It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about the great big man in the red suit and last-minute Christmas shopping.
I’m talking about the House GOP majority trying to deliver on their year-long assault on environmental and public health protections in the last two bills that will be passed by Congress this year.
The first is the omnibus spending bill that was passed by the House and Senate today. For the past two weeks, the GOP House Leadership and Appropriations Chairs have had a priority list of anti-environmental policy riders they had to have in any final spending bill. Some of those at the top of the list included blocking measures to require the clean up of industrial boilers and incinerators, cement kilns and power plants, and attempts to railroad Clean Water Act protections for streams, rivers and lakes. Removing protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the Midwest were also on the list.
Thanks to the efforts of the White House, and Senate and House Democrats, none of these anti-environmental riders will become law in the final spending bill. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Arctic. A last-minute, backroom deal tacked on a measure that excludes oil companies from complying with Clean Air Act protections in the Arctic.
Not only does this dump thousands of tons of global warming pollution in an area most susceptible to climate change, it harms native communities who have survived and thrived on this majestic land for thousands of years and have subsisted on its marine mammals, birds, fish and other wildlife.
Another rider was included that attempts to block funding for DOE’s enforcement of certain light bulb efficiency rules, an action that has no effect on the underlying law.
Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner (OH) was successful in passing payroll tax relief legislation with measures that cut rules protecting the public from mercury and other toxic air pollution from boilers and incinerators, and another that short-circuits environmental reviews and speeds up construction of the dangerous Keystone XL pipeline project. Both of those riders must be dropped from any final tax bill relief bill passed by Congress.
One thing is certain: many of these attacks will return next year. Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA) have made it crystal clear throughout 2011 that their priority is to pander to the big polluters. Sacrificing our health, clean air and water is the price they expect the rest of us to pay.