The bill that House Republicans are proposing that will set the budget through the end of the fiscal year (Sept ’11) “loads up every piece of the far-right social agenda in one bill, from restricting a woman’s right to choose to preventing government from protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.” – quote from as Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. in Huff Post today. While I find many of the proposals distasteful, it is the ones concerning the environment that I would like to draw your attention to. As some of you reading this know, I’m currently in school, pursuing a degree in Environmental Policy and Planning. These issues are important to me, and often I’m shocked that there is so little regard paid to them.
I found a list of the environmental riders on the budget bill at the Sietch Blog. You can read them here, and there is a pdf version here. My thanks to the writers there for posting this. I’ll list just a couple of the ones that I found particularly appalling:
Section 1746: Taking Away EPA’s Authority to Enforce the Clean Air Act – states that zero funds may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce or promulgate any regulation related to the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding climate change. This far reaching legislation prevents EPA from regulating carbon pollution and protecting Americans from the impacts of climate change. This section stops EPA from requiring new power plants, oil refineries, and other major new sources of carbon pollution to begin reducing their carbon emissions. It also prevents EPA from setting minimum federal standards for power plants and oil refineries, and severely interferes with EPA’s permitting process for new or expanded facilities. In addition, this section prevents the public from learning how much carbon pollution is actually being emitted by the largest polluters. This legislation ties EPA’s hands and allows carbon pollution to continue or even increase unabated – endangering public health, food and water supplies, wildlife habitat, species, forests and coastlines throughout our nation.
Section 1747: Blocking EPA Efforts to Clarify the Scope of the Clean Water Act – halts the EPA’s ongoing effort to make clear which waters remain protected by the Clean Water Act in the wake of confusing court decisions and subsequent Bush administration policy. This provision leaves millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams without clear Clean Water Act protection. These streams provide at least part of the drinking water for 117 million Americans. It jeopardizes EPA’s ability to enforce the law against oil spills and waste dumping in these waters.
Section 4008: Limiting Enforcement of the Cement Kiln Air Toxics Standard – EPA is prohibited from using any funds to implement or enforce a health standard to control mercury and other pollutants from cement plants. Cement plants are the third leading source of man-made mercury emissions and have evaded controls prescribed under the Clean Air Act for over 13 years. EPA finalized these life-saving standards in September 2010 with a compliance deadline of September 2014. These overdue standards will save 2,500 lives, prevent 1,000 heart attacks, and reduce 130,000 missed days of school and work each year, according to EPA estimates. EPA also projects that this rule would save $18 billion in health costs just from reductions of fine particulate matter. Defunding implementation of this critical reduction of mercury, lead, particulate matter and other hazardous pollutants will not remove any regulatory obligations. In fact, this amendment deprives states and cement manufacturers from getting technical assistance and support in developing compliance plans. Barring EPA from providing critical guidance for this protective health standard puts the public at risk and leaves industry without critical compliance input.
Section 4015: Blocking EPA from Regulating Emissions from Stationary Sources – issues a “stop-work” order to the EPA for any regulation of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, or perfluorocarbons from stationary sources for any reason, including their impacts on ozone, climate change, or any other public health threat. The broad impacts of this amendment, therefore, include blocking work underway to address dangerous carbon dioxide pollution; a de facto construction ban on power plants and factories; interference with the
Renewable Fuel Standard; preventing EPA from implementing a three-year study of biomass greenhouse gas emissions; interference with the EPA’s acid rain program; preventing enforcement of rules covering emissions of HFCs and perfluorocarbons from refrigeration and other equipment.
This stop-work order would accomplish nothing other than to ensure that more dangerous pollution is dumped into the air and that U.S. companies fall behind in the global competition for clean energy markets.
The rest of the list is just as disgusting. Everything from defunding NOAA to gutting funding for important studies and our involvement in the IPCC. Many of these measures will not only create conditions of unparalleled environmental destruction, but cost thousands of jobs, and directly (and indirectly) impact the health of tens of thousands (or more), and the potential to contaminate the drinking water of hundreds of millions.
This is all being done in the name of controlling the deficit. But I doubt that the motivation behind such actions is really just fiscal responsibility. For whatever reason, it has become the party line of the Republicans that any government proposals that are aimed at benefiting the environment are somehow inherently evil. While I don’t doubt that this meme was started in the interests of businesses not wanting to spend a few extra bucks complying with environmental standards that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, I believe this new round of cuts is born out of something else entirely. It’s almost as if the new partly line is simply “fuck the liberals, let’s pass reactionary legislation that will drum up hysteria and unite our base”. They’re even bringing back styrofoam into the congressional lunchroom. Yeah, styrofoam, that substance that has been banned in several cities and is toxic throughout its entire millennial life span. Oh, and there is that state rep in Montana that is introducing legislation that would declare global warming beneficial to the welfare and and business climate of his state. The Republicans are basically taking their ideological positions to the extreme, in an effort to gut government of any type of power to protect its citizens from the dangers that industry can impose upon us.
Unfortunately, Republicans are living in the delusion of “now”. All of their proposed cuts to environmental spending are looking at the short-term deficit impact. None of these cuts address the long-term economic impact (hint: it isn’t good) nor do they address the long-term health-effects, or the long-term environmental impacts (which will impact the other two). Republicans love talking about how we can’t pass the deficit bill on to our children and grandchildren, but when we craft policies that demonstrate a total disregard for the environment, we leave them with a much steeper bill to pay.
Some like to claim that the green/lib crowd is trying to scare people with doomsday-type scenarios about climate change and other environmental issues. But the facts remain:
We are running out of fresh water
We are affecting global climate change, and the Earth is getting hotter
We are running out of arable land
We are dumping hazardous chemicals into the land, air and water that are screwing with our health and depleting the amazing amount of biodiversity found on this wonderful planet of ours.
These facts should be of grave concern to everyone, regardless of political persuasion. But they aren’t. Because in the culture of capitalism we currently find ourselves in, there are those that value the future balance sheets of our children’s bank accounts more than we do their health and livelihoods.
That’s all for now. Cheers.