the value of property resulting from regulations. The House has already passed proposals made for protecting wetlands and endangered species and the proposals await action in the Senate. The Superfund programme for cleaning up toxic ,vaste dumps, the Safe Drinking Water Act, grazing and logging on public lands and many other programmes are still being mooted in the House. Several other bills have already been passed by the House but await action in the Senate including the Clean Water Act. Opinion polls have found little public support for the proposals and critics contend that the Republicans are trying to undo decades of environmental progress.

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