More than 25 environmental and religious organizations today called upon the US Senate to reject an amendment that would use federal disaster relief funds to pay agricultural interests for implementing virtually any federal law.
In a letter sent today, the groups opposed the amendment filed by Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) that would provide payments to comply with regulations that prevent pollution or other dangers to public health and safety including payments for implementing the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act and the enforcement of wetland protection laws. The groups charge that the breadth of the amendment is staggering, encompassing nearly all federal laws and any resource management decision, action, or water allocation.
“Unlimited payments from taxpayers for compliance with federal laws and contracts would be unprecedented and unwarranted,” said Susan Holmes of Earthjustice. “These payments to implement a broad range of federal laws and contracts could create a huge drain on funds that are needed to compensate farmers for real disasters and would chill enforcement of important federal environmental, labor and other safeguards.”
“This amendment would apply even where the courts have not found a property ‘taking’ to have occurred,” said Glenn Sugameli of Earthjustice. “We all live downstream; there is no right to be paid not to pollute or to endanger the health and environment of neighboring property owners.”
This Trojan horse stealth amendment would re-define compliance with pollution control and other environmental protections as “disasters.” The result could be blank check payments to enforce safeguards, including:
- Restrictions on pesticides to protect drinking water and farm workers;
- Wetlands protections that are needed to prevent flooding and reduce pollution;
- Actions needed to prevent extinction of salmon and other endangered species.