Since his first day as Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell made it clear that he intends to support a full scale assault on the environmental protections he deems harmful to the health of his most important constituent - Big Coal. While we have seen parts of that promise revealed over the last few months, the end of March has finally revealed the full extent of his Big Polluter agenda and how harmful it will be to the health of all Americans.
Before leaving for their spring recess on March 28th, both the House and Senate passed separate, but related, budget blueprints that would slash funding for any government program that doesn't rhyme with "the fence". Besides cutting needed funding for key environmental and clean energy programs at EPA, DOE and DOI, the budgets also call for increased fossil fuel development on and off-shore while laying the ground work to undermine environmental standards.
If budgets are blueprints for the nation, then what GOP leadership hopes to build is a nation more dependent on fossil fuels and suffering from more pollution of its air and water and lands.
Some Senators attempted to push back on this plan, but many more decided it didn't go far enough in undermining the public environmental protections that Americans have relied on for the last 40 years. In total, around 130 amendments related to environmental issues were offered and the majority of them would undermine these protections.
Below is a letter NRDC and 21 other environmental groups sent to Senators outlining whether they should support or oppose these amendments and explaining their impact on the environment.
The list of those we would consider anti-environmental is breathtaking in just how broadly it assaults fundamental environmental laws.
Some of the worst amendments included: completely gutting the Clean Power Plan, the only plan to address the carbon pollution that is causing climate change; preventing the Government from even considering climate change when doing environmental reviews; stopping the President from protecting national significant lands; undermining the ability of the Endangered Species Act to protect several threatened species; allowing the sale of all public lands to developers (except National Parks); stopping efforts to clean up polluted waters; prevent proper management of our fisheries; and undermine citizens ability to provide input on major development projects in their communities.
Ultimately, only eight environmental amendments received votes during the budget amendment process and while several of those are worrisome, even more worrisome are some of the ones that didn't get a vote--but undoubtedly will in the future. We can expect these amendments to be offered as stand-alone bills, but more likely attached to bigger, seemingly must-pass legislation such as appropriations bills, increases in the debt ceiling, or other important bills unrelated to the environment but which Republicans think the President is unlikely to veto. This is the pattern we've seen over the last 4 years and we don't expect it to change this year.
I encourage readers interested in understanding the full breadth of the Big Polluter Agenda to read through the letter. It's a long read - but then again so is the Big Polluter wish list.
Enviromental Groups' Letter on Enzi Budget (S Con Res 11) Amendments