Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Congressional Action of the Vanishing Environment

The following (LEGISLATIVE WATCH--full article is also after my comments) just adds confirmation to what I and others have been saying for sometime now—we only have one political party in this country, it just has two different masks, that’s all; and both are killing environmental and health protections). While the people in uniform, who signed on to be part of the nation’s defense (and not an invading Army) are being killed in even greater numbers (a little over 1800 is the official number but I do believe it is much higher); and, according to the Air Force, 55,000 being medically evacuated out of Iraq (openly contradicting the Dept of Wars numbers); at the same time, the people in Washington are, one by one, eliminating air, water and ground protections.

Under guise of this Bush/Cheney & Co “war on everything,” that which people in the active duty military signed on to defend from “all enemies foreign and domestic,” this country--its air, its water and its very ground, as well as the people of this country, and the laws that at one time protected those commons, is being demolished by the very people the military swore an oath to be obedient to—Commandeering-Chief Bush.

Continued obedience to the Bush/Cheney chain-of-command means that one must turn one’s back on the destruction of that which an oath was taken to protect. And, to protect that which the oath was taken to protect, obedience to those that would destroy our air, water, and very ground deliberately can no longer continue. For to continue in that “following of orders” is to participate in the destruction of that which the oath was sworn to protect, this nation and its commons—air, water, land and the people from those that would do all harm. The killing has got to end; the poisoning of our air, water and land must end, or we as a species will. Civilization cannot survive if all we do is try and sustain ourselves on rapidly vanishing resources--and poisoning what’s left.--Jack

Natural Resources Defense Council's LEGISLATIVE WATCH
August 2, 2005
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This is a status report on congressional action on the environment. The information in this bulletin is also available on our website at
http://www.nrdc.org/legislation/legwatch.asp (the web version links to the text of bills and congressional web pages).
To take action on these and other environmental issues, visit NRDC's Earth Action Center at:
http://www.nrdc.org/action/.
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Congress approved an energy bill that includes massive subsidies for the oil, coal and nuclear industries. And the House-Senate Appropriations conference committee cut the EPA's FY06 budget by nearly $200 million. With Congress on recess through Labor Day, Legislative Watch will also take a summer break until September.
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Budget/Appropriations

On 7/29, the Senate approved the final Interior Appropriations bill (H.R. 2361) by a vote of 99-1, one day after the House approved it by a vote of 410-10. The bill sets the FY06 funding levels for several federal departments, including the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill cuts the EPA's budget by nearly $200 million compared to current levels. The program suffering the biggest cut is the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which provides funding for upgrading wastewater treatment plants across the country. During the last two fiscal years, the fund has been reduced over $450 million from a level of $1.34 billion. The final bill also requires the EPA to issue new rules prohibiting pesticide testing on children and pregnant women. In addition, the bill blocks the EPA from allowing the regular release of partially treated sewage into the nation's waterways, and warns the EPA against violating a 1994 executive order instructing federal agencies to address the disproportionate negative effects of their policies on low-income and minority populations. The bill also requires the National Academy of Sciences to study dredging practices at Superfund sites, and cautions against delays in cleanup efforts at large sites.
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Energy

On 7/26, a final energy bill (H.R. 6) was reported out of conference committee after a flurry of late night and weekend activity. The House and Senate passed the bill on 7/28 and 7/29, with votes of 275-156 and 74-26, respectively. The final bill includes more than $8.5 billion in tax breaks plus billions more in loan guarantees and other subsidies for the electricity, coal, nuclear, natural gas and oil industries. By contrast, the bill includes only about $1.3 billion for energy efficiency and conservation programs, and just $3 billion for renewable energy sources, primarily wind power. Though an improvement over previous versions of the bill, H.R. 6 includes a number of environmentally damaging provisions that ease Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act rules for oil and gas exploration, loosen restrictions on exploration on public lands and require an inventory of offshore oil and gas resources, including in areas long protected by a federal moratorium. On the positive side, the final version of the bill does not include a liability waiver for manufacturers of the toxic gasoline additive MTBE, which has polluted drinking water in at least 29 states, although the legislation will not outlaw the use of MTBE and will move all MTBE lawsuits to federal courts.
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Transportation

On 7/29, after two years of delays, Congress finally passed a $286.5 billion transportation bill (H.R. 3), 412-4 in the House and 91-5 in the Senate. The bill ensures that congestion-relieving transit options, such as light rail and buses, will continue to receive 20 percent of new federal gas tax revenues, and also increases funding for bike and hiking trails. On the other hand, the bill sharply curtails the timeframe during which citizens can raise environmental and community impact challenges to new highway projects, and eliminates a modest but important storm water cleanup program that would have provided hundreds of millions of dollars for communities struggling with lakes, rivers and streams polluted by highway runoff.
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For information on the environmental voting records of members of Congress, see the League of Conservation Voters' National Environmental Scorecard at:
http://www.lcv.org/scorecard/
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