The Good and the Bad in the Senate Budget

from Wildlife Promise

If the Keystone XL pipeline is constructed and tar sands development continues unchecked, some herds of Woodland Caribou could disappear in as little as 30 years. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

On Friday, after 14 hours of a Senate procedure called — really — vote-a-rama, the Senate passed the budget resolution proposed by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray last week. Over 500 amendments were proposed, and over 100 were considered. Since the budget resolution does not actually authorize spending, but rather serves as a guidepost to the Senate’s priorities for the coming year, these amendments are non-binding.  Nevertheless, they are a key way for Senators to send a political message on controversial issues, and have a large amount of symbolic importance.

The Good

Thanks to the help of the many NWF members and activists who influenced their Senators, we beat back many bad environmental amendments and saw the Senate pass some positive ones.  We were especially pleased to see a majority of Senators stand up for the Clean Air Act by voting down amendments that would have struck down the Mercury Air Toxins standard and blocked agencies from curbing the pollution driving climate change. The Senate also passed amendments to insure that critical funds are available to prevent the risk of wildfires, increase funding for ARPA-E, which provides research funding for innovative energy technologies, increase the amount of funding for weatherization and energy efficiency programs, and help homeowners and small businesses mitigate against flood loss.

The Bad

Unfortunately, several amendments with harmful consequences for people and wildlife did pass.  One passed amendment undermines federal efforts to avoid the need to list the greater sage-grouse  under the Endangered Species Act.   And another amendment weakens the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—the landmark environmental law that requires every federal agency to consider the environmental impact of any government action—by saying that greenhouse gas emissions produced outside the United States by any good produced here (including fossil fuels) are not subject to the requirements of NEPA.

And finally, the Senate passed an amendment that expresses support for building the Keystone XL pipeline—something that will have a disastrous impact on the climate and on wildlife.

For more information on the Keystone amendment and to see how your Senator voter, click here and hold them accountable>>

The Amendments

Pro-environment actions

  • Udall-Barasso Amendment 239 – passed by voice vote.  Ensures critical funds are available to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, which threaten communities and natural resources across the country
  • Merkley Amendment 398 – passed by voice vote.  Increases the investment of government research dollars under the Department of Energy ARPA-E program
  • Reed-Collins-Merkley Amendment 482 – passed by voice vote.  Increases the budget for weatherization and energy efficiency retrofit programs
  • Coats-Manchin Amendment 514 – failed 46-53.  Undermines the Mercury/Air Toxins Standard under the Clean Air Act.
  • Inhofe Amendment 359 – failed 47-52.  Proposes funding cuts to block agencies from curbing the pollution driving climate change.
  • Menendez 619 – passed by voice vote.  Helps homeowners and small businesses mitigate against flood loss.

Anti-environment actions

  • Barrasso Amendment 184 – passed by voice vote. Expedites exports from the U.S. through reform of NEPA in such a manner that Greenhouse Gas Emissions produced outside the U.S. by any good exported from the U.S. are not subject to the requirements of NEPA.  
  • Heller Amendment 293 – passed by voice vote. Undermines federal efforts to avoid the need to list the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act by establishing a fund to “ensure” that the Bureau of Land Management works toward “approving” state plans for managing the bird, regardless of whether they will actually meet the standards needed to avoid listing on a national basis.
  • Hoeven 494 – passed 62-37. Expresses support for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline