Caring For the Environment Used to Be Non-Partisan

Now that Republicans have sent the Keystone bill to the President, they are quickly moving to the next items on their anti-environment agenda.

This week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee begins hearings on EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which – for the first time – would significantly cut carbon emissions from power plants. Next month, they will turn to proposed fracking regulations by the Department of Interior.

Last week, the House and Senate held a joint hearing on EPA’s proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act, which simply clarifies the kinds of streams and wetlands it covers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promises to use the appropriations process to block funds for these programs.

Caring for the Environment Was Once Bipartisan

In an interview, William Ruckelshaus, who headed the EPA under Presidents Nixon and Reagan, says: 

"When EPA was created by President Nixon’s recommendation to the Congress, the issue of the environment was a very nonpartisan, bipartisan issue. There wasn’t a lot of dispute over the need to protect public health, protect the environment.

We had all kinds of evidence flashing across television screens every morning or every evening about rivers catching on fire, smog alerts, badly polluted waters and air all over the country. And people were reacting to that and demanding action. And they saw the action was primarily at the state level and so they were strongly encouraging the federal government to take a more major role."

"But that’s all changed today. The issue divides almost entirely along partisan lines."

Why? Because "public demand for action has declined so that those people in Congress in Republican districts are not feeling any pressure from their constituents to do anything about the environment. Quite the contrary, they’re being told, and they’re feeding … by their own rhetoric that these things are overblown, that regulation is hurting the economy and that we ought to back away from environmental protection."

"Burdensome Regulations" GOP Will Fight

Besides the Clean Power Plan, they are targeting: EPA’s Smog StandardsMethane regulations for oil and gas production; and revised regulations for fracking on public lands, which haven’t been proposed yet.

Endangered Species Act:
The Act has gotten out of hand, says Senator Jim Inhofe, Chair of the Environment Committee, and he wants an overhaul. Listing the Sage Grouse as endangered would get in the way of oil and gas development, and legislation has been introduced to reverse court rulings that put wolves back on the List – after they passed budget riders that removed protection in 2011. 

Renewable Fuel Standard: Oil companies have been lobbying hard to eliminate this program, which requires increasing levels of biofuels blended into gasoline over time.

Coal Ash Disposal: even after the devastating spills last year, they don’t want regulations, even EPA’s recently proposed weak ones.

Coal ash disposal sites across US:

Coal ash sites

Stream Buffer Zone Rule: even a measly 100-foot buffer that protects streams from mountaintop mining isn’t OK, or one that protects vital salmon streams.  

Social Cost of Carbon:  federal agencies must weigh a project’s value versus the cost of damages such as droughts, floods, fires etc. caused by fossil fuel emissions that are fueling global warming.

Besides blocking regulations, top priorities are:

  • Fast track exports of US oil, coal, and natural gas
  • No more new parks and wilderness areas (that could lock up energy supplies under the ground)
  • Roll back investments in renewable energy: end renewable fuels and tax credits
  • Open the Atlantic Ocean and environmentally sensitive lands to oil and gas drilling.   

Read our articles, Sneaky Bills Set Tone For New Congress and Environmental Protection Agency Ranked Most Effective of All Federal Agencies.

Read the full interview with Ruckelshaus:

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Comments on “Caring For the Environment Used to Be Non-Partisan”

  1. Ben

    Remember when Reagan mocked Carter for putting solar panels on the White House? I believe that is what started the partisanship over the environment. It was heading that way anyways as the Republican party bought into trickle down economics and cooperate greed over the middle class and future of the country m


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