Congressional Western Caucus Members’ Crusade Against Regulations Is Remarkably Out of Touch With Westerners

By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The Congressional Western Caucus, consisting entirely of Republican members of Congress, held a hearing this morning entitled “Washington Barriers to Prosperity and Property Rights in the West.”  It was an opportunity for members to criticize a variety of regulations that protect our lands, water, air, and public health like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Wilderness Act.  Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM), co-chairman of the caucus opened the hearing by saying that such regulations are “devastating the West.”

Members also accused the administration of killing jobs, in ways such as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s recent decision to withdraw 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining.  Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) railed against “the extremist policies of this administration.”

But, new on-the-ground evidence shows that westerners don’t necessarily believe with the assertion that regulations kill jobs.  A recent poll from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project found that voters in six western states overwhelmingly believe that regulations do not harm business. Only 38 percent of respondents agreed (and 60 percent disagreed) with the statement that:

One of the best ways to create jobs is to cut back environmental regulations that are weighing down [your state’s] businesses.

Another question on the poll asked, “when you hear about the laws that govern industry’s responsibility for [your state’s] clean water, clean air, natural areas and wildlife do you think those are more likely to be…”:

–  63 percent answered “…important safeguards to protect private property owners, public health and taxpayers from toxic pollution and costly clean‐ups.”

–  29 percent answered “…burdensome regulations that tie up industry in red tape, hurt them too much financially, and cost jobs.”

On top of this, westerners are not particularly trustful of the mining, drilling, and logging companies that Republicans promote and defend.  In fact, only 21 percent of voters queried in the poll believed that “we can trust companies to act responsibly to protect [your state’s] land, water and wildlife on their own, without laws and regulations that require them to do so.”

Rather than bash environmental regulations, Republican leaders would do well to listen to what their constituents are telling them—that regulations help keep protect and preserve the land, water, air, and wildlife that makes the American West so unique.

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