House Republicans are using the oft-repeated refrain of “fiscal restraint” as their excuse for gutting several environmental initiatives that will put the public in harm’s way. But there simply is no excuse for hacking away at health protections that will leave our air and water dirtier and our children and seniors at risk. It’s not hard to see their real agenda. In many cases their proposals are clearly designed to make it easier for some of America’s biggest polluters to dump their pollution on us rather than pay to dispose of it responsibly.
House GOP’s Public Enemy Number 1: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The spending legislation introduced this week slashes the EPA budget by $3 billion and blocks the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. And in a symbolic dig against the White House, the bill also stymies President Barack Obama from replacing departing lead White House climate and energy advisor Carol Browner.
The spending plan also tries to block the EPA from fully implementing the Clean Water Act, while effectively letting major polluters foul our water. This will jeopardize drinking water for 117 million Americans and could leave millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams and rivers without Clean Water Act protections from pollution. But it doesn’t stop there.
There’s also legislative language calling for water used to rebuild West Coast salmon runs to be redirected to industrial agricultural ventures instead. Thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity related to the salmon industry are threatened by this proposal.
Our majestic wilderness also is on the chopping block in a proposal to strip the Bureau of Land Management of its ability to identify and protect special wild public lands from development.
The new congressional majority is also attempting to reverse a court ruling and lift federal protections from gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain. By law, lifting federal wolf protections is supposed to be determined by biologists and wolf experts, but some House leaders are trying to suggest their political judgment is better than biological judgment. If enacted, this would be the first time that Congress has delisted as species protected by the Endangered Species Act.
At this point, there are hundreds of amendments yet to be offered on the floor of the House that stand to make this horrible bill even worse. Too many bad amendments have been filed to name them all, but here’s a taste: there are amendments that seek to prevent the EPA from protecting you and your family from mercury pollution from industrial facilities, and from arsenic-laden coal ash. Others promote the blowing up of Appalachia’s mountains to benefit Big Coal, and the spreading of toxic green slime across Florida’s waters.
This bill is a wholesale assault on our right to breathe, our right to clean water, majestic landscapes and protected wildlife, not to mention thousands of salmon-related jobs on the West Coast. We must have a future to endow our children. This bill puts our American values and environmental legacy in jeopardy for the sake of a chosen few polluters in the short term. It must never become law.