Some will argue that a deal to raise our nation’s debt ceiling will come at the expense of the middle class. Others may say it will come at the expense of programs like Social Security and Medicare. But if one Republican proposal is any indication, the environment is a certain casualty in either scenario.
The latest count tallies 39 ways that environmental protections will be significantly reduced. The full list is posted on Rep. Norm Dicks’ (D-Wash.) website. In all, the cuts range from the significant to the mundane. On the significant side, a measure that would prohibit the EPA from regulating emissions from stationary sources, and on the odd side there's a measure that would keep the government from regulating manure management. Here are five of the most interesting environmental cuts from the current Republican plan.
1. Delay in carbon regulation
It’s hard to reduce the amount of carbon pollution in our atmosphere if you can’t regulate emissions from “stationary sources.” Yet, that is what Section 431 of the bill would do. Cleaning up stationary sources, like power plants and factories, is critical to reducing emissions. But just as the EPA plans to begin this long fought-for process, one Republican proposal calls for a “one-year period [in which the] EPA is prohibited from proposing or promulgating regulations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from stationary sources.”
2. Oil companies don’t have to comply with Clean Air Act requirements
Section 443 of the Republican proposal includes a directive to amend the Clean Air Act, or CAA, in a few ways. First, it would, “preclude EPA from requiring offshore sources to demonstrate compliance with health-based air quality standards anywhere but in a single onshore area.” Another break for oil companies comes in a reduction to “the length of time during which exploration platforms and drill ships are considered emission sources under the CAA, thereby limiting the time when emissions would be controlled.”
3. GOP gives green light to mountaintop removal mining
Of the 39 GOP proposals that take aim at the environment, two of them make it easier for mountaintop removal mining to continue. Section 432 of the current Republican plan would keep the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) from updating the Stream Buffer Rule. This is important because in the final days of the George W. Bush administration, officials amended the Stream Buffer Rule. The amendment changed the rule from prohibiting the dumping of mining waste with 100 feet of streams to allowing, “a surface coal mine operator to legally place excess material excavated by the operation into streams.” The OSM has been trying to change this back to the original plan since President Obama took office.
In addition, Section 433 of the Republican proposal would keep the EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the OSM from implementing or enforcing any policy or procedure that is contained in the governmental procedures regarding mountaintop removal mining.
4. Wild lands order put on hold
Back in December 2010, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the federal government would designate millions of acres in the American West as “Wild Lands.” This would have allowed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to begin managing these acres based on certain characteristics. Management would include regulation of how these lands are used. This would change the game for mineral extraction royalties when it came to processes like coal mining and oil drilling. Already, the plan came under fire during the federal operating budget negotiations. Now, during the debt ceiling negotiations, Section 124 of the current Republican proposal calls for essentially sticking a knife in the Salazar plan once and for all. “[Section 124]: Prohibits funding for the Wild Lands Secretarial Order announced by Interior Secretary Salazar last December,” according to the House Appropriations Committee’s Democratic website.
5. Grand Canyon to be opened for uranium mining
As if the views of the Grand Canyon weren’t glowing enough, Republicans in the House want it to be a beacon of uranium production. Section 455 of their appropriations bill would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from implementing a land withdrawal to protect the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims. This provision fits in with many plans to bolster the country’s nuclear energy capabilities.
These are just a few of the provision on the House Republican’s wish-list, though none of these are expected to be adopted by the Senate, let alone being signed into law by President Obama. Still, these are the proposals that Republicans in the House approved. As for what it didn’t approve, it seems that for an idea to have been rejected it had to be extremely extreme. “In fact, one measure — to forbid the Fish and Wildlife Service to list any new plants or animals as endangered — was so extreme that 37 Republicans broke ranks Wednesday and voted to strip it from the bill,” reported Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times.
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