TWENTY-SECOND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, NY — After serving in Congress for 20 years, for the past couple of weeks, Congressman Maurice Hinchey has been engaged in a farewell tour of his far-flung district, which stretches from Ithaca to Kingston.
At multiple stops along the tour, the progressive lawmaker said farewell to officials and constituents that he has worked with and fought for over the years.
He said to one group, “Despite all the battles won and lost, I wanted to be here today to say thank you to all of you who stood with me as we took on the big fights. I am very proud to have represented you in Congress, proud to call you my friends, and proud of what we have accomplished together. You stood with me every step of the way. For that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I look back on my life in public service proud of what we accomplished together, regretful that I could not do more and hopeful that you will pick up where I left off, and continue the fight for this region and for what is right.”
On the big national issues, Hinchey said he always tried to stand up for what he believed was right, even though it was not always popular. Hinchey pointed to his opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, votes against the deregulation of Wall Street that led to the 2008 financial collapse, and votes against unfair trade deals that caused the exportation of millions of manufacturing jobs. “Instead of listening to the lobbyists, I listened to the people,” he said. “Instead of standing with my political party, I stood with the New Yorkers I was sent to represent.”
Hinchey also laid out a list of what he considered his most important achievements as member of the New York State Assembly and U.S. House:
• Under Hinchey’s leadership as chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, the panel conducted a successful investigation into pollution at Love Canal, the nation’s first major toxic dumpsite, and developed landmark environmental legislation including the nation’s first law to control acid rain.
• Between 1982 and 1992, Hinchey led an investigation into organized crime’s control of the waste-hauling industry that led to the conviction of more than 20 criminal figures, including one for murder.
• Hinchey successfully led the fight, first in Albany and later in Washington, to force General Electric to pay for and clean up the 1.3 million pounds of PCBs it dumped into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1977.
• As a member of the House Banking Committee, Hinchey’s persistent questioning of Alan Greenspan forced the Federal Reserve Board Chairman to admit to the existence of taped recordings of the meetings of the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC), the board’s policy making body. As a result, the public now has direct insight into the thinking of the FOMC, and the logic behind the decisions affecting interest rates and other important economic policies.
• In 1993, Hinchey and the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan authored legislation designating New York’s Route 17 as Interstate 86, in order to bring increased economic activity to the Southern Tier and Catskills regions.
• In 1999, Hinchey succeeded in passing an amendment that required the CIA to report to Congress on its involvement in the 1973 coup of Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.
• As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Hinchey has secured billions of dollars in federal aid to spur job growth, improve public infrastructure, advance education and the arts, improve health care facilities and services, and support economic development in local communities throughout the congressional district he represents in a wide array of ways.
• Hinchey was one of the first and most outspoken members of Congress to oppose President Bush’s effort to invade Iraq. He subsequently became a forceful critic of ongoing operations within Iraq and led the call for the removal of U.S. forces, which has now occurred.
• Hinchey led the congressional outcry against the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program that was instituted under President Bush. He requested, and helped successfully secure, the launch of an independent Department of Justice probe to determine any wrongdoing.
• In 2007, Hinchey led the effort to establish The Solar Energy Consortium (TSEC)—a not-for-profit entity in upstate New York that brings together private solar companies and research institutions throughout the state to develop new ways to efficiently and effectively develop economically viable solar technologies. Hinchey and TSEC have attracted numerous companies to upstate New York and helped create more than 600 solar energy-related jobs with many more on the way.
• Hinchey is the primary leader in Congress to protect drinking water and the environment from the risks of hydraulic fracturing. He is a co-author of the FRAC Act, which would mandate public disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluid and allow the EPA to regulate fracking activities under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
• In 2009, Hinchey authored the appropriations language that initiated the EPA’s current national study on hydraulic fracturing. This is the first comprehensive and independent analysis of the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses to drinking water.