H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, which at the time it passed the House was the greatest legislative assault ever on the environment and public health, including massive funding cuts and policy assaults on our air, water, wildlife and wild places. On February 19, the House passed H.R. 1 (House roll call vote 147). On March 9, the Senate rejected H.R. 1 by a vote of 44-56 (Senate roll call vote 36). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The Obama administration and Senate leadership subsequently stood strong in negotiations with the House and insisted that most—but not all—of the anti-environmental riders from H.R. 1 be dropped before agreeing to the final compromise bill, H.R. 1473, which the president signed into law on April 15.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered an amendment to S. 493, small business reauthorization legislation officially titled the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011, to repeal the scientific finding by the EPA that greenhouse gases endanger human health and the environment, to permanently block the EPA from reducing greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and to undermine fuel economy standards. This radical amendment would jeopardize public health and the environment, and increase our dangerous dependence on oil. On April 6, the Senate rejected three other anti-environmental amendments—sponsored by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Max Baucus (D-MT)—to weaken or delay the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and then proceeded to reject the McConnell amendment by a vote of 50-50 (Senate roll call vote 54). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. On April 7, the House passed H.R. 910, which is identical to the McConnell amendment (House roll call vote 249). At the end of 2011, the EPA’s ability to reduce greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act remained firmly intact.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) sponsored S. 940, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, which would close tax loopholes for oil companies, since their outsized profits make it clear that they do not need taxpayer handouts. At a time when our fiscal situation is prompting cuts to critical programs, including environmental and clean energy investments, our government should not be subsidizing massive oil companies that reported profits of nearly $1 trillion during the past decade. On May 17, the Senate failed to achieve the 60-vote threshold needed to pass a motion to proceed to the consideration of S. 940. The motion failed on a 52-48 vote (Senate roll call vote 72). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced S. 953, the deceptively titled Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011, which would expand offshore drilling and make it more dangerous by enacting oversight standards that are weaker than those in place before the catastrophic 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which tragically killed eleven workers, wreaked havoc on Gulf coast businesses in the fishing and tourism industries, and damaged coastal and marine ecosystems. The bill would mandate numerous lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off Virginia’s beaches, requiring the government to use outdated and inadequate environmental reviews in the processing of new leases, even though the reviews do not consider the impacts of a worst-case scenario like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The bill would also impose a rushed and arbitrary time period of just 30 days for the Interior Secretary to approve or deny drilling permits, and it would grant automatic approval if no action is taken within 60 days. On May 18, the Senate rejected a motion to proceed to the consideration of S. 953 by a vote of 42-57 (Senate roll call vote 73). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) offered this amendment to S. 782, the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, which would have severely undermined the regulatory process. This amendment would create several unnecessary new processes to complicate economic analyses of proposed rules and to ensure interagency consultation that is already conducted by the Office of Management and Budget. It would also require a lengthy periodic review process for rules at select agencies, including the EPA, and impose mandatory budget cuts if reviews are not conducted or are incomplete. Furthermore, this biased review process would look at rules’ costs but not their benefits—including the environmental, health, food safety and other important benefits—which numerous third party analyses have found far outweigh their costs. On June 9, the Senate—in a 53-46 vote—failed to achieve the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the Snowe amendment (Senate roll call vote 87). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The House passed several bills that would severely undermine the regulatory process and jeopardize vital public protections (House roll call votes 880, 888, and 901); however, no such proposals have made it to the president’s desk.
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) sponsored this amendment to S. 782, the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, to repeal wasteful incentives for the ethanol industry, including a tax subsidy for oil companies that blend ethanol into conventional gasoline and an ethanol import tariff. Conventional corn ethanol has far-reaching negative environmental impacts, including water pollution, global warming pollution, and habitat destruction, and is already mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard. On June 16, the Senate adopted the Feinstein-Coburn amendment by a vote of 73-27 (Senate roll call vote 90). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The ethanol tax subsidy and import tariff expired at the end of 2011 and were not renewed by Congress.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) offered this amendment to H.R. 2112, the FY12 Appropriations bill for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, to defund the Transportation Enhancements program. This proven program has been the largest source of federal funding for trails, walking, and biking for 20 years, and amounts to less than 2% of overall spending on surface transportation. Transportation currently accounts for more than two-thirds of our nation’s annual oil use and roughly one-third of our global warming emissions, and this small program is critical for giving people access to cleaner transportation choices. On November 1, the Senate rejected the Paul amendment 38-60 (Senate roll call vote 190). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sponsored S. 1786, the Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011, which is a sweeping and extreme assault on our government’s ability to protect the public from a wide range of threats, ranging from pollution to workplace safety. While framed as a transportation bill, this legislation actually includes S. 299, the REINS Act—a radical assault on our system of public protections—as well as a host of provisions undermining specific bedrock public health and environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The bill would stop the EPA from cleaning up harmful pollution such as mercury, soot, smog, arsenic, lead, and carbon dioxide from some of our nation’s biggest polluters, including power plants, cement plants, and industrial boilers and incinerators. On November 2, the Senate rejected a motion to proceed to the consideration of S. 1786 by a vote of 47-53 (Senate roll call vote 196). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The House has passed numerous pieces of legislation that are part of S. 1786, including H.R. 10—the House version of the REINS Act—on December 7 (House roll call vote 901).
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) sponsored S.J. Res. 27, a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval to void the Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which will save lives and improve public health for millions of Americans. The Cross-State rule, which was finalized in July 2011, reduces dangerous smog and soot-forming pollution that is emitted from power plants and travels across state lines, and is estimated to save up to 34,000 lives and to prevent 400,000 asthma attacks, 15,000 heart attacks, and 1.8 million missed days at school or work each year, among other health benefits. On November 10, the Senate rejected S.J. Res 27 by a vote of 41-56 (Senate roll call vote 201). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The House had previously passed legislation on September 23 to block the Cross-State rule as part of the TRAIN Act (House roll call vote 741). There were no further legislative attempts to block the Cross-State rule in 2011, but the D.C. Circuit Court temporarily stayed the Cross-State rule on December 30.
Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) sponsored S. 1720, the so-called Jobs Through Growth Act, an extreme assault on our government’s ability to protect the environment and public health. While framed as a jobs bill, this legislation would prevent the EPA from cleaning up harmful pollution from some of the nation’s biggest polluters, reduce oversight for drilling, open our precious public lands to harmful tar sands development by private companies, and prohibit California from ensuring that enough water is allocated to protect salmon and Delta smelt. On November 10, the Senate rejected S. 1720 by a vote of 40-56 (Senate roll call vote 202). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced S.J. Res. 10, legislation to amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget every year, and to limit spending to 18% of U.S. gross domestic product. This legislation’s draconian spending cap would undercut the federal government’s abilities to meet its core commitments, including protecting our air, water, wildlife, and lands. Independent economic analysts projected catastrophic consequences if a balanced budget amendment were already in place for FY12. On December 14, the Senate rejected this resolution by a vote of 47-53 (Senate roll call vote 229). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The House voted on a series of balanced budget amendments; however, no such proposals made it to the president’s desk.