[Press Release for the Recycle Congress Campaign, September 27, 2000.]
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FOE GRRN Earthjustice Sustain

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contacts: Lance King (703) 241-4927

House Speaker Hastert Target of New Ads
Groups echo plea of 12-year-old girl, saying "Dear Mr. Speaker, Please make Congress recycle"

WASHINGTON (September 27, 2000) - Echoing the plea of twelve-year-old Becky Hollenbeck of Aurora, Illinois, environmental groups announced today that advertisements targeting House Speaker Dennis Hastert call for immediate action to bring Congress into compliance with federal laws applying to all Americans.

Full-page newspaper advertisements in the Beacon News (Aurora, IL) and The Hill (Washington, DC) take aim at failed recycling efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives, costing taxpayers, the environment and worker safety.

Friends of the Earth, GrassRoots Recycling Network, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, and Chicago-based Sustain are coordinating the 'Recycle Congress' campaign launched last week.

The new ad features a picture of Becky Hollenbeck at a Capitol Hill news conference, with the headline "Dear Mr. Speaker, Please make Congress recycle." A letter signed by 76 national, state and local organizations to Speaker Hastert printed in the advertisement highlights alleged violations of worker safety and environmental laws by Congress.

"We want action by Speaker Hastert before Congress adjourns to correct fundamental problems in the recycling program. The House Leadership broke its promise to abide by laws that apply to all Americans, needlessly endangering worker safety, damaging the environment and wasting taxpayer dollars," GrassRoots Recycling Network Spokesman Lance King said.

On May 26 1998, the Architect of the Capitol was cited for violations of Section 215 of the Congressional Accountability Act, which requires compliance with Section 5 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Problems in trash sorting and baling areas for paper recycling in the Rayburn House Office Building led to the first-ever citation issued by the Congressional Office of Compliance, within the Office of General Counsel.

More than two years later, the House of Representatives is still in violation of OSHA, based upon information the GrassRoots Recycling Network obtained from AFSCME, Office of Compliance records and officials working for the Architect of the Capitol.

"We believe Speaker Hastert needs to hold Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman and House Superintendent of Buildings Bob Miley responsible for these continuing violations of federal law. Speaker Hastert has so far failed to come to grips with these and other violations of law during his tenure as Speaker of the House," King said.

"Congress operates one of the most poorly managed recycling programs in the nation. Needless contamination kept taxpayers from receiving revenue for 71 percent of the paper collected for recycling last year," King said.

Taxpayers lost at least $300,000 last year on recycled paper due to contamination by glass, metals, plastics and hazardous waste, the GrassRoots Recycling Network concluded after a months-long independent investigation. Loses over the last 5 years likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

"Congress caught on video," produced by the Chicago-based environmental information organization Sustain, documents recycled paper contamination, trashed recyclables and worker safety problems. The tape was made during a July 2000 tour of House Offices arranged by Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA). It includes interviews with Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), and former House Recycling Coordinator Pat Dollar.

The House Republican Leadership blocked efforts to improve the recycling program in June 1999, by using a procedural point-of-order to strip mandatory recycling requirements from the Fiscal Year 2000 Legislative Appropriations Bill during debate on the House Floor.

"Speaker Hastert is responsible for the conduct of the House. Neither Hastert nor the Committee on House Administration, which oversees the Architect's work, have taken effective action to correct the safety and recycling program problems in the 15 months since floor debate on the appropriations bill," said King.

"The clock is running out for the 106th Congress. It is long past time for the House to act. While House Republicans stand by making feeble excuses, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently acknowledged problems in the recycling program and directed the Architect to make specific improvements. But Architect Hantman's office continues to drag their feet as they have for the past 5 years," King concluded.

For more information visit www.RecycleCongress.org


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