The Interior Appropriations budget bill (H.R. 2584)—known formally as the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012—will, if ratified, essentially eliminate even the idea of the conservation of our natural resources and the protection of human health from environmental hazards.
The bill passed the Appropriations Committee on July 25 and there is little doubt it will win a majority vote in the House of Representatives in September and then make its way to the Senate. Since the debt ceiling crisis is no longer sucking all the air out of the room, you can focus some attention on this truly appalling piece of legislation. Seldom has the Republican leadership in Congress presented such a wealth of evidence of their need for adult supervision. Among the many things H.R. 2584 would do, it:
• slashes more than 60 percent of current funding for state wildlife grants, the primary means of keeping wildlife from becoming endangered;
• eliminates the fees for inspections of oil and gas production facilities, shifting the burden of the cost of inspections from industry to taxpayers;
• slashes funding for National Wildlife Refuges and wetlands protection;
• slashes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, effectively crippling the ability of federal, state, and local officials and private landowners to manage areas important to wildlife and outdoor recreation;
• completely eliminates funding for the protection of migratory birds;
• slashes funding for wastewater and drinking water projects.
It goes on. The federal program that assists communities with infrastructure investments and helps minimize the environmental impact of development? The LANDSAT satellite data stream that federal, state, local, and tribal governments have been using as the basis for resource management decisions for the last 40 years? Priority funding for the cleanup of Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary? The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative? Kiss them all goodbye.
But wait, there’s more. Though the folks who came up with these provisions obviously have no concept of investing for the future and are unaware the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, all of the above could be justified on the basis of the penny-wise, pound-foolish philosophy of budget cutting, which simply holds that the less money government spends, the better the world becomes. But even that philosophy can’t justify the following set of amendments, which the White House refers to as “problematic policy and language issues that are beyond the scope of funding legislation.” For instance, the bill would also:
• block the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing measures recommended by wildlife experts to protect endangered species from pesticides.
• block EPA’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, power plants, and refineries;
• block the implementation of a rule mandating a stream buffer zone for mountain-top-removal mining;
• override federal and state emissions permits for industrial facilities by nullifying the Clean Air Act’s requirement for those facilities to obtain a permit;
• bar lawsuits against such a facility due to uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions;
• bar judicial review of any future decision to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act, denying the public an opportunity to ensure that such a decision is based on science;
• reverse a moratorium on new uranium mining claims near Grand Canyon National Park, despite the health and environmental impacts that resulted from previous mining-caused contamination of ground water and drinking water supplies;
• prohibit the EPA from considering human health and environmental protections when issuing permits for oil drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf;
• delay efforts to protect sensitive populations from exposure to lead, a known toxin to children;
• block the deployment of proven technology that will improve public health by reducing emissions of known carcinogens from cement facilities;
• undermine efforts to set standards that will save consumers money and reduce GHG emissions by increasing the fuel efficiency of light-duty vehicles.
Remember: This is supposed to be a bill that appropriates funds for government operations. It’s supposed to be a budget bill. But, obviously, not really. Congressional Republicans are just messing with you. And messing with our air, water, and wildlife. The legislators who wrote and voted for these provisions have a point to make and an ideology to serve, and it is this: Freedom from regulation shall bring about heaven on Earth. Their corporate donors tell them so.
To track the bill’s progress, and find the names of every Congressional representative who has voted for it thus far, go to govtrack.us and search “2584.” Then spread the word so they can all search for new jobs come election time.
The members of the Executive Committee of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club are Melody DeMeritt, Greg McMillan, Linda Seeley, Steven Marx, Jono Kinkade, Pat Veesart, and Cal French. Send comments via the opinion editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.