The House Energy and Water appropriations bill traditionally marks the beginning of anti-environmental rider season—a season even more depressing than the record-breaking rains in Washington, DC this May. This year’s bill continues the tradition of House leadership larding up the annual appropriations bills with anti-environmental policy riders in their ongoing gambit to undermine popular environmental standards.
The bill contains riders undermining the important Clean Water Rule and associated clean water policies like protections for streams from industrial runoff. There are also a handful of riders designed to gut environmental protections for California’s rivers and fisheries, threatening thousands of fishing jobs and overriding the Endangered Species Act.
Such shortcomings are why NRDC and 17 other organizations opposed this legislation in a May 23 letter urging members of Congress to vote against it. A Statement of Administration Policy from the White House reiterated the reasons to oppose this bill with the President’s advisors recommending a veto of the bill.
Additional troubling riders in the energy and water bill include those to undermine the implementation of the National Ocean Policy, to keep the rejected Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository open and report language to undermine building code development as well as the use of the social cost of carbon.
Why is Republican leadership continuing to push these riders? It seems riders have increasingly become the ideological red meat thrown to conservatives in order to ensure passage of these bills. In other words, riders are the new earmarks—only instead of sending money to pet projects, riders are payoffs to entire polluting industries that leave everyday Americans and our environment paying the bill.
Of course, an appropriations bill is supposed to be about funding the government, not just the policy items inappropriately placed in them. But even here the bill falls short.
Instead of properly funding the energy research needed to develop the clean solutions that will help us confront climate change the bill cuts funding to critical programs within Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by over $250 million. It also fails to meet the administration’s requests for other clean energy initiatives across the board. Finally, it wastes money trying to keep alive failed nuclear waste storage proposals like the over-budget MOX project (pg 8 in link) in South Carolina ($340 million) and the leaky Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada ($5 million).
With this bill, the House had the opportunity to help build a path toward cleaner and healthier energy and water use policies for all Americans. Sadly, that opportunity has been squandered.
For more on Republican leadership’s assault on the environment via appropriations policy riders visit: https://www.nrdc.org/riders