Search & Destroy: The Republican (Anti-)Environmental Agenda

If you want to get a sense of what Republican Congressional leaders think about environmental policy, there’s no better place to start than the spending bill for environmental agencies that the House passed, largely along party lines, right before leaving town for the conventions and the rest of the summer.  Maybe “think” is too strong a word; the bill exemplifies a kind of visceral, reflexive opposition to any kind of environmental progress.  The bill is based on a simple strategy – identify each and every initiative to protect air, water, lands or species, and then block it.  “Just say no” barely begins to describe the breadth and depth of the hostility toward environmental protection made evident by the bill. 

Not surprisingly, the White House has said the president would veto the bill.  And the bill, likely shorn of all the anti-environmental provisions, is destined to be part of the kind of huge, omnibus spending package that Republicans decry and then make inevitable with bills like this one.  But what the House just did is still relevant because it signifies what the position of Republican leaders is.  And the attitudes embodied in the bill are a barrier to getting any positive environmental action through Congress. 

The anti-environment provisions in the bill are known as riders because the provisions don’t affect the amount of overall spending at all, but ride along on the bill that is supposed to be about appropriations.  Riders are a way to play a game of “chicken” with the White House – daring the president to veto must-pass spending bills over unrelated environmental provisions.  That’s bad fiscal policy as well as bad environmental policy.

The Senate counterpart bill was already laden with anti-environmental riders, as I recently blogged.  But the Senate still has some interest in legislating, and so restrained itself.  The House bill gives the full sense of Republican environmental policy. 

Too few inside the beltway, the House easily surpassed the Senate in acceding to a radical anti-environmental, anti-science agenda that is completely out of step with the American people, according to numerous polls.

According to polls, most citizens who identify as Republicans believe climate change is real.  Most Republicans in the House do not. Most Republicans in the House, over 90% -- voted for the anti-environmental side in the amendments listed below – some of the 130 environmentally related votes in a busy week of July 10.  In each of these cases, 90% of the Democrats voted for the pro-environmental position.

A few of them include:

Beyer (D-VA) – Amendment No. 10 – Amendment to stop a provision in the bill that would make it impossible to regulate mountain top removal and the disposal of the mountain waste material into Appalachian streams. Amendment failed.

Y   190

N   235

Huffman (D-CA) – Amendment No. 11 – This amendment would help ensure that BLM’s Wasted Gas Rule has the opportunity to be finalized, implemented, and enforced. This rule will limit venting, flaring, leaks and waste of gas from oil and gas sources on public lands. This underlying provision and a series of others essentially would undo every Gulf drilling standard and go back to those in place before the Horizon spill.  Amendment failed.

Y   184

N   240

Peters (D-CA) [on behalf of Pallone (D-NJ)] – Amendment No. 29 – This would strike the provision in the underlying bill that would stop the Clean Power Plan.  This would undercut the main effort the government is making to address climate change. Amendment failed.

Y   182

N    244

Peters (D-CA) – Amendment No. 31 – Strikes Section 436 in the bill that would make it illegal for agencies to consider climate change impact when they evaluate the environmental impacts of their major actions. Essentially, this provision requires environmental impact statements to not consider the environmental impacts.  Amendment failed.

Y   185

N   241

Cartwright (D-PA) – Amendment No. 27 – With the problems with Flint, Michigan, this amendment strikes one of the provisions in the underlying bill that stops EPA's rules that address the issue of lead paint. Amendment failed.

Y   195

N   231

Becerra (D-CA) – Amendment No. 28 – Strikes section 430 in the bill that is a classic ‘socialism for the rich' provision. The underlying provision would stop EPA from requiring industries with histories of creating Superfund sites from being required to carry insurance to cover for likely risks. Without insurance, the clean-up costs will be left to the taxpayers. Amendment failed.

Y   190

N   236

Polis (D-CO) – Amendment No. 33 – This amendment would strike a provision blocking EPA from implementing its Methane Pollution Standard, the first-ever limits on methane pollution from the oil and gas sector (the largest U.S. emitter of methane) and would block future efforts to regulate existing sources of methane. Amendment failed.

Y   187

N   240

Beyer (D-VA) – Amendment No. 98 – This amendment would strike the many water protection rules that would be killed by the underlying bill, including: blocking the Department of the Interior's Stream Protection Rule, preventing the EPA from updating the definition of "fill material," expanding exemptions for dumping pollution into our waterways, and blocking the EPA and the Army Corps' critical rule explaining the reach of the Clean Water Act. Situations like Flint, Michigan demonstrate we need to do more, not less, to protect clean water for our communities and our families.  Amendment failed.

Y   178

N   246

There are other provisions in this anti-environmental treatise worthy of discussion, some of which I will discuss in future blogs; a few of those issue were included in a press report in Grist.

About the Authors

Scott Slesinger

Legislative Director

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