Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Republican Assault on the Environment

Under the cover of America's preoccupation with the debt ceiling the Republicans are launching an all out offensive against the Environment. This is the latest attempt by Republicans to slash funding to the EPA and undermine environmental regulations. Cutting funding on environmental issues like air quality and pesticides will prove harmful to Americans and their environment. It will also eliminate jobs and undermine the economy.

"This is the most anti-environmental House in history," House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman told the House. "The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants and oil refineries and factories."


Republicans want to emasculate the EPA by slashing 18 percent of its budget amounting to $8.65bn this year and $7.15bn next year. The bill proposes a budget cut of around seven percent for many other environmentally oriented departments and agencies.

On Monday July 25, the US House of Representatives started work on H.R. 2584, the 2012 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. This Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill funds many of America's signature environmental laws. This is the first of 12 bills that fund the US federal government, all of which must be passed by the first of October.

On Tuesday July 26, the House continued work on the Interior Department spending bill. On Wednesday and Thursday July 27 and 28, the House is expected to work on H.R. 1938, which would require the government to decide by November 1 on a proposed oil pipeline from Canada.

Minority whip Steny H. Hoyer, accused the GOP of ignoring the will of their constituents. "I got no message from any voter that I ought to come to Congress and undermine the air, water and land that they survive on, recreate on and rely on for the quality of their lives," he said. "Not one constituent, whether they voted for me or against me, said 'undermine the protections of our land and water and air'. Not one."

In a recent sustainable business article, H.R. 2584 was referred to as the "Mother of All Anti-Environment Bills." According to the Environmental Defense Action Fund, HR 2584 is the Mother of All Anti-Environmental Bills, because it contains nearly 40 anti-environmental policy riders.

"Instead of moving stand-alone legislation or openly debating the merits of gutting America's environmental protections, the House is trying to sneak more than 40 anti-environment amendments and policy riders to the Interior Appropriations bill," says Environmental Defense. "And that's even before it comes to the floor, where many members of Congress have already announced plans to amend the bill and make it even worse."

Here are some examples:
  • Prohibit the federal government and states from increasing vehicle fuel efficiency to reduce U.S. oil dependence, prevent climate change, and lower fuel costs
  • Block EPA from regulating water pollution, affecting the drinking water of 117 million people
  • Prevent the EPA from regulating air pollution: mercury, smog, soot and other pollutants from power and cement plants, allowing our dirtiest plants to emit unlimited pollution.
  • Cease protection for endangered species. No new species could be listed as endangered and no federal agencies would be prohibited from protecting critical habitats.
  • Open up lands immediately next to the Grand Canyon to uranium mining, despoiling one of our most iconic landscapes and potentially contaminating its waters with radioactivity.
The House of Representatives Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) blasted the Republican agenda, for attempting to use a federal funding bill to overturn our country's most important environmental laws.

SEEC leaders - co-chairs Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Steve Israel (D-NY), and vice chairs Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) - released the following joint statement on behalf of the 48-member coalition:

Both parties and houses of Congress should be focused on preventing a default crisis, and on creating jobs in a competitive 21st century economy. But instead, this week the House will consider H.R. 2584 - an unprecedented back-door attempt to roll back essential pollution controls and public health protections in favor of bigger profits for the country's worst polluters. This is a low mark for the 112th Congress that has already seen the GOP majority preserve giveaways to Big Oil and advance legislation to overturn common sense energy efficiency standards, slash clean energy innovation, and carve loopholes in important environmental statutes.

"H.R. 2584 would overturn 40 years of bipartisan progress protecting the clean air and water on which all Americans depend, and the lands and wildlife that Americans treasure. The American people reject the false choice between a prosperous economy and a sustainable environment, which we've proven can go hand in hand. SEEC calls on the Congress to reject this bill."

In addition to impoverishing America's environment, Republicans are also directly cutting jobs and adding to the country's unemployment rolls. For example, the proposed bill would eliminate the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, which provides funding for migratory birds. The Outdoor Industry Foundation estimates that bird watching and other wildlife viewing contributes $43 billion a year to the US economy. An estimated 66 million Americans participate in wildlife viewing, which supports nearly half a million jobs and generates $2.7 billion annually state and federal tax receipts.

"This environmental spending bill is one of the worst assaults on birds and other wildlife ever to come before Congress," says Darin Schroeder of the American Bird Conservancy, the leading bird conservation organization in the US.

"These aggressive provisions are an unprecedented and blatant attempt to undermine bedrock environmental laws that Americans have depended on for nearly 40 years to protect their health, air, water and public lands. They also undermine the development and deployment of energy efficiency and clean energy technologies and forbid various agencies from proceeding with current work related to climate change," says Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national group of about 850 business leaders who promote strong environmental policy to grow the economy.

Here's an excerpt from a letter Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) sent to the House:

"Strong federal resource management, protection and performance standards are fundamental to the success of American businesses and a thriving economy, and the clean energy technology sector offers the single most promising platform for reviving our struggling manufacturing base, creating new jobs and providing a robust opportunity for export expansion. However, the U.S. is swiftly losing our competitive advantage with countries such as China and Germany which are embracing the opportunities provided by improved energy efficiency and fast growing clean energy industries. Though we should rightfully be leading in this trillion dollar global market since many of these technologies were developed here with U.S. research dollars, this bill ensures that we will fall further behind."

H.R. 2584 proposes deep cuts to funding for federal agencies that protect America's air, water, lands, and wildlife, and contains 40 policy riders that would undermine the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Tell your Representative to Vote Against This Bill.

To see a list of all the Riders click here.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved

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