Today, Earthjustice Vice President of Policy and Legislation Marty Hayden issued this statement following the release of the Omnibus Spending Package:
“We commend the House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairs and Leadership for keeping federal agencies funded and securing modest increases in the face of Republican opposition to the robust funding of the House-passed bills. Securing an omnibus bill and not leaving agencies hampered by the uncertainty of another continuing resolution is critical to protecting public health, fighting climate change and protecting our environment. There are provisions of this bill we can genuinely celebrate and others that are painful to swallow.
“We are particularly grateful for the investment in rooftop solar for Puerto Rico and the inclusion of important provisions of the reauthorization of the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act. The $1 billion for Puerto Rico is an important step forward in building electrical resiliency. While we recognize the need is far greater, we will work to ensure that these funds are directed toward the deployment of rooftop solar and storage as set forth in the Queremos Sol plan, benefiting those who need it most. The PRIA provisions will help farmworker communities mitigate their risks to pesticide exposures by mandating the translation of pesticide labels into Spanish and funding more worker protection, clinician training, and technical assistance grants to community-based farmworker organizations. However, extending the deadline for EPA to review pesticides that are currently on the market to ensure they are safe will cause severe harm to farmworkers, children, and consumers.
“While the bill does include the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, a long-awaited bill that will phase out the use of harmful large mesh drift gillnets, it also includes a harmful right whale policy rider that undermines the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For 50 years the ESA has successfully saved species on the brink, and riders like this undermine its future legacy as we desperately try to protect more than one million species threatened by the biodiversity crisis worldwide. With only around 340 whales remaining, and 90 females of breeding age, this provision exacerbates the extinction threat and undermines recovery of the species by legislatively overriding federal action to protect the species.
“The bill also provides important increases for Superfund and brownfield cleanups, as well as dedicates $600 million for repairing water infrastructure in Jackson, Mississippi. On the other hand, it undermines the president’s commitment to assist developing nations address climate change by providing only 10% of the annual contribution the U.S. committed to at COP27 in September.”