So Far, So Bad: Earmarks Make a Very Bad Bill Worse

The Congress needs to pass a bill to continue funding the government by March 4 or the government will shut down.  So you’d think the House of Representatives would be spending its time figuring out how much money to responsibly allocate to different programs, with an eye toward reaching agreement with the Senate and the President.  

Instead, the House has eaten up hours and hours, doing something else – seeing how many environmental laws it can roll back.   Without a hearing or committee vote, the members are passing judgment on dozens of environmental laws, carving out special exemptions – polluter earmarks, really – for whatever industry has a gripe about obeying the law.    The measure is stuffed with these anti-health and anti-environment provisions. These provisions will lead to dirtier air and water, more endangered species and fewer open spaces. The Tea Party is acting like a mob, destroying everything in its wake and ignoring the rule of law.  The Tea Party has managed to consider at least 23 polluter earmarks to the bill, on top of the ones that were there already in the bill.  My colleague David Goldston's blogged on those provisions last week.

These amendments all but repeal our basic provisions of environmental law by restricting EPA’s ability to carry out its responsibilities by specifically directing EPA not to spend money on legally required efforts. These earmarks are on top of a 30% cut in the Agency’s budget and terrible earmarks that I blogged about last week which would be essentially a 60% cut since we are halfway through the fiscal year.

The polluter earmarks and other anti-environment  provisions the House has added to the bill  include ones that would:

Stop EPA from enforcing the updated standards for the cement kiln industry.

(Offered by Rep. John Carter (R-TX))

EPA wants cement kilns to reduce the mercury pollution they pump into the air by 16,000 pounds. I blogged about this recently.  As C-SPAN noted, the goal of the amendment was “prohibiting EPA from regulating toxic emissions.”  The vote for this stop-work order was 250-177 with 7 Republicans voting “no” and  19 Democrats voting for it.  The mercury limits would prevent 1,500 heart attacks, 17,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 2,500 premature deaths every year, according to EPA. 

Block limits on carbon pollution and chemicals that created the ozone hole

(Offered by Rep. Poe (R-TX))

The amendment would effectively block limits on emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, or perfluorocarbons. Because the amendment, would block EPA from issuing limits FOR ANY REASON, it would also tie EPA’s hands in limiting damage to the earth’s ozone layer.  The amendment passed 249-177 with 2 Republicans voting “no” and 13 Democrats voting in support. The roll call will be available later tonight.

Shut down the  Greenhouse Gas Registry

(Offered by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS))

In a bipartisan action in 2008, Congress required large companies to make public their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  This is information that is the most basic, useful information to understand what is going into our air. Apparently acting according to the maxim that ignorance is bliss, the House passed the amendment  239-185, with 9 Republicans voting “no” and  11 Democrats in support.  

Make it harder for citizens to enforce environmental laws

(Offered by Rep. Cynthia  Lummis (R-WY))

Not satisfied with gutting the funding of EPA and its ability to enforce environmental standards, Rep. Lummis’s (R-WY) amendment would try to close the court house door on citizens interested in seeing that environmental laws are carried out.  The amendment would prevent the government from paying the other side’s attorney fees when it loses a case.  The payment of attorney fees makes it possible for citizens to take on the government when it’s not abiding by the law.  Industry would rather have the courts to themselves.  They can’t win these lawsuits, so now they want to whisk them away.  Worse still the amendment doesn’t change the law requiring fees to be paid; it just says the government can’t pay them.  So this amendment also requires the government to default on its legal obligations.  The amendment passed 232-197

 Hamper Clean Air Act enforcement in Alaska

(Offered by Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

Rep. Young didn’t like that EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board required the Shell Oil platform in the Arctic to comply with the Clean Air Act. So what to do?  Make the Board simply go away.  The amendment would restrict the Board from reviewing any permits for environmental compliance under the Clean Air Act in the Arctic. The amendment passed  243-185.    My colleague John Walke wrote yesterday about an even more brazen version of this effort to have Congress intervene on behalf of a company.  That amendment would have exempted oil drilling in the Arctic from the Clean Air Act entirely. 

This blog was written Friday afternoon at 6:00 pm; the bill is only going to get worse.

Americans want their representatives in Congress to stand up for the health of their families, not for the irresponsible agenda of big polluters.

If the House continues to cling to positions that poll after poll show are squarely at odds with the wishes of the American people, a government shutdown may be unavoidable. President Obama and the Senate leadership have rightly declared this bill dead on arrival.

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