Early this morning, the US House of Representatives narrowly passed its budget reconciliation bill by a vote of 217 to 215. Fourteen Republicans joined all voting Democrats and one Independent in opposing the bill. This industry giveaway contains numerous attacks on the environment, particularly on our most special public lands.
"This budget is a loss for the American people," said Marty Hayden, legislative director for Earthjustice. "While the House version does not include threats to drill for oil along our coasts and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as earlier versions did, this budget would still cause serious harm to our public lands."
The House passed budget includes language seeking to:
- Sell off millions of acres of public lands currently protected by the federal government at bargain-basement prices – solely for the private gain of private corporations – in one of the largest land giveaways in our nation's history. Companies would be able to buy public lands containing valuable minerals for a tiny fraction of their market value, without paying any royalties or additional fees. Areas in or near national parks, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon, could all be at risk.
- Deem as "adequate" an as-yet-unwritten environmental impact statement for oil shale development. State and local governments, Indian tribes, and citizens across the nation would be deprived of the opportunity to voice their concerns about oil shale exploitation, and its impacts on clean air, safe drinking water, and vulnerable ecosystems.
- Split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, isolating California and Hawaii from Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Anti-environmental interests want to "judge-shop" in a new federal circuit court, where they hope judges would look the other way when environmental laws are violated. Former governor and senator Pete Wilson, a California Republican, has opposed such a split, calling it "environmental gerrymandering." The vast majority of Ninth Circuit judges, including all Bush appointees, oppose splitting the circuit.
- Cut important Farm Bill programs that help farmers and ranchers protect and enhance natural resources on their land. The Conservation Security Program, which rewards good conservation stewardship, would be cut by $504 million over five years. The Watershed Rehabilitation Program would be eliminated, meaning a loss of $225 million that local governments use to rehabilitate aging dams and other flood control projects. The bill also eliminates the budget for popular and effective federal programs that support farm-related energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.