ALERT: GOP Attempting to Kill Environmental Regs Across The Board With Sneaky Budget Riders

(EnviroNews World News) — Washington, DC — It seems like we, at EnviroNews, have been reporting on this type of thing all year. That is, sketchy environmental riders being attached to totally unrelated appropriations bills in backdoor efforts to kill environmental and wildlife protections.

Yes, this year’s spending bills are littered with Republican-stamped provisions seeking to gut current regulations, while rolling back what little painstaking progress the government has made on the climate issue — this, in an attempt to open the door for limitless carbon pollution, and myriad other industrial plunders.

Keeping Nevada’s nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain open, defunding wind projects, and classifying the burning of biomass for electricity as “zero carbon pollution,” are just for starters when examining the list of non-environmentally friendly attachments this year.

Section 424 on the Senate side of the Interior and Environmental Appropriations bill, would craftily and covertly kill the Clean Air Act entirely — in a move that would annihilate basic health protections implemented decades ago.

Section 417 of the House Interior and Environmental Appropriations bill proposes to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from being able to regulate emissions from livestock under the Clean Air Act, while a rider in the House Commerce, Justice, and Science spending bill attempts to outlaw the implementation or consideration of the National Climate Assessment, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on the social cost of carbon.

Of the many climate riders being squabbled over in committee is Section 417 of the Senate Interior and Environmental Appropriations bill — a clause that would permanently block the EPA from regulating carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants. This provision, alongside several others, aims to entirely, and permanently neuter the EPA of its ability to regulate carbon and air pollution.

While the aforementioned riders may be infuriating to many, that short list is only for starters. A prime example of an attempt to gerrymander the system can be seen in an article published by EnviroNews DC News Bureau in May, wherein a shady backdoor rider placed into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by Rob Bishop (R) of Utah, was covered. That language aims to nullify a court-ordered decision forcing the Department of Interior (DOI) to decide by September 30, 2015, on weather or not to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Now some people might be asking themselves, “Just what on earth do sage grouse have to do with a military spending bill?” — a pertinent question to say the least. Bishop has run into problems with his sage grouse play, but already something similar has been forged in the form of Section 117 of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill — another piece of must-pass, annual, spending legislation.

The decision on whether to protect wildlife species under the ESA or not, is supposed to be driven by science and biology — not political whims and special interest ploys, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing the GOP down a bit in 2015.

Obama Administration Comes Out Against NDAA Sage Grouse Rider -- HEADLINE -- Photo: EnviroNews DC News Bureau

Obama Administration Comes Out Against NDAA Sage Grouse Rider — HEADLINE — Photo: EnviroNews DC News Bureau


In regards to Section 117’s attempt to kill any possibility of the greater sage grouse receiving protection, the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) said the provision, “would permanently bar the Fish & Wildlife Service from engaging on efforts that might result in the potential listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 119) would also permanently prevent efforts that might result in the ESA listing of the greater sage grouse and Gunnison sage grouse.” — and this is only one small example in the larger war the GOP is presently waging on environmental regulations and wildlife protections.

Still, the GOP attacks on the majestic and ecologically imperative sage grouse might not be as bad as the all-out assault being waged on yet another grouse — the lesser prairie chicken. Section 2865 in the NDAA would delist this imperiled species from the ESA entirely, and block it from being considered for any future protection for another six years.

These legislative techniques are not new, although a rising trend over the past few years has culminated in 2015 in what can only be chalked up as a full frontal assault on the environment and imperiled wildlife species by way of off-the-wall, and often totally unrelated riders — sneakily deployed through the backdoor — deep into massive appropriations bills.

Oak Flat Campground

Oak Flat Campground

LAST YEAR’S DAMAGE

In the NDAA of 2015 (last year’s bill), John McCain and Jeff Flake effectively traded off a sacred Apache burial ground along with 2,500 acres of protected federal land, to the two biggest transnational mining companies on the face of the planet — Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton — both foreign entities. That highly controversial rider continues to cause outrage to this day, and has lead to a 24/7 encampment at Oak Flat — the site set be plundered.

McCain Flake NDAA Mining Rider -- Photo: EnviroNews Headline

McCain Flake NDAA Mining Rider — Photo: EnviroNews Headline


While the McCain-Flake Apache land-grab rider was taking place in one deeply buried section of the NDAA, Mark Amodei of Nevada made a similar land-swap deal in the same bill — a move that paves the way to reopen the old and abandoned Anaconda Copper Mine — a declared superfund site owned by ARCO via way of BP — and a mine that poisoned the drinking water of a band of Paiute Native Americans with deadly uranium tailings and other heavy metals.
Anaconda Copper Mine -- Yerington, Nevada -- Flooded Pit -- Wikimedia Commons

Anaconda Copper Mine — Yerington, Nevada — Flooded Pit — Wikimedia Commons


Last year’s McCain-Flake rider has been controversial and sparked a palpable revolt — so much so that Representative Raúl Grijalva (D) is now running legislation to repeal it. Several publications in the media have noted that McCain is the largest recipient of funds from Rio Tinto in congress, while Flake is an ex-Rio Tinto lobbyist himself. A connection like this raises eyebrows and points to a political system manipulated by special interests. Still, what do either of these mining projects have to do with defense spending?

It’s important to note that much of the time, the ideas proposed in appropriations riders have been tried in the past as standalone pieces of legislation. A perfect example of this is the aforementioned land-swap deal that would grant access to Rio Tinto for the pillaging of the federally protected Apache burial grounds. It’s been attempted before as self-contained legislation on multiple occasions. Each time it has fallen flat in the face of President Eisenhower’s executive order to protect the place.

OVERVIEW OF GOP ANTI-ENVIRONMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS RIDERS FOR 2015

The type of convoluting rider discussed in this article has become the modern GOP lawmaker’s technique of choice — an end-around way for legislators to ramrod deals into law on behalf of their own states or special interest groups — by way of essential, annual, must-pass spending bills. The unrelated riders muddy the laws while acting as a source for political posturing and divisiveness.

Many of the country’s appropriations bills are simply massive — and many of the riders are buried hundreds of pages deep, making it virtually impossible for your common man to keep up with the back-room shenanigans. To address this problem, the NRDC, in late June, released an analysis highlighting the riders that Republicans have attached to spending bills in 2015 — this, in an effort to keep people informed who don’t have time to read multiple 1,000-plus-page pieces of legislation every week. NRDC’s complete analysis, including a detailed bullet point on each rider, can be read just below.

• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation offered by U.S. Rep. Calvert of California would block the EPA from limiting carbon pollution, blocking EPA from finalizing the first-ever carbon pollution standards for new and existing fossil fuel power plants. The Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 417) would permanently prevent the EPA from enforcing limitations on carbon pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation bill (Sec. 437) offered by Calvert would block any consideration of the costs of carbon pollution on the rest of the world. This would bar the government from assessing and weighing the full costs of extreme weather or other climate impacts caused by pollution and the full benefits of any actions to improve energy efficiency or clean up carbon pollution. A similar version was added to the committee report for the House Energy and Water appropriation and to the Senate Energy and Water appropriation (Committee Report, p.68).
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation offered by Calvert would treat biomass burned for electricity production to be considered to have zero carbon pollution despite the fact that emissions from wood biomass are often higher than those from coal. The language, according to the NRDC, threatens the long-term health of forests by encouraging the burning of trees to generate electricity and worsens climate change by pretending climate-changing emissions don’t exist. The Senate Interior and Environment Appropriation contains a similar provision.
• A rider in the House Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriation would block any implementation or consideration of the National Climate Assessment, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and the social cost of carbon.
• A rider in the House State and Foreign Operations appropriation (Sec. 7080) would reverse the president’s policy of not backing funding for most new overseas coal plants. A similar version of this was also added to the House Financial Services and General Government appropriation.
• A provision in the House Financial Services and General Government appropriation (Sec. 621) would prohibit paying a salary to the assistant to the president for energy and climate change.
• A rider in the House Defense appropriation (Sec. 8128) would waive section 526 of the Energy Independence Security Act, which prevents the government from purchasing alternative fuels (such as liquids produced from coal) that emit more carbon pollution than conventional fuels do.
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 514) would block implementation of updated federal flood protection standards that offer an improved margin of safety and call for agencies to evaluate how sea level rise and other climate impacts increase future flood risk. A similar provision is included in the House Financial Services Appropriations (Sec. 745), and the Senate Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 503).
• A provision in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 416) would require the president to submit a report to the House and Senate appropriations committees on “all Federal agency funding, domestic and international, for…programs, projects and activities in fiscal year 2015 and 2016” on climate change. This report would facilitate attempts to cut all climate change funding in future appropriations bills, according to the NRDC.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 417) would permanently prevent the EPA from limiting pollution from livestock production under the Clean Air Act. The Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 418) contains a similar provision.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 418) would permanently prevent the EPA from requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 435) would block EPA’s ability to set standards curtailing use of super-polluting hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants and foam blowing agents. The pollutants are known to harm the ozone layer and are a potent greenhouse gases with thousands of times the impact on climate change than carbon dioxide.
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 522) would prevent the Department of Energy from using life-cycle greenhouse gas emission analysis when determining the public interest of energy exports. This is intended to expand exports by understating the environmental impacts.
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 523) would block work on the Department of Energy’s Climate Model Development and Validation Program.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation for the first time uses a political rider to block Americans’ right to safe air. It would halt EPA’s work delivering healthy air to all Americans until 85 percent of the nation meets outdated health standards that science has shown to be insufficient to protect our nation’s health. In so doing, the rider would hold the health of all Americans hostage until urban and heavily industrialized areas meet outdated standards, according to the NRDC. A similar rider in the Senate bill (Sec. 424) would permanently block these air quality protections.
• The Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 432) would prevent federal agencies from considering greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) or climate change in decisions made under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires federal agencies to consider vital environmental factors before making major project decisions. Excluding greenhouse gas emissions promotes uninformed decisions, risks long term environmental harm and encourages projects that lack climate resiliency.
• A provision in the House Transportation appropriation (Sec. 192) would block work on the California High-Speed Rail Program.
• A provision in House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 512) would prevent the Department of Energy from providing any funds to the Cape Wind Project off the coast of Massachusetts.
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 504) would prevent the government from shutting down the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 513) would block enforcement of the standard requiring light bulbs to be more efficient.
• A rider in House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 510) would prevent the Department of Energy from finalizing or enforcing energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans and ceiling fan light kits.
• A rider in House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 519) would prevent the Department of Energy from finalizing energy efficiency standards for residential natural gas furnaces.
• A rider in the House Transportation appropriation (Sec. 232) would block the implementation of Federal energy efficiency requirements in housing assistance through U.S. Housing and Urban Development.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 422) would permanently prohibit EPA from clarifying which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. Identical language appears in the Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 105).
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 104) would permanently prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from updating the definition of “fill material” or “discharge of fill material,” allowing the mining industry to continue dumping toxic waste from mountaintop removal activities into mountain streams. This rider was also included in the Senate Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 104) and in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 429), targeting the EPA instead.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 423) would block the Department of Interior from developing or implementing safeguards designed to protect streams from pollution from surface coal mining.
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 525) would prevent the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing a provision of existing clean water requirements meant to ensure appropriate oversight of discharges of dredged or fill material consistent with the Clean Water Act.
• A provision in the House Interior and Environment appropriation would impede the Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service from using the Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire lands and waters in order to conserve critical habitat and expand recreation.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation would permanently make it more difficult for citizens to challenge Bureau of Land Management land use decisions in the courts.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 112) would block implementation of the “Wild Lands” initiative unveiled by then-Interior Secretary Salazar in 2010 that would ensure that lands with wilderness characteristics remain unspoiled.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 407) would allow the Secretary of Agriculture to rely on outdated forest plans.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 409) would prohibit the use of eminent domain to support federal lands management without approval by the appropriations committee, with the exception of federal assistance to Florida for Everglades restoration.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 432) would exempt livestock grazing permit renewals from environmental review indefinitely.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 424) would forbid federal land management agencies from placing reasonable limits via the normal land use planning process if such a decision might limit fishing, shooting activities for hunting, or recreational shooting if those activities were allowed as of January 1, 2013.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 433) would permanently exempt from environmental review livestock grazing on allotments that are assigned to replace ones made unusable by drought or wildfire.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 434) would permanently prevent the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from acquiring and managing water rights in order to protect fish and wildlife habitat, which would limit federal managers’ efforts to safeguard land and water resources from such impactful activities as hydraulic fracturing on public lands to protect water.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation would block the Department of the Interior from administering, implementing or enforcing the new fracking rule recently issued by the Bureau of Land Management for all federal oil and gas wells nationwide. A similar provision in the Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 114) attempts to do the same.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 425) would prevent implementation of the National Ocean Policy, a landmark policy designed to safeguard oceans and coasts. Similar riders to attack the National Ocean Policy were also added to the House Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriation bill (Sec. 570) and to the House Energy and Water appropriation bill.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (pp. 98-99) would prevent the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry from adding new toxic substances to the list of waste materials considered hazardous.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation would permanently prevent the EPA from regulating toxic lead in ammunition, ammunition components, or fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) or any other law. The Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 425) would also permanently prevent EPA from regulating lead in ammunition, ammunition components, and fishing tackle.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 426) would block EPA from enforcing rules to limit exposure to lead paint.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 427) would block EPA from requiring industries with high probability of causing catastrophic damage by releasing toxics into the environment from carrying insurance to cover environmental damages they cause.
• A rider in the House Commerce, Justice and Science appropriation (Sec. 564) would essentially repeal the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the country’s premiere law for bird conservation by prohibiting civil and criminal enforcement.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 120) would block past, current and future efforts on the part of the Administration to restrict the trade of illegal elephant ivory.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 117) would permanently bar the Fish & Wildlife Service from engaging on efforts that might result in the potential listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 119) would also permanently prevent efforts that might result in the ESA listing of the greater sage grouse and Gunnison sage grouse.
• The Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 128) would prevent implementation of enforcement of a threatened species listing for the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act.
• A rider in the House National Defense Authorization Act (Sec. 2865) would delist the imperiled Lesser Prairie-Chicken from the Endangered Species Act and prevent it from receiving protection under the Act for at least six years.
• A rider in the House National Defense Authorization Act (Sec. 312) would weaken both Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) protections for threatened sea otters off two Southern California islands by unnecessarily giving the U.S. Navy broad exemptions to both statutes, allowing their activities to potentially kill, injure, and otherwise harm the animals. A similar provision was included in the Senate National Defense Authorization Act.
• A rider in the House National Defense Authorization Act (Sec. 2866) would immediately and permanently remove the American burying beetle from protection under the Endangered Species Act and prevent it from receiving any protections in the future.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 121) offered would delist gray wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming from the Endangered Species Act and prevent judicial review of this action. The Senate Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 110) contains identical language.
• A rider in the House Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 122) appears to expand and statutorily codify an already problematic U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special rule for the northern long-eared bat. The rule eliminates vital legal protections that might otherwise help the species survive and establishes “conservation measures” that are too limited geographically and temporally.
• A rider in the House Commerce, Justice and Science appropriation (Sec. 573) would undermine salmon and steelhead recovery by blocking implementation of recovery plans unless those plans address predation by non-native species.
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 526) would block funding for water deliveries to the Trinity River and Klamath River to help sustain commercially valuable West Coast salmon populations. Low flow conditions in the lower Klamath River have triggered outbreaks of disease that killed approximately 80,000 adult Chinook salmon in 2002.
• A rider in the House Commerce, Justice and Science appropriation (Sec. 556) would overturn and undermine the work of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, a stakeholder driven process, in protecting the health of important fisheries, like red snapper, in the Gulf of Mexico.
• A rider in the House Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 524) would block funding for programs in the California Central Valley Project which help avoid fish kills and risk of extinction from lack of water. These protections are in the public interest and have broad public support.

Leave a Reply


Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mother Nature Braces For Republican Environmental Onslaught | Enjeux énergies et environnement - July 26, 2015

    […] Republicans have found a new way to attack the environment while operating in near secrecy. According to EnviroNews, Republicans have been attaching rider legislation to must-pass budget bills for several years. […]

FILM AND ARTICLE CREDITS