President Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress in 2009

The EPA is Under Attack (This is Not a Drill)

By Richard Garrett, Jr.
Your voice for conservation at the Wyoming State Legislature

WITH SO MUCH DUST KICKED UP OVER THE DEBT-CEILING DEBATE IT’S BEEN EASY FOR PARTISAN INTERESTS to obscure the mischief that the Republican controlled House Committee on Appropriations has been up to.

With the passage of H.R.2584, the Interior and Environmental Appropriations Bill, the U.S. House of Representatives will now be given the opportunity to strip from law and regulation any number of environmental protections as well as the people’s right to bring action against federal agencies.

Among other things, this bill clearly shows that the majority party in the House is intent on dismantling the EPA.

This is part of a larger trend. As The New York Times reported on August 17, bashing the EPA has become a favorite theme in the G.O.P race for the presidential nomination.

Riders on the Storm

Following is a summary of some of the riders to the appropriations bill that the ranking minority member, Representative Jim Moran, called “a wish list for special interests.”

You can see more at the minority party’s committee website.

My take on many of the riders can be found in italics below:

Blocks Permit Requirements for Pesticide Discharge in Waterways [Title V]: Amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to eliminate requirements for chemical companies and agricultural operations to obtain permits for discharging pesticides into waterways. In 2009 a federal court ruled that pesticide users must get an EPA permit in order to discharge pesticides directly into waterways. While this probably seems prudent to most readers, some of our elected officials obviously disagree.

Blocks EPA Regulation of Hard Rock Mining Operations [Section 455]: Prohibits funding for the EPA to develop additional financial assurance requirements for hard rock mining operations. Why shouldn’t a hard rock mine operator be required to provide adequate financial assurances? These are big and messy operations that require a lot of capital to develop, operate, and clean up. Just imagine how much more profitable they could be if they didn’t have to do the last item on that list … that must be what the committee had to imagine, too.

Removes Protection of Grand Canyon from Uranium Mining Claims [Section 445]: Prohibits the U.S. Secretary of the Interior from implementing a land withdrawal to protect the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims. In June, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar infuriated mining interests and Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis by announcing a six-month moratorium on new claims within a 1 million acre buffer around the Grand Canyon (something he was instructed to do by the 2008 U.S. Congress). It’s hard to imagine why a representative from Wyoming—the state that leads the nation in uranium reserves—would be so concerned with diminishing our state’s competitive advantage. Maybe it’s because the mining industry is one of her top campaign contributors.

Blocks Coal Ash Regulation [Section 434]: Prohibits the EPA from regulating fossil fuel combustion waste (coal ash) under the Solid Waste Disposal Act. When more than 1.7 million tons of coal ash broke free from a containment site in Tennessee and caused what some called the largest environmental disaster of its kind in U.S. history, many believed the disposal and regulation of coal ash would be a no-brainer. Apparently the mining and power industries thought so too, and they reached out to their friends in the U.S. House of Representatives to stop any attempt at tighter scrutiny.

Blocks Modification of Clean Water Act [Sec. 435]: Prohibits the EPA from changing or supplementing guidance or rules related to the scope of the Clean Water Act. This one is all about hydraulic fracturing and industry’s efforts to avoid its responsibilities to do everything in its power to make sure it’s not contaminating our nation’s groundwater resources.

Blocks Update to Mountaintop Removal Mining Rule [Section 432]: Prohibits the U.S. Office of Surface Mining from updating the “stream buffer rule.” This is for the benefit of companies engaged in Mountaintop Removal Mining. Why should we care about moutaintop removal? Maybe a picture says it best (photo courtesy of PoliticalAffairs.net and The Atlanta Progressive News):

Blocks Mountaintop Removal Mining Policy at Multiple Agencies [Sec. 433]: Prohibits the EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Office of Surface Mining from implementing or enforcing any policy or procedures contained in two specified documents meant to regulate mountaintop removal mining. See above.

Blocks Judicial Review of De-listing Wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes [Section 119]: Protects from judicial review any decision of the Secretary of the Interior to remove wolves in Wyoming or the Great Lakes region from the endangered species list. I hope my libertarian friends (and those who are interested in maintaining three co-equal branches of government) are alert to this one. While this rider is specifically about the wolf, it clearly sets a precedent that could ultimately mean that no citizen is able to call for judicial review of federal government actions—whenever Congress decides we should not have that right.

Blocks Endangered Species Act Designations [Language on page 8]: Prohibits funding for Endangered Species Act listings or critical habitat designations. This rider is a bald attempt to kill the Endangered Species Act by simply removing its funding.

It’s Time to Call or Email Our Congressional Delegation

With the summer adjournment of the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R.2584 is now waiting to be placed on the calendar.

Most pundits predict easy passage of the bill (with the riders intact). This would mean the Senate would have to try to strip the riders and work out a compromise with the House or, failing to accomplish that, ask President Obama for a veto—and it’s not yet apparent the president is willing to do that.

So in the meantime (if you agree that these riders are a bad idea) please—PLEASE!—get in touch with your congressional delegation and let them know how you feel. Here is a link that can help you do just that (http://www.contactingthecongress.org). Just find the map and click on your state.

Richard Garrett, the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s legislative and energy advocate, can be reached at richard@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org, or at 307-332-7031 x18.

West Edge