In the midst of the 1976 energy crisis, President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House’s West Wing. The symbolic installation was taken down by the Reagan administration, only to be restored years later by President Obama.
Likewise, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), upon becoming Speaker of the House in 2007, launched an initiative called “Green the Capitol,” which replaced Styrofoam and plasticware in the Capitol cafeteria with cups made of cornstarch and recyclable utensils. This January, following in Reagan’s misguided footsteps, the Republican-controlled House Administration Committee cut key parts of Pelosi’s “Green” initiative, and ordered the switch of recyclable materials to non-biodegradable Styrofoam to be used in the House cafeterias.
Yesterday, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republican leaders, nine Democrats wrote that the health of Americans are being jeopardized because Styrofoam is a known carcinogen:
Over 20 years ago, McDonalds and other fast food restaurants replaced polystyrene foam with recyclable and paperboard containers. More than 100 cities have also chosen to ban polystyrene foam for health and environmental reasons. Adopting the same standard is the least we can do. …The International Association for Research on Cancer classified styrene as a potential human carcinogen.
Eliminating polystyrene-related health impacts will result in fewer lost work days and lower heath insurance costs for the House and its staff. This benefit alone should outweigh any cost savings from using polystyrene containers.
The irresponsibility of the decision to use polystyrene foam without considering other options is all the more egregious because the cafeteria is not merely used by House members and our staffers. The health of constituents and visitors to the Hill who eat in the cafeteria will be impacted by this short-sighted decision.
The House Republicans’ decision to reinstate Styrofoam is only part of their egregious environmental agenda. Every House Republican last week voted against stripping the five largest oil companies of taxpayer funded subsidies — which would have saved tens of billions of dollars. Even more indicative of the Republicans’ atrocious environmental agenda is the near unanimous support of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would overturn the EPA’s finding that heat-trapping gases and carbon dioxide carry a severe threat to the environment and public health. The measure is expected to pass the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power today.