WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senior Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statement commemorating Earth Day, which is recognized this Sunday, April 22:
“Earth Day serves as a critical reminder that each and every one of us rely on having clean air, clean water and healthy, fertile land. They are the foundation of life, and we cannot take them for granted. Today we rededicate ourselves to preserving those foundations, to defending our natural resources and to embracing our role as stewards of the planet we will leave to our children.
“Forty-eight years ago, when Earth Day was first established, Americans everywhere were engaged in protests surrounding the extreme, negative impacts of our industrial activities. We cannot forget that it was not long ago when smog engulfed our cities and communities, polluting the lungs of our children. It was not long ago when pesticides were being used without limit, regulation or care for how they were poisoning our water and our food.
“We have come a long way since then. Yet Earth Day reminds us we cannot take our progress for granted, especially now, as lawmakers grow seemingly complacent to environmental impacts and concerns. We must stand up and protect our water, air and public health.
“We are not defenseless in this fight. The Clean Water Act, passed in 1970, is responsible for protecting our nation’s waterways from more than 700 billion pounds of toxic pollutants every year. This means that bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay are able to recover from their polluted pasts – and produce more food for our people and our economy. The rate of wetlands loss decreased substantially compared to the pre-Clean Water Act era. Wetlands not only provide habitat for wildlife, but also reduce the severity of flooding and coastal erosion, and improve water quality. I have introduced legislation to reauthorize and fund the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) until 2023, which provides grants to increase and protect wetlands. Likewise, the Clean Air Act of 1972 has been so successful in regulating toxic chemical air pollutants, it has prevented approximately 400,000 premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.
“We must fiercely defend these and our other environmental laws, not only on Earth Day, but every day. Our natural resources provide more than scenic landscapes – they provide the foundation of our economy and our way of life. In Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay supports millions of jobs in the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries, all while nourishing the life and land that allow us to thrive.
“This Earth Day, we offer special appreciation to the Bay, and to all the natural wonders that sustain our lives and livelihoods. And we vow to preserve them. We vow to never return to the days of smog and toxic water. We vow to take our role as stewards seriously, because as Earth Day reminds us, it will be far more than our rivers and ecosystems that pay the price for our failure. It will be our children and grandchildren. We cannot allow that to happen. So today, let us recommit ourselves to protecting our natural resources, and with them, our economy, our country and our communities.”