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House Bill Attacks Environmental Laws and Funding

02 Jul 2015  |   Henry Miller

Tags: Congress

On June 16 the House Appropriations Committee passed its spending bill, H.R. 2822, for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Forest Service, which is nothing more than an assault on our air, water, lands, and wildlife.  The bill promises to continue the fight over funding levels for environmental agencies and anti-environmental policy riders that have absolutely no place in a spending bill.  President Obama has issued a veto threat on this extreme anti-environmental legislation.

The measure will cut funding for the EPA by $718 million from current levels.  This represents about a 9 percent decrease.  The proposed bill also caps staff levels for the agency at the lowest level since 1989.  Anti-environmental policy riders in the bill, which should be debated openly rather than snuck into spending legislation, would block the EPA from implementing the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants and halt Clean Water Act protections for waterways that feed the drinking water of one in three Americans.  These are just two of the no fewer than 25 anti-environmental policy riders snuck into this bill.  These cuts and riders will have a drastic effect on the agency’s ability to implement rules that combat climate change and keep our air and water clean.

The Republican leadership’s budget proposal also underfunds what should be a much more bipartisan issue – wildfire management.  The proposed bill provides $3.6 billion for wildfire fighting and protection measures – a $600 million shortfall from the level requested by the President.  In all likelihood this will cause “fire borrowing,” which occurs when the Forest Service and Interior are forced to pay for firefighting from other sources of funding in their budgets.  With this year’s fire season shaping up to be “very active” according to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Republicans must cease loading up this spending bill and underfunding wildfire management.   Republican leadership should instead look to solutions with broad bipartisan support such as H.R. 3992 – The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act - from Representatives Simpson and Schrader complemented by S. 1875 from Senators Crapo and Wyden. 

(Photo found on U.S. Department of Agriculture flickr, Photo Credit: Mike McMillan, U.S. Forest Service)
Another bipartisan issue that Republican leaders have failed to support in this bill is the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The LWCF has been in place for 50 years now and has been America’s most successful conservation program over that half century, providing funding for national, state, and local parks.  Republican leaders, however, decided they want to cut the program's funding by 17 percent from current levels.  The program is authorized at $900 million – coming mostly from offshore oil and gas receipts, not taxpayer dollars – has only its full-authorized amount one time in its fifty-year history.
Cuts to conservation programs like the LWCF were not the only damage done to conservation efforts in this spending bill though.  Other anti-environmental policy riders in the bill include efforts to undermine bedrock environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.  
One such policy rider will block improved restrictions on the illegal sale of ivory.  Amendments to strike such riders from the bill were offered by Representatives Betty McCollum (MN), Chellie Pingree (ME), and Steve Israel (NY), but were at all defeated despite the fact that ivory trafficking is a funding source for Al-Shabaab and other terrorist organizations.  For its part the Obama Administration has fought illegal ivory trafficking by announcing a ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell attended the Fish and Wildlife Service’s second “Ivory Crush” of confiscated ivory in New York.
Overall the funding bill cuts $246 million from current total funding levels, and is $3 billion lower than what President Obama requested.  The Republican leadership’s efforts in the creation of this funding bill are far more than just a desire to cut spending.  This proposed bill embodies a systematic attack on science and the environment.   LCV is counting on our allies in Congress to reject this funding bill and pass one that protects our air, water, land, and wildlife.  
A letter circulated by the LCV urging Members of Congress to vote against this spending bill can be found here.

(Photo found on annspan flickr, Photo Credit: Ann Baekken)

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