New, Wacky Ideas From the Most Anti-Environment Congress in History

A quick look at the amendments and policy riders attached to the appropriations bills now pending in the House makes it crystal clear that the GOP is desperately trying to eliminate every single environmental law ever passed or decided by a court.

The radically anti-environmental antics of the Energy and Commerce Committee have not gone far enough for some representatives, so they have taken to sneaking major national policy decisions into what Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA, ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee) called today “truly wacky amendments to to the 2012 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.”


Some of these are just kooky.

1. Preventing the use of funds for climate change research (Rep. Scott, R-GA)

2. Prohibiting agencies from agencies from buying compact fluorescent light bulbs (Rep. Rep. Blackburn, R-TN)

3. Eliminate funding for the Energy Star program, which identifies energy efficient appliances for consumers (Fleming, R-LA)

4. Eliminate funding to enforce the Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Program (Rep. King, R-IA).

5. Bar funding to regulate stationary source greenhouse gases for two years (Rep. Stivers, R-OH)

(See Rep. Ed Markey’s post about 39 legislative riders at the Democrat’s Natural Resource Committee site, and Brad Johnson’s post today on ThinkProgress Green for more)


Others raise serious public health concerns. Ranking Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush have written to Fred Upton (Letter to Chairman Upton) about 16 of these legislative riders.


Where do folks like Rep. Austin Scott come up with such wise and useful cost-cutting measures, like eliminating climate research? Here’s how:



There’s More! Influential Senator Joins House Flat-Out Lie or Scandalous Incompetence

More on the report (and accompanying press release) from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and three subcommittee chairs blasting Obama for Bush era EPA foreign grants.  No response yet to Rep. Henry Waxman’s call for a retraction because $21 million of the $27 million allegedly doled out in 2009-2010 is actually honoring grants made prior to 2009.

But never missing an opportunity for sometimes sophisticated demagoguery, influential Senator Jim (“The science on global warming is just not there”) Inhofe has released a video in which he rewrites the history of EPA spending.  Something he ought to know about, being ranking member of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and ts chairman from 2003 to 2007.

Scientific Study Confirms Mountaintop Coal Removal Causes Birth Defects By Polluting Water, Congress Passes Bill to Deauthorize EPA from Enforcing Clean Water Act

One connection between “scientific study confirms mountaintop coal removal causes birth defects” and “Congress passes bill to deauthorize EPA from enforcing Clean Water Act” is that both happened yesterday.  The timing is a coincidence, but the other connection is definitely not:  Massey Energy.

Robert Kennedy, Jr. has been fighting alongside residents of West Virgina in a battle against Massey Coal’s practice of mountaintop coal removal.  The environmental impact of blowing the tops off so many mountains is dramatic, and one of the many effects of this pernicious practice is directly linked to a bill passed yesterday by the House of Representatives: water pollution. The connection is that H.R. 2018 deauthorizes the EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act.

Appalachians (that is, people who live in the Mecca of coal mining) have been claiming for some time that mountaintop coal removal causes brain tumors,  birth defects, and other serious health issues. And coal miners are not exactly whiney wusses about their occupational health issues.  Birth defects in particular have been thought to be caused by what is dumped into the water supply by mountaintop coal removal. This week, a new study seems to confirm the claims about birth defects.  Read it here, or a look at a quick summary issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council here.


RFK, Jr. is featured prominently in a powerful new documentary, The Last Mountain, about the battle over mountaintop removal. The official trailer for the film:


Here is  review of the film from someone who lives there and was, like me, initially a little put off by the tone of the trailer.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has said of yesterday’s vote in the House that the bill “would demolish the very foundation for safeguarding our rivers, wetlands, lakes and streams.”  According to Steve Fleischli, a senior attorney in NRDC’s water program, “The House has unleashed the single-worst assault on clean water protections in a generation—part of a broader, ill-conceived attack on our air, lands, water and wildlife.”

The good news is that even if the bill ever makes it through the Senate, President Obama will undoubtedly veto it.  That it passed in the House would be astonishing if it were not part and parcel of the ongoing campaign to cater to oil and coal lobbies by attempting to eliminate virtually all the environmental legislation passed during and since the Nixon administration. That is actually an understatement; the Energy and Commerce committee is managing to make a very conservative Supreme Court look like a bunch of tree-huggers.

What can be said in favor of mountaintop removal of coal? Not much. It cuts the cost of a ton of coal a tiny bit, and that might lower your electricity bill by a few pennies. Far fewer people are needed to extract coal by blowing the tops off mountains than by mining it underground.  But even the economic arguments fall apart when one looks at the costs that are ignored, the economic externalities.  Local ones, not just those associated with continuing to rely on coal to generate electricity.  (On that issue, see today’s ClimateProgress post about Five Economic Reasons We Need to Move Beyond Coal.)

Look here later for an update on information about Massey Energy’s campaign and lobbying influence.



Flat-Out Lie or Scandalous Incompetence?

Fred Upton (Chair of House Energy & Commerce Committee) continued his campaign to gut the EPA with a particular attack that we hope was an intentional lie and act of grotesque political demagoguery. Because the prospect of it being an honest mistake is even scarier, indicating a scandalous level of incompetence coming from someone who heads such a huge (54 members) and hugely important legislative committee.

The short version: Upton and the chairs of three subcommittees issued a report blasting the Obama administration for EPA grants to foreign governments and organizations, claiming that millions of dollars are being wasted as the EPA has ramped up overseas handouts since the 2009 stimulus package.

The Upton report and the accompanying press release asserts that the EPA has awarded $27 million to other countries in 2009-2010.  The truth turns out to be that $21 million of that $27 million was initiated under the Bush administration. Could it be that one of the most powerful committees in Congress (its staff, its members, etc.) are unable to read a budget sheet and understand when agency grants are awarded and renewed (as in, who was President, who was EPA Administrator, etc.?).

In a letter from ranking democrat Henry Waxman to Upton on Monday (July 11), the details are explained, and a retraction of the report is requested. Some excerpts:

“Your report concludes that EPA has “intensified its foreign grants program, doling out over $27 million overseas” since February 17, 2009, which is the day the stimulus was signed into law” [Memorandum to Members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce from Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Majority Staff (June 27, 2011) (online at…].

“In a press release accompanying the release of the report, you state that EPA has “ramped up” foreign grants and done so “at an alarming rate.” [Committee on Energy and Commerce, Report Reveals EPA has Ramped Up Foreign Handouts, Sending Millions to China, Russia, and the United Nations Despite Record Deficits, Looming Debt Ceiling, and Soaring Unemployment (June 27, 2011)].

Your report asserts that EPA awarded $27 million in 65 foreign grants in 2009 and 2010.  In fact, the 38 grants initiated under the Bush administration account for $21 million of the $27 million obligated for these 65 grants.

“Far from “ramping up” grants to foreign governments, the Obama administration in most cases appears to be fulfilling grant commitments originally made during the previous administration. ”


A sign of how congress is working: The website of the official Committee on Energy and Commerce has been run in such a partisan manner by the GOP majority, it has led the democrats to launch their own, parallel website. Click here to visit it.

Compare this to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, run by the democratic majority.


In this earlier FOX News coverage of “EPA’s Shady Foreign Grants” during the past 10 years, no mention is made of who was President for (and therefore appointed the Administrator of the EPA, or which party controlled the congressional purse strings at which points):



Another Piece of Current GOP Orthodoxy: Scrap the EPA

Note the bobbing heads of other presidential candidates at the GOP “debate” as Rep. Michelle Bachmann joins the chorus of congressmen hoping to de-fund and de-fang (heck, to eliminate) the Environmental Protection Agency.



Much more on the assault on the EPA in further posts. Newt Gingrich (Gingrich on EPA) and Rep. Barletta (Barletta on EPA) are merely echoing what has been going on in congressional committees all year.  Interesting how tone deaf this major congressional initiative is with the voices of most Americans (Americans on EPA).


%d bloggers like this: