Reacting to a bill introduced in the House of Representatives yesterday, Earthjustice warned that the measure is the latest in an increasingly long line of efforts to roll back environmental protections in the United States. Introduced by Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), the Electricity Emergency Relief Act (H.R. 1647) contains sections designed to waive essential provisions of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
"Representative Barton is using California's energy problems as a Trojan Horse for weakening vital public health and environmental protections," said Sandra Schubert, legislative counsel for Earthjustice. "Anyone can see through this disguise; the oil, gas, and coal industries are attempting to use the painful lessons learned from the problematic deregulation of public utilities as an excuse for stripping away vital environmental safeguards developed over the last 30 years."
The Electricity Emergency Relief Act seeks to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to waive limits for nitrogen oxide emissions into the air whenever a state's governor declares an electricity emergency. There is widespread agreement among conservation, government, and even some industry leaders that these safeguards have not caused electricity emergencies or shortages.
"The congressman from Texas would like Americans to believe that environmental safeguards put in place to protect our health are too burdensome for the utility companies. The evidence clearly refutes this. This is nothing more than a polluter gift package. Analysis shows that our environmental and public health laws have not caused California's energy problems. The California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission, the EPA administrator, industry representatives, and a host of other experts agree." said Schubert. "The most significant impacts would be on our children and the elderly. It's those who need Congress's protection most – children, the elderly, those already sick – that would suffer the greatest. The ramifications of this proposal would last for years."
The Act also seeks to provide the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Bureau of Reclamation broad authority to waive the application of any restriction or constraint under any federal law, plan, rule, or order. The granting of such authority may lead to the suspension of programs aimed at protecting threatened and endangered species, such as current requirements that aim to assure minimum stream flows.
"If enacted, this proposal could sound the death knell for Pacific salmon, squandering years of restoration efforts and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and deny our children the chance to experience this unique facet of our Northwest heritage," said Todd True, senior attorney in Earthjustice's Northwest office.
For a detailed analysis of H.R. 1647, contact Sandra Schubert at Earthjustice at 202.667.4500.