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Five Ways the GOP-Led Congress Plans to Attack the Environment

It’s never easy being green. With a Republican-led Congress, it’s likely to be even less so in Washington—making the right wing’s midterm victory a tough blow to conservationists. Here are five key environmental issues that advocates expect to become even more heated with the GOP in charge of both the House and Senate:

1. Carbon Pollution Standards 

Polls consistently show that Americans support President Obama’s efforts to cut carbon pollution, by a wide margin. Yet Republicans have said they want to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to implement its proposed Clean Power Plan, and industry groups that backed GOP candidates are already on the attack. Last night the National Association of Manufacturers called on the new Congress to “stop the Environmental Protection Agency's assault on American energy security.”

2. Waters of the United States

WOTUS is the name of an EPA proposal to clarify the Clean Water Act, ensuring that it covers streams and wetlands. This might not sound like a big deal at first glance, but those waterways provide drinking water for 117 million Americans. Again, Republicans have said they’ll attempt to block it.

3. Ground-level Ozone

Likewise, the EPA is required (as a result of lawsuits by health and environmental groups) to propose new limits next month for ground-level ozone, an air pollutant that can cause respiratory problems. GOP lawmakers have already introduced a bill that could prevent the limits from taking effect. 

4. The Reins Act

We all know most members of Congress are not scientists—Republicans tell us at every possible opportunity. Yet in August, the GOP-dominated House passed a bill (the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act) that would require both houses of Congress to approve any new federal rules that carry an annual price tag of $100 million. The bill is yet another way of trying to block efforts like the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States. Some Republicans campaigned on the initiative as one of their top priorities if they took control.

5. Keystone XL

Congressional Republicans have voted several times to force President Obama to approve the Alberta-to-Texas tar sands oil pipeline, and GOP leaders say it will be a top priority in the new Congress. That's despite the fact that it’s still working its way through the Nebraska courts, which could block the pipeline’s route through the Cornhusker state. The president has repeatedly said he won’t approve KXL if it would significantly add to climate change. Could a veto be in Keystone's future?


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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