Did debt battle mask Republican assault on EPA?
Republicans in the House of Representatives are being accused of using the frantic negotiations to secure the debt-ceiling bill to mask an assault on the Environment Protection Agency and bind its power and influence.
Already alleged to be the "most anti-environment House of Representatives" in US history, the latest series of riders proposed by the House on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill could, if passed, represent a severe weakening in the authority of the EPA as well as the US' ability to reduce carbon emissions and the nation's carbon footprint.
Republicans added a total of 38 riders to the Bill designed to provide security for the US' debt ceiling. The Bill already includes an 18% reduction in the budget of the EPA but the additional measures include a rider preventing the EPA from issuing any regulation on greenhouse gases for the next year, a rider stopping the EPA from bringing in proposed fuel-efficiency standards for all automobiles (which were approved by manufacturers) a refusal to label toxic ash spill left from coal combustion as hazardous waste, a rider preventing uranium mining in the Grand Canyon and a prevention on stopping limits on mercury usage.
Bob Keefe of the National Resources Defense Council described it as an assault, "With Washington and the world focused on the debt ceiling drama, hard-right House Republicans have launched the biggest congressional assault on the environment in history, attacking our fundamental environmental and public health protections in order to appease Tea Party ideologues and big business donors."
Environmentalists believe the likelihood is that Democrats in the Senate will not allow the riders to pass but it is further evidence of green issues being used along partisan lines as negotiators in wider discussions in Congress.
Environmental Democrats Henry Waxman and Edward Markey calculated 110 anti-environment votes lodged by Republicans so far in 2011. Votes are largely split along partisan lines with 97% of Republicans voting for anti-green positions while green measures are supported by 84% of democrats.
Meanwhile the economic benefit of the EPA and the Clean Air Act have been revealed with the agency's results of its Second Progressive Study. It examined the impact on the economy of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020. The direct benefits are a saving of $2 trillion in the year 2020, a boon to the American economy in a renewed period of austerity.
"The Clean Air Act's decades-long track record of success has helped millions of Americans live healthier, safer and more productive lives," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "(There are) extraordinary health and economic benefits of one of our nation's most transformative environmental laws and demonstrates the power of bipartisan approaches to protecting the health of the American people from pollution in our environment."
Top Image Credit: © Frederic Prochasson