61 Reasons This Is the Most Anti-Environment House of Representatives in History
What’s worse than a do-nothing Congress? It’s a do-something-bad Congress. That’s what we see today from the House GOP majority.
While much media attention has focused this year on congressional gridlock—how Congress hasn’t been able to pass a Farm Bill, immigration reform or budget measures—the problem, in fact, is the Republican-controlled House. The Senate has passed bipartisan bills on a number of major issues.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have pushed forward more than 60 anti-government, anti-health and anti-environment initiatives, as noted below.
They’re picking up where they left off in the 112th Congress when they earned the title of the most anti-environment House in history.
During this August recess, when members of Congress are back in their states meeting with the public, we hope you’ll take a look at the tally below and consider asking them: What are your goals? Whose side are you on? What will you accomplish?
Just look at what they do.
Before the current recess, they pulled off the floor a major transportation bill aiming to fix our decaying infrastructure. Instead, they voted on a bill that would keep any new health or environmental standards from going into effect, and another one doubling down to ensure that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules addressing the oil and coal industries would die before the first bill killed them.
In many other ways, House Republicans have tried to repeal, roll back or throw up roadblocks to fundamental protections. Their plans would leave our health jeopardized, our rivers and streams polluted, our air dirty, our wildlife depleted and our lands developed with a Wild West mentality.
The House rank-and-file Republican membership is so zealous that their own leaders haven’t been able to get them to go along with some of their own proposals.
These House GOP ideologues don’t vote for “less regulation.” They vote literally for no safeguards at all. They like to characterize their proposals as simply adhering to mainstream conservative ideals. But they actually are far more radical than that. Just some examples:
- Republican measures to “reform” regulation are not some middle-ground effort to limit the burden on companies. Instead, they would literally tear apart the system that has protected Americans since the early twentieth century, making it next to impossible to put in place any new protection for air, water, food and land—while giving competitive benefit to recalcitrant companies. (See REINS and RAA below.)
- The Republican efforts to promote offshore drilling don’t just make it easier to get permits for drilling. Instead, they require that half the available territory for drilling be put out to lease each and every year, until every last piece is leased, regardless of any concerns about that pace or where it may be dangerous to local recreation and fishing industries or the number of inspectors available to act as a deterrent from unsafe practices.
- The Republicans have not just tried to “slow down” EPA or make it look more closely at regulations, as they sometimes claim. Instead, they have pushed to permanently block EPA from protecting waters, from basing air pollution limits on health concerns, and from doing anything at all to address climate change, including reining in carbon pollution from older power plants, which kick out 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution and today face no limits.
- They have not just tried to “trim” the federal budget or limit new federal spending. Instead, they have taken a cleaver to agencies that provide basic protections—a one-third cut in EPA in one year, and an even greater cut on all research to move us forward on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Significantly, House Republicans are using their majority to muscle these initiatives through, ignoring the public support for basic safeguards. With a handful of exceptions—such as an anti-climate amendment, a bill clipping EPA’s regulatory power, a pro-offshore drilling measure and harsh spending cuts in an energy and water bill, which each drew between eight and 16 Democratic votes on the floor—most measures have garnered scant or no Democratic support.
In the 112th Congress, House Republicans were just as reckless. They held about one anti-environment vote for every day the House was gaveled into session, according to Democratic staffers on the Energy and Environment Committee. The total, 317 votes, can be seen here.
That was why Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-CA), a member of the Environment Committee, and then-Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, called it the most anti-environment House in history.
This House GOP crusade has yielded nothing for the American people. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate and the White House have stood up to their industry giveaways, favors and backroom deals.
Have they gotten the message? No.
While accumulating a skimpy record of 22 bills signed into law—on such issues as precious-metal blanks and naming a bridge for Stan Musial—House Republicans have spent most of their time trying to ride roughshod over our air, land, water, wildlife and public health in the first months of the 113th Congress.
Following is a partial list of their efforts contained in pending legislation, or measures approved by committee or passed by the full House.
Individually, these measures represent caving to industry lobbyists or blind adherence to rigid ideological positions. But like a painting made of many brush strokes, together they reveal an unrelenting House Republican agenda that is anti-health, anti-community rights, anti-environment and, in total, against the broad interests of the American public.
Hobbling Federal Agencies That Protect the Public and Fight Pollution
1. The Interior and Environment appropriations bill would cut the EPA’s budget by 34 percent, down to levels not seen since 1990 (and, adjusted for inflation, to the level in 1976); making it next to impossible for the agency to enforce the environmental laws Congress has passed to protect our health, our lands, our air and our water. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
2. Included in the EPA spending bill is a provision to slash funding for rehabilitating and repairing the nation’s aging sewage systems to just $250 million from $1.44 billion previously. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
3. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 435) would permanently block EPA from clarifying which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. This would deny Clean Water Act protection for countless streams and wetlands, many of which are sources of drinking water and help with flood control. Identical language appears in the Energy and Water appropriation. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
4. The Energy Consumers Relief Act would subject any significant rule affecting an energy industry issued by EPA to a veto by the Energy Department, an agency with a wholly different mission from EPA’s, which is to protect public health, fight pollution and mitigate climate change. This would allow vital health and environmental safeguards to be nullified. Passed by the House.
5. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 436) would block the Department of Interior (DOI) from enforcing safeguards designed to protect streams from pollution from surface coal mining. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
6. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 437) would require a 90-day review by Congress before EPA could strengthen limitations on pollution from urban stormwater systems. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
7. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 439) would prevent implementation of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), a landmark policy designed to safeguard our oceans and coasts. That rider also requires a report on all FY 2011, FY 2012 and FY 2013 spending on the NOP and requires the President's budget proposal for FY 2015 to identify all proposed funding for NOP. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
8. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 443) would block the EPA from enforcing rules to limit exposure to lead paint. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
9. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 444) would repeal for the length of the appropriation EPA’s ability to require any industries with high probability of polluting to carry insurance to cover environmental damages they cause. This amendment would allow these risky industries to pass off the damages they cause to the public. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
10. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 448) would permanently block the EPA from setting standards to require the recycling of water used by power plants for cooling. Many older power plants use enormous amounts of coolant water, killing millions of fish in the process and then discharging the hot water. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
11. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 450) would prevent EPA from publicly disclosing “personally identifiable” information about livestock facilities, including the location of factory farms. A similar provision is in the Farm Bill. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
12. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 452) would permanently block the EPA from limiting pollution from stormwater runoff from a wide variety of logging operations. The Farm Bill (Sec. 11323) has a similar provision. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
13. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 455) would prevent the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from protecting waters from pollution when utilized for hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands and from managing water resources in order to benefit fish and wildlife populations. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
14. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 456) would prevent EPA from updating the definition of “fill material” allowing the mining industry to continue dumping toxic waste from mountaintop removal activities into mountain streams. A similar provision is in the Energy and Water appropriations bill. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
15. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 457) would block EPA from enforcing particulate matter standards from applying to metal casting facilities which use furnaces to reprocess industrial sand. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
16. The REINS Act (Regulations From the Executive In Need of Scrutiny), a broad-based attack on regulation, would allow a single house of Congress to block any major agency-proposed regulation affecting health, safety, the environment or the economy. Passed by the House.
17. The Regulatory Accountability Act would slow or block the adoption of new health and environmental safeguards by imposing on the EPA and other agencies an ornate and overly complex process for rulemaking and giving regulated industries many more ways to tie up new rules in court. Passed by full committee.
18. The RAPID Act (Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development)—designed to ram through construction of major projects, such as oil refineries, power plants, nuclear waste dumps, big flood control projects and the like—would place arbitrary, and short, time limits on environmental reviews, severely limiting consideration of less harmful alternatives and reducing all-important public participation. Passed by full committee.
19. The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act would give the executive branch opportunities to ignore Congressional deadlines by allowing polluters to disrupt court proceedings that try to enforce the law. Passed by full committee.
20. The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would have the effect of bogging down new and existing regulations with cumbersome and superfluous reviews. Passed by full committee.
21. The 2013 Farm Bill would prevent the EPA from restricting pesticide use near certain fisheries until there is a new study by the National Research Council (NRC) of the underlying science that informs the limitation. Passed by the House.
22. The Farm Bill contains a provision that would prohibit EPA from modifying, canceling or suspending a pesticide registration on the basis of a biological opinion issued by NOAA Fisheries Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until the completion of an independent study on the opinions. Passed by the House.
23. In the Farm Bill is a provision that would bar states from enacting or enforcing their own food and farm laws, which could invalidate more than 150 state laws that currently protect health, animal welfare and food safety. Passed by the House.
24. The Offshore Energy and Jobs act would prevent the Interior Department from conducting thorough environmental and safety reviews of offshore oil leases, including oil spill response capacity, as called for under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Passed by the House.
25. The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act aims to undermine meaningful public participation and environmental review under NEPA by setting an arbitrary deadline for reviews of the “siting, construction, expansion, or operation of any natural gas pipeline projects.” If deadlines are not met, the permit or license “shall go into effect.” Passed by full committee.
Endangering Wildlife and Public Lands
26. The House Appropriations bill for the Interior Department cuts the Fish and Wildlife Service budget by 27 percent and, for the first time in many years, provides no money for new land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
27. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would block funding for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), a network of public-private partnerships that provide shared science to ensure the sustainability of America's land, water, wildlife and cultural resources. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
28. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would prohibit funding to create or expand wildlife refuges. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
29. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would prohibit researching endangered species on private property. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
30. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 114) severely limits the public’s right to address decisions made by the Bureau of Land Management that favor industry, leading to decisions that will further harm essential federal ecological resources and wildlife. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
31. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 118) would block funding to implement the “Wild Lands” initiative of Interior Secretary Salazar in 2010. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
32. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 119) would exempt the trailing of livestock across public lands and the implementation of trailing practices by the Bureau of Land Management from environmental review under NEPA. It also precludes trailing decisions from be being protested by stakeholders. (Trailing is the practice of deliberately moving herds of sheep or cows across miles of federal lands where they could interact with, and possibly infect, endangered wild species). Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
33. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 120) would prohibit the listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
34. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 407) would allow the Secretary of Agriculture to rely on outdated forest plans, ignoring the reality that national forests are quickly changing in the face of climate change. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
35. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 409) would prohibit funds from being used for the taking of land by eminent domain without congressional approval, with the exception of federal assistance to Florida for Everglades restoration. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
36. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 411) would exempt grazing permits from environmental reviews indefinitely. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
37. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 410) sets a minimum size of Alaskan timber sales in Region 10, an area that includes the Tongass and Chugach national forests. These timber sales can include exports of red and yellow cedar. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
38. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 432) would limit Forest Service review and appeals processes. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
39. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 434) would increase the maximum authorized term of grazing permits issued for domestic livestock on public lands from 10 to 20 years. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
40. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 438) would block any limits on the use or access to federal land for hunting, fishing or recreational shooting if those activities were allowed as of Jan. 1, 2013. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
41. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 453) would exempt from environmental review grazing allotments assigned to permittees and lessees to replace ones made unusable by drought or wildfire. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
42. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 454) would enable wholly unrestricted off-road vehicle use on National Forest System land. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
43. The Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act would block the federal government from regulating the controversial oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on most federal lands, and instead relinquish control to the states, no matter how weak their oversight. Passed by full committee.
44. Under the guise of mitigating future fire risks, the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act would undermine the protections of NEPA, which call for public comment and thorough review, by fast-tracking the opening of federal lands to grazing and logging for 10 and 20 year terms respectively. Introduced in committee.
45. The Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act seeks to throw open public lands to widespread oil and gas drilling by, among other means, cutting short public input and charging a $5,000 “documentation fee” to citizens who exercise their rights under law to challenge the environmental soundness of a lease. Passed by full committee.
46. The National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act aims to rush through oil drilling approval in the Alaskan reserve by setting impossibly short deadlines on the Interior Department review mandated under NEPA. Passed by full committee.
47. The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act would give agencies the discretion simply to declare that a mineral exploration or mining permit would not constitute “a major federal action” and thus prevent the application (and protection) of NEPA. Passed by full committee.
Blocking Efforts to Combat Climate Change
48. The Energy and Water appropriations bill cuts nearly a billion dollars, a 50 percent reduction, from renewable energy projects and research at the Department of Energy. This includes slashing funds for the popular ARPA-E research agency by 81 percent and reducing funds by $220 million for the Office of Science, which supports much of the critical basic research that drives our innovation economy. Passed by the House.
49. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 445) would block EPA from limiting carbon pollution from power plants. Passed by subcommittee, pending in committee.
50. An amendment to the Energy Consumers Relief Act bars EPA from attributing any benefits to reductions in carbon emissions. This would prevent EPA from implementing any energy efficiency rules and essentially denies that climate change is having any adverse impact on public safety, health, agriculture or the economy through sea-level rise, drought, super-storms, heat waves and other extreme weather. Passed by the House.
51. A provision in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 419) would require the President to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on “all Federal agency funding, domestic and international, for climate change programs, projects and activities in fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013.” Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
52. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 420) would prevent the EPA from limiting pollution from livestock production under the Clean Air Act. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
53. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 421) would prevent the EPA from requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
54. The 2013 Farm Bill would cut all funding for rural renewable energy and efficiency development, including solar and wind, which help decrease reliance on polluting fossil fuels. Passed by the House.
55. A provision in the Interior appropriations bill would rescind $1.3 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program and transfer $285.6 million to wildfire suppression operations. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
Undermining Public Health
56. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would limit the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's ability to add new toxic substances to the list of waste materials considered hazardous. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
57. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 451) would permanently prevent EPA from updating standards for cleaning up gasoline and cutting smog-forming pollution from cars and light trucks (Tier 3). Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
58. Section 442 of the Interior and Environment appropriation would create confusion and uncertainty by exempting certain stormwater discharges from coverage in municipalities' Clean Water Act discharge permits. This exemption would lead to endless factual disputes over the source and destination of individual sites' runoff, and it would prohibit permit requirements for those pollution sources, allowing them to continue degrading local water bodies without consequences. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
59. The Farm Bill would sharply reduce, then end, funding for conservation programs, which help restore wetlands and prairies and reduce fertilizer and pesticide pollution that poison our rivers and drinking water. Passed by the House.
60. The Farm Bill would gut all Clean Water Act restrictions on spraying pesticides into certain bodies of water, reversing a 2009 court decision. Passed by the House.
61. The Farm Bill loosens the oil spill prevention obligations of certain agricultural operations, even though oil spills from a farm are just as harmful as those from industry. Passed by the House.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.