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Survey: Virginians taking dim view of politicians who shutdown EPA enforcement

10/17/2013, 2:35 p.m.
Almost two-thirds of Americans say they opposed the near shutdown of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new ...
EPA enforcement was on hold during the government shut down

During the 16 days of government shutdown, the environment and citizens' health was at risk, and most Americans didn’t like it, according to a new survey.

Almost two-thirds of Americans say they opposed the near shutdown of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new PPP poll commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“Americans count on the EPA to protect our air, water and health,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs for NRDC. “The House extremists who virtually shut down this vital work were way out of step with the American people. The public understands that the EPA is a needed guardian of our environment and health. They expect protection from pollution - and they wanted our environmental guardians back on the job."

While most Americans opposed the shutdown, even more didn’t like that furloughed EPA inspectors, suspended cleanup of toxic dumps, and delayed work on carbon pollution limits for power plants—the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s climate action plan.

“As House Republicans decide their strategy for dealing with the new fiscal deadlines, they should know that most Americans want the EPA at work,” said Goldston. “They don’t like shutdowns; they don’t like EPA prevented from doing its job, and they don’t like politicians who criticize the EPA. The once-moderate Republicans who caved to the Tea Party this time around should especially take note.”

Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said they opposed statements from politicians who had said the EPA should remain closed even if other agencies reopened.

There’s also bad news for politicians who cheered that the EPA was closed by the shutdown. They are dramatically out of step with their constituents, the poll shows. Public opinion, furthermore, is solidly against the views of Republicans who recently posted blog on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee website calling the EPA’s closure a sign the shutdown “isn’t all that bad.” Seventy percent of Americans said they would look less favorably on a politician who said it’s good the EPA was closed during the shutdown.

Goldston offered his views during a telephone press conference today unveiling the poll findings, which surveyed 825 Americans over the Columbus Day weekend with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. The poll, done for NRDC by Public Policy Polling, revealed similar views among Hispanic Americans, in statewide polling for five key states—Iowa, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia—and in five congressional districts that are represented by Republicans, including Boehner.

In Virginia, the survey found:

  • 61 percent oppose a shutdown that prevents EPA from doing its job.

  • 68 percent oppose a government shutdown keeping EPA inspectors off the job.

  • 71 percent don’t support a shutdown that delays cleanup of hazardous chemicals from abandoned industrial sites and the same number view unfavorably a politician who says it’s good the EPA is closed in the government shutdown.

  • 60 percent view the EPA as doing the right amount, or not enough to protect public health and the environment.

In the final deal approved by the House and Senate on Oct. 16, all five House members representing those districts ended up voting for the bipartisan plan to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.