Perhaps inspired by the triple-digit heat afflicting Washington D.C., the House of Representatives is putting legislative flames to our important environmental and public health protections.
This week, the House will consider a spending bill for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service and other federal agencies. The bill is stuffed with open attacks by House Republicans on protections for our air, water, wildlife and iconic places.
Laden with nearly 40 so-called anti-environmental “riders”— policy provisions added to a measure having little or nothing to do with the appropriating funds—the bill hasn’t even reached the House floor yet. One provision will lift a moratorium on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon–one of the world’s seven natural wonders, and the only one in the U.S.
Another rider prevents the Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money to implement important functions of the Endangered Species Act. The federal government would not be able to list new species as endangered or threatened, designate habitat critical to a species’ survival, or upgrade the status of any species from threatened to endangered. Immediately threatened by this action are the 260 candidates species that the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
What are protected by these riders are polluters.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming, attached a rider that would delay the EPA’s efforts to clean up lead, mercury, fine particles and other pollution from coal-fired power plants and prevent cross-state pollution. This single rider would mean that up to 51,000 people annually would die prematurely as a result of this air pollution, and our nation would lose approximately $420 billion annually in health care savings and missed days at work and school. There are six riders attacking clean air protections.
Another rider prevents the EPA from protecting our drinking water from the second largest industrial waste stream in the nation–toxic coal ash riddled with mercury, arsenic, chromium and lead. Enough coal ash is produced each year to fill a freight train stretching between the north and south poles.
Never before has there been such a blatant and aggressive attack on key environmental protections. This Congress, blinded by the misleading messages of big polluters, has carried the load for industries that simply don’t want to clean up their pollution.
There are 10 riders that attack clean water protections, including one that stops the administration from restoring the protections of the clean water act to tens of thousands of miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands. Another stops the EPA from protecting Florida’s waters from outbreaks of toxic green slime caused by sewage, fertilizer and manure.
Earthjustice advocates will working around the clock to push back on this unprecedented assault on our environment and public health.