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Sneak Attack on Clean Water and Clean Air Acts
Urgent Action! Please Speak up for Wildlife Now!
The nation’s budget deficit needs to be addressed with responsible and transparent solutions. Republican leaders of the House Appropriations Committee have instead decided to exploit the budget crisis to pursue a hidden agenda long sought by some of the nation’s biggest polluters.
Buried in the Continuing Resolution (CR) spending plan released by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, are two attacks on the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act that have nothing to do with saving money. The budget deficit is being used as cover to mount a reckless and irresponsible attack on the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act that endangers the air we breathe, the water we drink and the wildlife and lands we cherish.
Clean Water Act Loopholes
The proposed legislation protects recent loopholes in the implementation of the Clean Water Act that jeopardize the drinking water for 117 million Americans and have opened 20 million acres of wetlands and prime wildlife habitat to polluters and developers. The CR bans the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from working to close these loopholes, which put at risk wetlands such as those in the Prairie Pothole Region, breeding grounds for 50-75 percent of North America’s duck population. A coalition of America’s leading sportsmen and conservation organizations representing millions of members have urged EPA to restore the Clean Water Act’s longstanding protections for the wetlands, streams, lakes and headwaters that are vital for drinking water and wildlife but have been left vulnerable to pollution and destruction.
Clean Air Act: A Blindfold and Gag Order for EPA
The CR’s Clean Air Act prohibitions would place an unprecedented blindfold and gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency. It requires EPA to turn a blind eye to carbon dioxide pollution from smokestacks, in defiance of the Clean Air Act, a Supreme Court order and sound science. EPA would be prohibited from assisting states in their efforts to reduce emissions. The ban will encourage industry to install old, highly polluting technologies even when newer, cleaner alternatives exist.
The Clean Air Act:
- protects our lungs from soot and smog;
- helps keep our kids from developing asthma;
- keeps toxins like mercury out of rivers and the fish we eat;
- scales back the damage from acid rain; and
- saves lives.
But contrary to what polluters would have us believe, the Clean Air Act’s work is not done. Toxic controls have been lax for too long and are only now being updated. 7 million kids still suffer from asthma, with more kids succumbing every day. And polluters are not held accountable for the carbon dioxide pollution dumped into our atmosphere from smokestacks.
Where Did These Attacks on the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act Come From?
In addition to the attacks on the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, the CR has a number of other provisions to reduce protections for wildlife and wild places. But where did these attacks originate?
Voters didn’t go to the polls worried that our air is too clean or the water we drink too safe. To the contrary, a recent poll confirms that 77% of Americans, including 61% of Republicans, believe that “Congress should let the EPA do its job.” Only 18% believe that “Congress should block the EPA from updating pollution safeguards.” Gallup had previously noted that 4 out of 5 Americans are personally worried about pollution of drinking water, rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
While Americans everywhere want our environmental laws enforced, some of the biggest polluters and their lobbyists in Washington have been pushing to roll them back. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to oil companies and 150 other businesses and trade associations asking what regulations they wanted scaled back. Not surprisingly, environmental safeguards were near the top of the list.
Dramatic Budget Cuts
The CR included budget cuts that need a thoughtful debate, but the House leaders are hoping to rush their bill to a vote just days after announcing it. The $3.6 billion in annual government subsidies to oil and gas companies that President Obama proposes eliminating are noticeably absent from the House CR. And yet their budget knives appear to have been especially sharp in cutting down the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency.
Keep in mind that over the past 30 years, America’ investment in parks, wildlife, clean water, and clean air has fallen from 1.7% of federal spending to 0.6% of federal spending. This includes the full budget for the Department of Interior and EPA. Although programs implemented by Department of Interior and EPA are a small sliver of federal spending, they currently deliver a big payoff in the form of 3 million jobs in communities throughout America.
According to summaries posted by the House Appropriations Committee, the CR legislation would include dramatic cuts of $4.4 billion to the budgets for Interior and EPA. That includes a $393 million cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which helps expand national parks, protects hunting and fishing areas, and funds local projects like city parks and playing fields. LWCF has provided crucial funding for some of America’s most amazing places throughout the nation, from Yellowstone National Park to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to Gettysburg National Military Park. The CR also includes a crippling 29% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency.
America’s Non-Partisan Environmental Stewardship at Risk
The Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act were written 40 years ago by Republicans and Democrats working together to protect public health and our environment. These pieces of legislation have been implemented with bipartisan support for decades. We can’t afford to be silent while polluters advance their agenda through Congress under the guise of budget cuts. We need to speak up and demand a transparent budget debate that focuses on moving our economy forward, not rolling back America’s environmental protections.
Here is the text of the two provisions, which can be found on page 276 of the CR:
SEC. 1746. None of the funds made available to the Environmental Protection Agency by this division or any other Act may be expended for purposes of enforcing or promulgating any regulation (other than with respect to section 202 of the Clean Air Act) or order, taking action relating to, or denying approval of state implementation plans or permits because of the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding possible climate change.
12 SEC. 1747. None of the funds made available by this division or any other Act may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to implement, administer, or enforce a change to a rule or guidance document pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et 18 seq.).