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New Database Shows Spate of Congressional Attacks on the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, September 19, 2011) Dubbing it the “most anti-environment House in history,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released a new searchable database last week listing a staggering 125 pieces of legislation that will reduce environmental protection. The bills, introduced and passed by the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives, are aimed at limiting the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal institutions tasked with upholding environmental laws set in place to protect human and environmental health.

The database indicates that the legislation will undermine environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and breaks down anti-environment bills in the 112th Congress into categories: clean energy, climate change, nuclear power, pipeline safety, pollution prevention, and public lands and coasts. This includes legislation limiting the regulatory authority of EPA by prohibiting it from regulating carbon emissions from power plants, votes to defund enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and efforts to target federal agencies such as the Department of Interior and the Department of Energy.

Recent attacks on environmental statutes, including attempts to strip the Clean Water Act of its power to protect U.S. waterways from chemical contamination, have been reported by Beyond Pesticides. The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 or H.R. 872 already passed by the House earlier this year and was voted out of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, would revoke EPA’s authority to require permits for pesticide discharges into waterways. Soon after H.R. 872 was passed, the Republican-controlled chamber passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, H.R. 2018. This act would prevent EPA from stepping in to enforce clean water standards when it deemed that a state agency was not effectively enforcing the law. It would also prevent EPA from refining its existing water standards to reflect the latest science without first getting approval from a state agency.

In addition, over 70 amendments (riders) to significantly curtail environmental regulation in the 2012 Department of the Interior and the EPA spending bill (H.R. 2584) were added to an appropriations bill. This bill has at least 38 anti-environmental policy riders unrelated to spending that attack clean air, clean water, endangered species, and iconic places. One measure -to forbid the Fish and Wildlife Service to list any new plants or animals as endangered- was so extreme that 37 Republicans broke ranks and voted to strip it from the bill. Some of the riders added include: (1) ban EPA from all work to reduce the climate change pollution of power plants, refineries, and other major polluters for one full year, and allow major new sources of carbon pollution to be built without any controls; (2) prohibit the federal government from spending any money to restore runs of salmon to the San Joaquin River in California; (3) ban the EPA from even studying the impacts of pollution from industrial livestock facilities (factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)) on waters; and, (4) leave millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands open to drilling, mining, and off-road vehicles. The bill has been on hold.

According to the database, there have been 50 bills targeted at EPA, 16 to dismantle the Clean Water Act, 31 against actions that can prevent pollution, and 22 to defund or repeal clean energy initiatives. Support for these measures has been mostly partisan. On the bills compiled in the database, 97 percent of Republican votes were cast for the anti-environment position while 84 percent of Democratic votes were cast for the pro-environment position, according to a July press release sent out by the Democratic staffs of the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“The House has voted to block action to address climate change, to stop actions to prevent air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in dozens of other ways,” said Rep. Waxman in a statement.

In similar attacks on the environment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rubber stamped the unrestricted planting of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa, and sugar beets, despite contamination risks posed to both organic and non-GM farmers, not to mention the unknown human health risks. Like GM alfalfa, GM sugar beets are genetically engineered by Monsanto to tolerate repeated applications of the weed killer Roundup (glyphosate), also produced by Monsanto.

Unfortunately the White House has also been bowing to political and industry pressure, forsaking the health of the public. Recently the controversial decision to by the administration to withdraw a new EPA health standard for ozone smog was met with disappointment by the environmental community. At the same time, according to one environmental group, the administration blocked the impending release of a new EPA assessment of the carcinogenic trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent that has widely contaminated the environment and several communities, including Camp Lejune.

TAKE ACTION: Write to President Obama and to your U.S. Senators and Representatives telling them to stop undermining the laws that protect human health and the environment. Also let them know that the only way out of the economic crisis is by working for the establishment of a green economy. The need to sacrifice health for jobs is a false premise. Both can move forward together; and both must if we are to have a safe and secure future.

Source: Huffington Post

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece of those of Beyond Pesticides.


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