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House Bill Underfunds EPA and Interior While Bill is Loaded with Riders

Scott Slesinger

Posted June 22, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Moving Beyond Oil, Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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As the House of Representatives continues its onslaught on our nation’s environmental standards, the House Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment passed a funding bill for the Departments of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and related agencies that would derail public health, environmental protection, and conservation of our natural resources.  The bill now goes to the full House Appropriations Committee.

Rather than make Members offer policy riders, the Chair of the Subcommittee, Rep. Simpson (R-ID), has loaded the base bill up with these provisions – which have no place in an appropriations bill.  This bill is unworthy of passage based on its dramatic funding cuts alone. The bill funds EPA at the level of 1998!  Try paying your bills today with your 1998 income. Add all the riders in to the equation, and it becomes an affront to 50 years of environmental bipartisan cooperation.  The more egregious amendments by topic are:

Clean Water

Sec. 422 would permanently block the EPA from limiting pollution from runoff from logging roads. Once again, the timber interests want to put short term profit over pollution of our rivers and streams.

Sec. 434 would permanently block EPA from clarifying which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act, threatening those waters, many of which are sources of drinking water and help with flood control.

Sec. 435 would block the Department of Interior (DOI) from enforcing safeguards designed to protect streams from pollution from surface coal mining.  This section would allow coal companies to dump thier waste in streams. 

Sec. 436 attempts to stop EPA’s work on the development of a proposed rule to reform the national regulations governing runoff pollution from urban and suburban sites and stormwater systems.  Nationwide, EPA estimates that “[u]rban stormwater is the primary source of water quality impairment [for] 13% of all rivers and streams[,] 18% of all lakes [and] 32% of all estuaries. . . .” At ocean and Great Lakes beaches, polluted runoff and stormwater routinely causes or contributes to thousands of beach closings and swimming advisories.  Unfortunately, this rider would mandate that EPA halt work – which is well underway – to address these problems until 90 days after EPA submits a report to Congress about the reform effort, making progress on this overdue effort impossible for a long time.  

Sec. 439 would prohibit funding for implementation of our landmark National Ocean Policy. Created as the result of two bi-partisan ocean commission's recommendations, the National Ocean Policy protects our ocean fish and wildlife while supporting sustainable development in our oceans.

Clean Air

Sec. 419 would require the President to submit a report to the House and Senate appropriations committees on all Federal agency funding, programs, projects, and activities in fiscal year 2012 on climate change. This rider is intended to offer guidance to climate change deniers regarding where to cut next year.

Sec. 420 would stop EPA from doing what it has no plans to do: regulating livestock’s intestinal gas releases.

Sec. 421 would prevent the EPA from requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.   Farms handle 130 times as much animal waste than the nation’s human waste. These large factory farms should report what they are doing to manage these systems that can threaten the air, water, and land.

Sec. 440 would undermine the Emission Control Area that will cut pollution from cruise ships by 85% by 2015.  This rider would undermine years of work to clean up dirty ships and improve the health of the millions of people who live near our coasts. The cruise ship operators oppose the standards, while industry groups representing container and other shippers support it. The change to cleaner fuels would eliminate 14,000 premature deaths by 2020. 

An amendment offered by Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) would block the EPA from setting new mileage standards for cars and from allowing California to do so. Passed by House Appropriations Committee on 6/27.

An amendment offered by Rep. Lummis (R-WY) would prohibit funds from being used to require EPA to stop all work limiting life-threatening carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, refineries, and other large sources. Passed by House Appropriations Committee on 6/28.

Wildlife

Sec. 111 would require the Fish and Wildlife Services to implement a system of mass marking of salmonid stocks, intended for harvest, that are released from federal hatcheries. The mark must be visual and “readily identified by commercial and recreational fishers.” Includes, but not limited to, fish releases of coho, chinook, and steelhead species.

Sec. 112 would make it more difficult for the government to challenge land use decisions in the courts.

Sec. 117 would force the Secretary of the Interior to finalize to the delisting rule for gray wolves in Wyoming.

Lands

Sec. 113 would exempt the trailing of livestock across public lands and the implementation of trailing practices by BLM from environmental review.

Sec. 114 would block the Department of Interior from protecting wilderness-quality lands.

Sec. 408 would make it more difficult for courts to require the Forest Service to update its land use plans.

Sec. 409 would prohibit funds from being used to conduct MLA/OCSLA prelease/lease/related activities within the boundaries of a National Monument except where such activities are allowed under the Presidential proclamation establishing such monument.

Sec. 410 would prohibit funds from being used for land acquisition without congressional approval outside of the Everglades National Park.

Sec. 412 would exempt the renewal of grazing permits from environmental reviews, thereby allowing permittees to operate in a manner that puts sensitive wildlife species and ecological resources in peril. 

Sec. 423 would prohibit funds from being used to manage bighorn sheep populations on National Forest Land in any way that restricts the grazing of domestic sheep. Removed by the House Appropriations Committee on 6/27.

Sec. 429 would extend a pilot program ‘enhancing Forest Service administration of rights-of-way and other land uses’ and change it from a pilot program to a program.

Sec. 431 would extend the maximum authorized term of grazing permits and leases from 10 to 20 years.

Sec. 432 would allow designation by prescription/description for timber sales under 16 USC 472a.

Sec. 433 would require the Forest Service to stop its development of Travel Management Plans in California until it considers opening trails to off-road vehicle use. The provision would also require more Forest Service roads to be open to off-road vehicles.

Sec. 437 would limit/roll back the Forest Service review and appeals process in various ways.

Sec. 438 would block funds from being used to prohibit use or access to federal land for hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting if such activities were permitted as of 1/1/2012.

An amendment offered by Rep. Lummis (R-WY) would prohibit the EPA from developing financial assurance requirements to help ensure that the hardrock mining industry -- not taxpayers -- foot the bill for environmental cleanup at mine sites.  The GAO estimates that financial assurances were not adequate to pay all estimated costs for required reclamation at almost half of the hardrock mines they examined.  

Toxics

Page 93 would limit ATSDR’s ability to add new toxic substances to the list of waste materials considered hazardous.

An amendment offered by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) would block the EPA from enforcing rules to limit exposure to lead paint. Passed by House Appropriations Committee on 6/27.

An amendment offered by Rep. LaTourette (R-OH) would prohibit funds from being used to clarify labeling requirements for pesticides so that they are not used in ways that are dangerous to people. Passed by House Appropriations Committee on 6/28.

An amendment offered by Rep. LaTourette (R-OH) would prohibit the EPA from enforcing asbestos standards for the demolition of single family homes. Passed by House Appropriations Committee on 6/28.

All and all, the bill is consistent with the House Republican view that environmental protection is a burden, if not to American’s health, then to American campaign contributors.  As Representative Waxman has said and documented on his website, there is not a war on coal “but a war on EPA.”

Updates

6-25-12  Added Section 436

6-25-12  Added details on NOP

6-27-12 Updated riders added or removed by the House Appropriations Committee

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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