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House Votes to Undo Cement Kiln Protections

Here is a quick update on the spending bill nonsense taking place in the U.S. House of Representatives:

Last night, as House leaders continued their marathon vote of their budget bill, they voted to dismantle a crucial set of air rules that would save up to 2,500 lives and slash mercury and other air pollution from cement kilns. These EPA health protections are supposed to take effect in 2013, and would cut cement plants’ mercury emissions by 92 percent and yield up to $18 billion in health benefits. Rep. John Carter (R-TX) sponsored the amendment, which is a continued attack from the Texas congressman beginning last month, when he introduced the Congressional Review Act to disable these air protections.

Lawmakers also approved an amendment that will suspend a law that enables private citizens, veterans and small businesses to recover fees from the government when their rights have been violated.

The Equal Access to Justice Act was enacted by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and gives people who successfully sue the federal government the right to recoup attorney fees. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) sponsored the amendment and on the House floor said the law is a "very fair law" but when on to say that it was "hijacked by certain groups."  Last night the House GOP majority voted to repeal this important law by a vote of 232 to 197.

Today, we anxiously await votes on an amendment forbidding the EPA from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste; another barring the EPA and other agencies from applying water pollution controls on mountaintop removal coal mining projects, a rider exempting oil companies drilling in the arctic from air pollution controls and an amendment blocking the EPA’s new water quality rules in Florida.

Read the full list of environmental attacks in the House spending plan.