Washington, DC (November 18, 2005) -- The U.S. House of Representatives late last night finally mustered enough votes to pass a controversial spending cut bill that gives away millions of acres of publicly owned land and eliminates successful energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for farmers and ranchers, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
This bill, which differs dramatically from the version passed by the Senate, will now move into a conference for the two chambers to work out the differences. Conferees will have to weed through numerous widely divergent provisions between the two bills in order to come to a consensus. Even then, a conference report could face another contentious vote.
"The only saving grace of the budget slashing bill passed by the House is that it could have been worse," said Heather Taylor, NRDC's Deputy Legislative Director. "But the fight is not over. Congress now has the chance to set things right and come up with a compromise that secures our financial well-being and prevents irreparable harm to our future security and to our public health."
Troubling provisions tucked into the House-passed budget reconciliation bill include:
- Public Land Giveaway - The bill would give away millions of acres of public land at bargain-basement prices to mining and energy interests. Not only would this effectively surrender large parcels of lands in protected areas such as national parks or wilderness areas, it would also likely cost the federal government nearly $2 billion in lost royalties. Selling this land will also remove the public and environmental reviews from making decisions about its proper management.
- Other Resources and Land Sell Offs - The bill would also sell off at low prices more than 2.5 million acres of federal oil shale resources, and do so without any serious environmental impact assessment. And it would sell off several parcels of popular public space in the District of Columbia, including Poplar Point, for which the District and Department of Interior had reached an agreement to transfer.
- End to Popular Energy Saving Programs - The bill would cut proven energy conservation programs that help many farmers and ranchers with wind power, solar energy, biofuels and energy efficiency projects. It would also deny funding to popular and effective programs supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy in the agriculture industry. And it would preempt higher state energy efficiency standards for new digital television equipment.
- Carving Up a Court - The bill would carve up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals -- long a bastion of Western environmental jurisprudence - giving President Bush the opportunity to pack a new court with ideological judges likely threaten core environmental protections provided in clean water, clean air and other laws.