The U.S. House of Representatives will begin debate today on important legislation that sets spending requirements for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service and other federal agencies. The bill currently contains dozens of “riders” that gut key environmental protections for air, water, endangered species and iconic places.
The following statement is from Marty Hayden, Vice President of Policy and Legislation at Earthjustice:
“The House of Representatives, led by anti-environmental Republicans, are sharpening their knives to gut key health and wildlife protections that could benefit millions of Americans. These are no small cuts; this is a complete butchering of environmental safeguards.
“Riders attached to the EPA spending bill decimate protections for air, water, lands and wildlife. Even before this bill reached the House floor for a full debate, Appropriations committee members attached 38 riders that shred our safety net for protecting against pollution in our air and water, saving imperiled wildlife, and protecting iconic places like the Grand Canyon from uranium mining. The White House rightfully highlighted these egregious policy riders as one reason for the veto threat it issued last week.
“This bill is larded up with giveaways to polluters and corporate donors. The same industries that filled the coffers of Tea Party candidates are finally seeing their investments paying dividends in the form of relaxed regulations for air and water pollution. Instead of paying taxes like the rest of us, these corporate polluters spend money buying off members of Congress. These same politicians are scurrying around right now, stuffing this budget bill chock full of favors for their corporate patrons.
“This bill is spreading death and disease across America as House Republicans massacre environmental safeguards meant to protect us all.”
The following is a brief summary of some of the current environmental attacks in the federal spending bill:
- Interrupting Agency Review of Coal Ash Standards – Seeks to defund any rulemaking that would regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, thus foreclosing any regulatory scheme that provides for federally enforceable regulations for America’s second largest waste stream.
- Waters of the United States – Would halt the EPA’s ongoing work to clarify which waters remain protected by the Clean Water Act in the wake of confusing court decisions.
- Preventing EPA’s Ability to Regulate the Largest Water Users – This rider prevents the EPA from developing and proposing standards for the use of cooling water at power plants under the Clean Water Act.
- Weakening the Clean Water Act – Would amend the Clean Water Act to create a loophole for the timber industry, exempting it from pollutant discharge permit requirements for silvicultural activities.
- Stormwater Discharge – This rider essentially prevents the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from updating its stormwater discharge regulations or permits to manage runoff from post-construction sites.
- Letting More Pesticides In Our Waters By Axing Clean Water Act Protections – Would create a loophole for pesticide applicators to spray toxic chemicals directly into our waterways without complying with the only statute that was created to protect our water bodies and us.
- Allowing Toxic Slime in Our Waters From Manure, Fertilizer and Sewage – This rider stops the EPA from using its funding to implement, administer or enforce new water quality standards finalized in November for Florida's lakes and flowing waters. This amendment, supported by industry groups in Florida and nationwide, would even stop public education or enforcement of this rule to protect Florida's waters from excess nutrient pollution from sewage, manure and fertilizer.
- Polluter Paradise– This rider would require EPA to stop all work to update clean air standards for dangerous smog, soot and other air pollution if so-called “background” levels of that pollution anywhere in the country are occasionally higher than the standards needed to protect public health.
- Spreading Death and Disease from Cement Pollution– This rider blocks EPA health protections that would control smog, soot, mercury and other toxic pollutants emitted by cement plants, some of the worst industrial polluters of any kind.
- More Soot Pollution, Anti-Science –This rider blocks the EPA from taking account the best scientific and medical information and updating clean air standards for “coarse particle pollution” or PM10, sometimes called soot.
- Spreading Mercury Poisoning, Death and Asthma Attacks – This rider denies EPA funding to carry out and enforce the Clean Air Act’s forthcoming Mercury and Air Toxics standards for power plants and the recently finalized Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to cut smog and soot pollution from power plants.
- Regulation of Ammonia Emissions – This amendment would prevent the EPA from setting a Clean Air Act standard for ammonia. Several federal agencies, including EPA, have documented ammonia’s acute and chronic adverse health effects.
Fish and Wildlife
- Extinction Rider – Prevents the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from spending any money to implement some of the most crucial sections of the Endangered Species Act, such as listing new species; designating habitat critical to a species’ survival; upgrading the status of any species from threatened to endangered; and assisting law enforcement by protecting species that resemble listed species.
- Shielding Gray Wolf Delistings from Judicial Review – This provision exempts from judicial review any final rule that delists gray wolves in Wyoming and any states within the range of the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment of gray wolves, provided that FWS has entered into an agreement with the state for it to manage wolves. The provision undercuts one of the most important checks and balances built into the ESA – public participation through the ability of citizens to request judicial review of delistings.
- Attacking protections for Endangered and Threatened Wild Bighorn Sheep – Eliminates nearly all protections for bighorn sheep in the western United States, forbidding federal agencies from protecting this key wild species.
- Anti-Wildlife, Pro-Poisons Rider – This amendment prohibits the EPA from implementing any measures recommended by federal wildlife experts to protect salmon and other endangered species from pesticides.
Mountaintop Removal Mining:
- Prohibiting Rules to Protect Streams from Surface Mining – Keeps the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement within the Department of the Interior from continuing work to revise regulations adopted in the waning days of the Bush administration that opened up streams to destructive and polluting practices associated with surface coal mining.
- Blocking EPA Oversight of Mountaintop Removal Mining – Shields mountaintop removal coal mining operations from EPA review by stopping EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from continuing a process they put in place in April 2010, to scrutinize proposed mining permits.
- Giving Oil Companies a Free Pass to Pollute – Limits the EPA’s ability to regulate air emissions from offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans, and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
- Lifting the Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Moratorium – Allows for extensive uranium mining directly adjacent to the Grand Canyon, potentially endangering an iconic landmark as well as some of America's most important water resources.
- Sticking Taxpayers With Mine Cleanup Costs – Prohibits EPA from ensuring that the hard-rock mining industry, like uranium and gold mining companies, post adequate financial assurance to cover the costs of cleanup at mine sites potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars.
Earthjustice (www.earthjustice.org) is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.
Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237, cell (970) 710-9002
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.