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EDUCATION: Lawmakers propose bipartisan environmental-education bill

Sarah Abruzzese, E&E Daily

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Washington, Sep 24, 2010 | comments
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Mike Castle (R-Del.) introduced bipartisan legislation today to ensure that young Americans receive an environmental education.

The National Environmental Education Reauthorization Act (S. 3833, H.R. 6194) would modernize legislation originally passed in 1990 that created a program within U.S. EPA to educate the public about the environment.

Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the legislation is critical to providing the United States' children with the tools to fight global climate change and create energy independence.

"This modernization of the National Environmental Education Act (NEEA) provides the guidance and resources to advance environmental education programs in New York and across the country to give our children the tools to become the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow," she said in a news release.

The new NEEA would clarify the definition of what constitutes environmental education. The bill would refocus the office within EPA that handles environmental education to concentrate on the green economy, preparing students for jobs in fields like renewable energy, and promoting low-emissions vehicles and green building design among other priorities.

"This act ensures citizens will have access to the knowledge they need to make informed, scientifically sound decisions to achieve a sustainable environment and keep America competitive," Polis said.

Castle, who by his own admission lost the Republican Senate primary in Delaware last week in part because of his vote for a cap-and-trade bill, said "never before has it been more imperative that we educate not only the next generation of scientists, but also the next generation of environmental stewards."

The bill would ensure that targeted grants are made available. It would authorize $40 million in funding -- increasing that number to $50 million in 10 years -- to EPA's Office of Environmental Education.

Several environmental groups support the legislation, including the National Wildlife Federation, National Environmental Education Foundation, National Audubon Society, American Forest Foundation's Project Learning Tree, and North American Association for Environmental Education.
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