The Irony of Ironies via Republican Poison Pills

H.R. 2577 is a conglomeration of a number of bills (Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017) that  the Senate needs to take action on failed a super-majority vote (60 votes) for cloture (the ability to be considered and voted for/against on the Senate floor).  One version of that bill was passed by the House and a different version of that/those bills passed the Senate.  Thus, it’s now gone to conference committee to work out the wrinkles between the two versions.

This conference agreement now includes the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, the Zika Response and Preparedness Appropriations Act, 2016, the Zika Vector Control Act, and an unacceptable ‘division’ on funds to be rescinded from programs the Republicans don’t particularly like.  That’s what came to the floor for a cloture vote, and it failed miserably — 52-48.

Really, Senator McConnell?  It’s too difficult for the general public to understand?  I don’t think so.

It’s one thing for Republicans to short-change President Obama’s funding request.  It’s another thing to start attaching ‘poison pills’ to the proposed legislation that limit or outright prohibit women’s choices.  When you introduce a funding proposal that limits the distribution of contraceptives and that prevents family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood from participating in the effort to help women in Zika-affected areas delay pregnancy, from a disease that not just contracted from a mosquito bite, but from sexual activity with an infected male partner, did you really think that Senate Democrats would just roll over and vote for that?

When you start gutting provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, did you honestly believe that Democrats would just roll over and just vote for that?

SEC. 2. MOSQUITO CONTROL WAIVER.
Notwithstanding section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1342), during the 180 day period following the date of enactment of this Act the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (or a State, in the case of a permit program approved under subsection (b)) shall not require a permit for a discharge from the application by an entity authorized under State or local law, such as a vector control district, of a pesticide in compliance with all relevant requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) to control mosquitos or mosquito larvae for the prevention or control of the Zika virus.

When you start stripping funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), did you really expect Democrats to just roll over, see the light and vote your way?  Or, when you decide to fund your bill by stripping balances  from the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, did you really expect Democrats to go “oh yeah, that’s a great idea” and vote in favor of your bill?  Or better yet, given that we already know that you stripped a bunch of funding from the State Department for Embassy security that might have made the outcome in Benghazi drastically different, did you really expect the Senate Democrats to let you strip even more funding for the State Department and other Foreign Operations?

Are you nuts?  They certainly weren’t and neither am I.  It took me hours to sort through all the links on Congress.gov, but here’s what I found:

DIVISION D–RESCISSIONS OF FUNDS

Sec. 101.
(a) $543,000,000 of the unobligated amounts made available under section 1323(c)(1) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18043(c)(1)) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

Sec. 1323. Community health insurance option. Requires the Secretary to offer a Community Health Insurance Option as a qualified health plan through Exchanges. Allows States to enact a law to opt out of offering the option. Requires the option to cover only essential health benefits; States may require additional benefits, but must defray their cost. Requires the Secretary to set geographically adjusted premium rates that cover expected costs. Requires the Secretary to negotiate provider reimbursement rates, but they must not be higher than average rates paid by private qualified health plans. Subjects the option to State and Federal solvency standards and to State consumer protection laws. Establishes a Start-Up Fund to provide loans for initial operations, to be repaid with interest within 10 years. Authorizes the Secretary to contract with nonprofits for the administration of the option.

(b) $100,000,000 of the unobligated balances available in the Nonrecurring expenses fund established in section 223 of division G of Public Law 110-161 (42 U.S.C. 3514a) from any fiscal year is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

DIVISION G–DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008
Title I–Department of Labor
Title II–Department of Health and Human Services
Title III–Department of Education
Title IV–Related Agencies
Title V–General Provisions
Title VI–National Commission on Children and Disasters

(c) $107,000,000 of the unobligated balances of appropriations made available under the heading Bilateral Economic Assistance, Funds Appropriated to the President, Economic Support Fund in title IX of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015 (division J of Public Law 113-235) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act: Provided, That such amounts are designated by the Congress as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

Personally, I side with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who declared, “It is unbelievable that somebody would have the audacity to come to the floor and say it’s Democrats’ fault. A significant amount of American women, especially young women, go to Planned Parenthood, and the Republicans want to say, ‘you can’t do that.’” Why indeed would Democrats not just prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing any services, but gut the EPA’s ability to assure clean water and harm HHS’s ability to manage health insurance options for not just Puerto Ricans, but millions of American families across our nation?  Apparently Sen. McConnell completely missed the irony of claiming to improve women’s health by prohibiting and defunding health opportunities for women altogether.


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6 Things Every American Should Know About the Clean Power Plan

By EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthyToday, President Obama will unveil the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan—a historic step to cut the carbon pollution driving climate change. Here are six key things every American should know:

  1. IT SLASHES THE CARBON POLLUTION FUELING CLIMATE CHANGE.
    Carbon pollution from power plants is our nation’s biggest driver of climate change—and it threatens what matters most – the health of our kids, the safety of our neighborhoods, and the ability of Americans to earn a living. The Clean Power Plan sets common sense, achievable state-by-state goals to cut carbon pollution from power plants across the country. Building on proven local and state efforts, the Plan puts our nation on track to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, all while keeping energy reliable and affordable.
  2. IT PROTECTS FAMILIES’ HEALTH.
    The transition to clean energy is happening even faster than we expected—and that’s a good thing. It means carbon and air pollution are already decreasing, improving public health each and every year. The Clean Power Plan accelerates this momentum, putting us on pace to cut this dangerous pollution to historically low levels. Our transition to cleaner energy will better protect Americans from other kinds of harmful air pollution, too. By 2030, we’ll see major reductions of pollutants that can create dangerous soot and smog, translating to significant health benefits for the American people. In 2030, we’ll avoid up to 3,600 fewer premature deaths; 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children; 1,700 fewer hospital admissions; and avoid 300,000 missed days of school and work. The Clean Power Plan is a historic step forward to give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve.
  3. IT PUTS STATES IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.
    The Clean Power Plan sets uniform carbon pollution standards for power plants across the country—but sets individual state goals based on states’ current energy mix and where they have opportunities to cut pollution. States then customize plans to meet their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses, and utilities. States can run their more efficient plants more often, switch to cleaner fuels, use more renewable energy, and take advantage of emissions trading and energy efficiency options.Because states requested it, EPA is also proposing a model rule states can adopt right away–one that’s cost-effective, guarantees they meet EPA’s requirements, and will let their power plants use interstate trading right away. But states don’t have to use our plan—they can cut carbon pollution in whatever way makes the most sense for them.

    The uniform national rates in the Clean Power Plan are reasonable and achievable, because no plant has to meet them alone or all at once. Instead, they have to meet them as part of the grid and over time. In short, the Clean Power Plan puts states in the driver’s seat.

  4. IT’S BUILT ON INPUT FROM MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.
    The Clean Power Plan reflects unprecedented input from the American people, including 4.3 million comments on the draft plan and input from hundreds of meetings with states, utilities, communities, and others. When folks raised questions about equity and fairness, we listened. That’s why EPA is setting uniform standards to make sure similar plants are treated the same across the country.
    When states and utilities expressed concern about how fast states would need to cut emissions under the draft Plan, we listened. That’s why the Clean Power Plan extends the timeframe for mandatory emissions reductions to begin by two years, until 2022, so utilities will have time to make the upgrades and investments they need to.

    But to encourage states to stay ahead of the curve and not delay planned investments, or delay starting programs that need time to pay off, we’re creating a Clean Energy Incentive Program to help states transition to clean energy faster.

    It’s a voluntary matching fund program states can use to encourage early investment in wind and solar power projects, as well as energy efficiency projects in low-income communities. Thanks to the valuable input we heard from the public, the final rule is even more fair and more flexible, while cutting more pollution.

  5. IT WILL SAVE US BILLIONS OF DOLLARS EVERY YEAR.
    With the Clean Power Plan, America is leading by example—showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity. By 2030, the net public health and climate-related benefits from the Clean Power Plan are estimated to be worth $45 billion every year. And, by design, the Clean Power Plan is projected to cut the average American’s monthly electricity bill by 7% in 2030. We’ll get these savings by cutting energy waste and beefing up energy efficiency across the board—steps that make sense for our health, our future, and our wallets.
  6. IT PUTS THE U.S. IN A POSITION TO LEAD ON CLIMATE ACTION.
    Today, the U.S. is generating three times more wind energy and 20 times more solar power than when President Obama took office. And the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. For the first time in nearly three decades, we’re importing less foreign oil than we’re producing domesticallyand using less overall.Our country’s clean energy transition is happening faster than anyone anticipated—even as of last year when we proposed this rule. The accelerating trend toward clean power, and the growing success of energy efficiency efforts, mean carbon emissions are already going down, and the pace is picking up. The Clean Power Plan will secure and accelerate these trends, building momentum for a cleaner energy future.


    Climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution. With the Clean Power Plan, we’re putting America in a position to lead. Since the Plan was proposed last year, the U.S., China and Brazil – three of the world’s largest economies – have announced commitments to significantly reduce carbon pollution. We’re confident other nations will come to the table ready to reach an international climate agreement in Paris later this year.


Editor’s Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone’s rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don’t change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don’t attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.


16 Legislative Calendar Days left and …

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The 2015 fiscal year ends on September 30, 2015 and we do not yet have a 2016 budget, a transportation bill, nor a resolution to Veterans Administration shortfalls which may shutter a number of VA hospitals.  And if that isn’t enough on their plates to handle when they only plan to actually work 16 days between now and then, they also need to resolve their issues with the Iran Nuclear Deal.  AND … there are no plans to cancel their August recess.


Iran Nuclear Deal

Last week, the United States along with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China signed a deal with Iran to substantially limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of international sanctions.

Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down

Under the new nuclear deal, “Iran has committed to extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification, and inspection,” according to the White House. “International inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not only be continuously monitoring every element of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but they will also be verifying that no fissile material is covertly carted off to a secret location to build a bomb. And if IAEA inspectors become aware of a suspicious location, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which will allow inspectors to access and inspect any site they deem suspicious. Such suspicions can be triggered by holes in the ground that could be uranium mines, intelligence reports, unexplained purchases, or isotope alarms.” (Please take the time to read more here.)

Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down

Congress must now review the deal—and decide whether to pass a resolution to disapprove the agreement. The entire process could take up to 82 days, and during that time, the President cannot lift sanctions on Iran until the review and voting period is over. The law also requires the Administration to provide detailed reports to Congress every 90 days to ensure that Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement.

Here’s how that review process should work, according to legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President in May: The White House delivered the agreement to Congress on Monday—five days after the signing of the Iran deal. Now, Congress has 60 days to review it, or until mid-September. (Keep in mind that Congress will be in recess from August 10 – Sept. 7.)  Congress then has 12 days (by the end of September) to vote on a joint resolution approving or disapproving the deal. Or Congress could opt to do nothing.

If Congress passes a resolution disapproving the deal, the President will most likely veto their disapproval. Congress would then have 10 days to override the veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House. (If Congress were to override a veto, the President would lose his ability to waive sanctions on Iran, which would cause the current agreement to fall through and destroy our nation’s credibility with our negotiating partners.)

Resolution Disapproving the Deal

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL), Chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus introduced legislation expressing the sense of the House of Representatives in disapproval of the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran. The resolution is “intended to build support for an expected vote on a formal joint resolution of disapproval in September.”

RESOLUTION DISAPPROVING THE IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT (HRes 367)
  • Sponsor: Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)  Per Rep. Roskam, this resolution “sets the stage for the 60-day lead up to a vote on this agreement by allowing Members to express their disapproval of the accord. The unprecedented outpouring of support for this resolution proves that Congress will not rubber-stamp a deal that severely threatens the United States and our allies by paving Iran’s path to a bomb.” He went on further to state, “This agreement fails on every level to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran is allowed to keep much of its nuclear infrastructure intact and rewarded an $150 billion cash infusion from sanctions relief. The so-called ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections regime in reality provides Iran nearly a month’s notice on inspections. And, in an unprecedented last-minute concession, the U.N. arms embargo and ban on ballistic missiles will be lifted in just a few short years. This is a bad deal, and it must be stopped,” according to the sponsor. (Read resolution text)

Worth Noting:  Two Representatives from Nevada Mark Amodei and Joe Heck have signed on a co-sponsors of this resolution of disapproval.

Federal Budget and Appropriations

The House has been working on appropriations bills for FY 2016. Thus far, they’ve passed Commerce, Justice and Science (HR 2578); Defense (HR 2685); Energy and Water (HR 2028); Legislative (HR 2250); Military and Veterans (HR 2029); and Transportation and HUD (HR 2577) appropriations bills.  But when they got to the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill (HR 2822) last week, they had to pull it from the floor after a series of amendments were introduced regarding whether the Confederate battle flag should be displayed on public lands. Three amendments, introduced by Democrats, had been passed on July 7th that would block the National Park Service from allowing private groups to decorate graves with Confederate flags specifically in cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi and would bar the Park Service doing business with gift shops that sell Confederate flag merchandise. Unhappy with those passed amendments, a Republican sponsored amendment was introduced essentially nullifying the passed amendments. To keep from seeing everything degenerate into a total brouhaha over the Confederate Flag, Speaker Boehner pulled the bill from the floor.

Senate Democrats have blocked consideration of appropriations bills until a new budget agreement is negotiated that will mitigate the sequestration budget cuts since 2013. Congress aims to complete the appropriations process by the end of the fiscal year, September 30. If they don’t, then they’ll need to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution to prevent yet another government shutdown.

Meanwhile, the Veterans Administration has put Congress on notice that they have a $2.5B shortfall that if not resolved will force them to start closing some VA hospitals beginning in as early as August.

Highway Trust Fund Extension

Both the Highway Account and the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund are nearing insolvency, according to the Department of Transportation.

As Congressional committees met to discuss ways to keep our country’s Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent, Secretary Foxx urged them to adopt a long-term transportation bill with increased funding:

“The state of our nation’s infrastructure is not a partisan talking point; it is a problem facing all Americans. So I am encouraged that Members of Congress are asking the tough questions about how we will find solutions together. As I have said many times, we cannot build tomorrow’s transportation system with yesterday’s policy and yesterday’s funding; I look forward to working with both parties to pass a long-term bill that aggressively boosts investment and changes outdated policies so we can build for the future.”

With a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund approaching, cash management steps are not far away.  Because the HTF supports critical roadwork by State DOTs, these cash management procedures will slow improvements and basic repairs on roads across the U.S.   With the Highway Trust Fund authorization set to expire on July 31, the House did pass an extension through December 18. You’re going to love this.  The claim is that the extension would provide $8 billion in new money – $5 billion from tax compliance measures, and $3 billion in reduced spending.  But true to form, it includes no new revenues, and is partly funded by a two-year extension of fees that would have sunsetted (passenger airport security fees collected by the TSA).

HIGHWAY AND TRANSPORTATION FUNDING ACT, PART II (HR 3038)
  • Sponsor: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)  Extends the authorizations of the federal surface transportation programs as well as the hazardous materials transportation program and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act through Dec. 18, 2015. Funds the surface transportation programs at the level authorized for fiscal year 2014. Would transfer $6.068 billion from the General Fund to the HTF’s Highway Account, and would transfer $2 billion from the General Fund to the HTF’s Mass Transit Account. (Read bill summary.) – Passed by the House; now goes to the Senate —

This is the 34th short-term extension in the last six-years—and many in Congress are urging that they work on a comprehensive long-term bill. In past decades, Congress routinely passed six-year surface transportation bills.  To that end,  other bills have been proposed:

  • GROW America Act (Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America Act) [HR2410] sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).  This is the Administration’s long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill. Provides a total of $478 billion over six years, a 45 percent increase for highways, bridges, public transportation, highway safety, and rail programs.
  • The DRIVE Act (Developing a Reliable and innovative Vision for the Economy Act) [S1647]  sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).  It’s a 6-yr surface transportation  reauthorization bill sporting a “new” freight program to prioritize federal spending.

Food Labeling and GMOs

Currently, the US Department of Agriculture has no authority over labeling food for the presence or absence of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). This week, House will be voting on a bill mandates a national standard for labeling laws related to GMOs and that would nullify any state standards that might exceed the national minimum standard established by this bill:

Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (HR 1599)
  • Sponsor: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) In his introduction of the bill, Rep. Pompeo indicated this bill “would establish a federal labeling standard for foods with genetically modified ingredients, giving sole authority to the Food and Drug Administration to require mandatory labeling on such foods if they are ever found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without GM ingredients.” He went on to say that “under SAFLA, the FDA will conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before those foods are introduced into commerce. This will ensure that consumers get scientifically accurate, and relevant information by allowing the FDA to specify special labeling, if it believes it is necessary to protect health and safety. In order to provide even greater transparency, my legislation includes a provision to allow those who wish to label their products as GMO-free to do so through a USDA-accredited certification process.”

NOTE: The bill, purported by some to have been written by Monsanto, prohibits States from enforcing any bills addressing GMOs that exceed the requirements of HR1599 effectively nullifying existing legislation in a number of states (Maine, Connecticut and Vermont, where foods containing GMOs are required to be labeled).  If passed, the FDA would be the sole authority to require GMO labeling.

Coal Ash Regulations

According to the EPA, “coal combustion residuals are byproducts of the combustion of coal at power plants, and includes fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulfurization (FGD) materials. CCR contain contaminants such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic which are associated with cancer and other serious health effects. When improperly managed, CCR can leak into the groundwater, blow into the air as dust, and be released to surface water and to the land in the event of a catastrophic failure.”

The House has scheduled a vote on HR1734, a bill that would set rules governing the management and disposal of coal ash.

IMPROVING COAL COMBUSTION RESIDUALS REGULATION ACT (HR 1734)
  • Sponsor: Rep. David McKinley (R-WV)   According to the House Majority Leader, this bill will “provide job-creators, and over 300,000 workers, with certainty by putting states in charge of the enforcement to implement the standards set by EPA regarding the safe disposal of coal ash,”  It would authorize States to set up permit programs for coal ash, as well as allow the EPA to offer permits in States that don’t establish their own permit programs.

Really?  (1) Not all States have the funding/expertise/organization to provide for enforcement, and (2) we all know how well that worked in North Carolina when they had a massive coal as spill.  In addition, some Democrats in Congress believe that the bill would undermine tougher coal ash rules the EPA finalized in December 2014, which “establishes the first ever nationally applicable minimum criteria providing for the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals in landfills and surface impoundments.”


That is a seriously overloaded plate and with only 16 legislative days left in this fiscal year, that doesn’t appear to be near enough time for this unproductive Congress to resolve those issues.

Bio Fuels and Jobs in Your Community

biofuels___09_by_ademcFrom farmers to small business owners, the renewable fuel industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in wages in rural communities across the United States. These are homegrown jobs that can’t be outsourced and that’s good news for our rural economies

While other industries have been shipping jobs overseas, the biofuels sector has been creating jobs and spurring investment right here at home. That’s thanks to the Renewable Fuel Standard.  And, as long as we have a strong Renewable Fuel Standard, America’s rural economies will continue to grow and thrive.

But, there’s a catch.  Right now, the EPA is finalizing a multi-year version of the Renewable Fuel Standard that will determine how much renewable fuel must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply. This will have long-term implications for renewable fuel, and in turn for America’s rural communities. The EPA has to get this right.

Fuels America just released some key facts about the impact of renewable fuel on America’s rural economies. It’s all there: jobs, wages, and economic impact. We need policymakers to understand just how important the Renewable Fuel Standard is to this growing industry, and our economy.

From North Carolina to California, renewable fuel is driving economic growth in rural communities across the country. Since the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, the renewable fuel industry has grown by leaps and bounds — and along with it the communities that rely on this rapidly growing sector. As the EPA finalizes the 2014 renewable fuel targets, it’s important to remember that:

  • The RFS supports more than 852,000 jobs across the United States.
  • The workers of the renewable fuel sector take home $46.2 billion in wages every year.
  • The direct output of the renewable fuel industry is greater than the economic activity generated by the beef cattle sector.
  • There are over 840 facilities supporting renewable fuel production and distribution; research and development; and other activities throughout the country.
  • Iowa is the top state for biofuels jobs. The renewable fuel sector supports more than 73,000 jobs and $5 billion in wages for Iowa farmers, workers, and small business owners.

With so much on the line, Americans need to know that the President, Congress, and the EPA will stand up for these homegrown jobs — and strong, vibrant rural economies.  Your voice is powerful as well. Use it to help your friends, neighbors, and family members understand how renewable fuel powers rural America.

Not from NV District 2? Go here to find out how the Renewable Fuel Standard has impacted your community. Click on your state and then the district in which you live in that state.

“Noble” Bill Is Nothing But Another RW Attempt to Hobble the EPA

LamarSmith
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-TX, one sponsor of the “Secret Science” bill. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DREW ANGERER

If you can say anything about activities in the U.S. House during the 2014 lame duck session, it would begin with the word “Hobbling.”  First up in the house was HR1422, a bill to stuff “for profit” industry experts on the “scientific” board that advises the EPA and then prohibit the deposed scientific experts from saying ANYTHING regarding the results of their experience and research.  But that wasn’t enough.  Next up was HR4012, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014.

According to the Summary on Thomas.gov:

Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 – Amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such action is specifically identified and publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results. Includes as a covered action a risk, exposure, or hazard assessment, criteria document, standard, limitation, regulation, regulatory impact analysis, or guidance.

If that isn’t a classic definition of “hobbling” the EPA into a state of inability to perform their legislative responsibilities, I don’t know what is.  This bill intentionally prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing regulations.  This bill mandates that unless they release any and all information they reviewed in arriving at any need for regulation, they are prohibited from issuing said regulations.

You might think that is reasonable, but would you want your medical records published for the world to peruse and discuss publicly?  How about their Corporate master’s records, trade secrets and various other sundry industry data?  We know they’re not going to allow that to become publicly searchable data for anybody and everybody to peruse.  Thus, if they can’t publish the research data, they can’t issue any regulation that just might keep us from getting cancer from some industrial discharge, nor would they be able to ensure the water we bathe in and drink is uncontaminated by industrial toxins.

But if that isn’t enough to prevent the issuance of ANY new regulations, reliance on fewer studies and less data (since they can’t release sensitive medical data, trade secrets, etc.), litigation and Congressional hearing costs will rise, potentially exponentially.

Once again, Republicans are spitting in the wind and looking to breed fear and hatred of a regulatory agency that they themselves created during the Nixon Administration.  Sadly, they’re claiming to fix something, but in reality, they’re disingenuously hobbling EPA’s effectiveness in protecting the environment and the population at large, ALL while they worship at the alter of the almighty dollar beside their corporate masters.

OH, and did I mention they still intend to dismantle all opportunity average Americans can actually purchase affordable health care should any of them just happen to get sick from unregulated pollution and corporate toxic waste they’d be able to dump at will?

I doubt they’d be able to ram it through the Senate during the lame duck session, but if they did,  President Obama will be dusting off another VETO pen upon it’s arrival at his desk

Note: Representative Mark Amodei NV-CD2 proudly stood up and voted AYE for this shame.

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“Antithesis” — Time to Send a Dictionary to Rep. Amodei

Yesterday, while the Keystone Extremely Lethal (KXL) pipeline was failing passage in the Senate, the US House was passing, HR1422, The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act. 225 Republicans and 4 Republicans sporting Democratic credentials [Barrow (GA), Matheson (UT), Peterson (MN), and Rahall (WV)] voted AYE.  Only ONE Republican broke from the rightwing pack and voted against this first of three bills [Gibson (NY19)] which are aimed at thumbing their noses at Scientists and preventing the EPA from being able to issue ANY new regulations.

It’s not enough that the GOP House believes that 3% of Climate Scientists constitutes a MAJORITY, or that 33% of Americans who either deny or have no clue whether Climate Change is a reality. Now, they’re claiming they’ll be restoring “accountability” to the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board by erecting roadblocks and muzzling them, basically making it harder for Scientific experts to serve on the Board and instead making it easier to pack the Board with “industry experts.”  But worse—those excluded Scientific Experts would be prohibited from talking about their research with Administrators of the EPA.  In making these changes (demanded by their corporate masters), the GOP claims enactment of this bill would increase the Board’s “effectiveness and transparency.”  HUH?  I do believe it will accomplish the antithesis of all three: accountability, effectiveness AND transparency.

Thomas.gov summarizes the bill’s provisions as follows:

Environmental_Protection_Agency_logoEPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013 – Amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to revise the process of selecting members of the Science Advisory Board, guidelines for participation in Board advisory activities, and terms of office. (The Board provides scientific advice to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA].) Prohibits federally registered lobbyists from being appointed to the Board.

Revises the procedures for providing advice and comments to the Administrator by: (1) including risk or hazard assessments in the regulatory proposals and documents made available to the Board, and (2) requiring advice and comments to be included in the record regarding any such proposal and published in the Federal Register.

Revises the operation of Board member committees and investigative panels to: (1) require that they operate in accordance with the membership, participation, and policy requirements (including new requirements for public participation in advisory activities of the Board) contained in this Act; (2) deny them authority to make decisions on behalf of the Board; and (3) prohibit direct reporting to EPA.

Adds guidelines for the conduct of Board advisory activities, including concerning: (1) avoidance of making policy determinations or recommendations, (2) communication of uncertainties, (3) dissenting members’ views, and (4) periodic reviews to ensure that such activities address the most important scientific issues affecting EPA.

Prohibits this Act from being construed as supplanting the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act or the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.

As I read the bill, it looks to me like they’re planning to mitigate any real scientific expertise on the board by packing the advisory committees (the hen house) with those whom the EPA regulates (the foxes), in other words, “industry experts” with profit motives.  The White House, which threatened to veto the bill, said it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the EPA Science Advisory Board .” Sadly, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject under review can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can” — Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall.

Rep. Mark Amodei, who supposedly represents ALL constituents of Nevada’s congressional district 2, voted FOR passage.  Should this bill become law, which I seriously doubt it would, there is a large cadre of his constituents throughout this district engaged in agriculture-related activities.  They depend on ample supplies of clean water and lands to graze their animals.  As water becomes scarcer, and as climate effects begin curtailing their grazing rights and impacting their wallets, maybe then  folks across the district will finally have to re-evaluate the wisdom of voting for the Republicans, who serve only as minions of their Corporate masters.

Related Articles —

Ditch the Myth

Let’s get serious about protecting clean water

This post addresses concerns and misconceptions about the proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect clean water. The proposed rule clarifies protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. The following facts emphasize that this proposed rule cuts through red tape to make normal farming practices easier while also ensuring that waters are clean for human health, communities, and the economy.


MYTH: The rule would regulate all ditches, even those that only flow after rainfall.

TRUTH: The proposed rule actually reduces regulation of ditches because for the first time it would exclude ditches that are constructed through dry lands and don’t have water year-round. Tweet the truth

MYTH: A permit is needed for walking cows across a wet field or stream.

TRUTH: No. Normal farming and ranching activities don’t need permits under the Clean Water Act, including moving cattle. Tweet the truth

 The proposed rule to protect clean water will not change exclusions and exemptions for agriculture.

MYTH: Ponds on the farm will be regulated.

TRUTH: The proposed rule does not change the exemption for farm ponds that has been in place for decades. It would for the first time specifically exclude stock watering and irrigation ponds constructed in dry lands. Tweet the truth

MYTH: Groundwater is regulated by the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: The proposed rule specifically excludes groundwater. Tweet the truth

MYTH: The federal government is going to regulate puddles and water on driveways and playgrounds.

TRUTH: Not remotely true. Such water is never jurisdictional. Tweet the truth

MYTH: EPA is gaining power over farms and ranches.

TRUTH: No. All historical exclusions and exemptions for agriculture are preserved. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not require permits for normal farming activities like moving cattle.

MYTH: Only the 56 conservation practices are now exempt from the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: No. The proposal does not remove the normal farming exemption. It adds 56 beneficial conservation practices to the exemption, which is self-implementing. Tweet the truth

Download the interpretive rule signed by EPA and USDA

MYTH: The proposed rule will apply to wet areas or erosional features on fields.

TRUTH: Water-filled areas on crop fields are not jurisdictional and the proposal specifically excludes erosional features. Tweet the truth

MYTH: This is the largest land grab in history.

TRUTH: The Clean Water Act only regulates the pollution and destruction of U.S. waters. The proposed rule would not regulate land or land use. Tweet the truth

MYTH: EPA and the Army Corps are going around Congress and the Supreme Court.

TRUTH: EPA and the Army Corps are responding to calls from Congress and the Supreme Court to clarify regulations. Chief Justice Roberts said that a rulemaking would provide clarification of jurisdiction. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water keeps in place the current exemptions for farm ponds.

MYTH:  The proposal will now require permits for all activities in floodplains.

TRUTH: The Clean Water Act does not regulate land and the agencies are not asserting jurisdiction over land in floodplains. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The proposed rule will harm the economy.

TRUTH: Protecting water is vital to the health of the economy. Streams and wetlands are economic drivers because of their role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, recreation, energy, and manufacturing. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The costs of this proposal are too burdensome.

TRUTH: For this proposed rule, the potential economic benefits are estimated to be about TWICE the potential costs – $390 to $510 million in benefits versus $160 to $278 million in costs.  Tweet the truth

Download an economic analysis about the proposed rule

MYTH:  This is a massive expansion of federal authority.

TRUTH: The proposal does not protect any waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule specifically reflects the more narrow reading of jurisdiction established by the Supreme Court and the rule protects fewer waters than prior to the Supreme Court cases. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not regulate floodplains.

MYTH:  This is increasing the number of regulated waters by including waters that do not flow year-round as waters of the United States.

TRUTH: Streams that only flow seasonally or after rain have been protected by the Clean Water Act since it was enacted in 1972. More than 60 percent of streams nationwide do not flow year-round and contribute to the drinking water supply for 117 million Americans. Tweet the truth

See a map of counties that depend on these sources for drinking water

MYTH:  Only actual navigable waters can be covered under the Clean Water Act.

TRUTH: Court decisions and the legislative history of the Clean Water Act make clear that waters do not need actual navigation to be covered, and these waters have been protected by the Clean Water Act since it was passed in 1972. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The rule includes no limits on federal jurisdiction.

TRUTH: The proposed rule does not protect any waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and specifically reflects the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of jurisdiction, and includes several specific exclusions. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water does not regulate puddles.

MYTH:  This rule is coming before the science is available. 

TRUTH: EPA’s scientific assessment is based on more than 1,000 pieces of previously peer-reviewed and publicly available literature. The rule will not be finalized until the scientific assessment is finalized. Tweet the truth

Download the draft scientific assessment (331 pp, 11 MB, PDF)

MYTH:  This is about little streams in the middle of nowhere that don’t matter.

TRUTH: Everyone lives downstream. This means that our communities, our cities, our businesses, our schools, and our farms are all impacted by the pollution and destruction that happens upstream. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The proposal infringes on private property rights and hinders development.

TRUTH: EPA, the Army Corps, and states issue thousands of permits annually that allow for property development and economic activity in ways that protect the environment. The proposed rule will help reduce regulatory confusion and delays in determining which waters are covered. Tweet the truth

The proposed rule to protect clean water actually decreases regulation of ditches.

MYTH:  Stakeholders were not consulted in the development of the proposed rule.

TRUTH: This is a proposal. Agencies are seeking public comment and participating in extensive outreach to state and tribal partners, the regulated community including small business, and the general public. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  The federal government is taking authority away from the states.

TRUTH: This proposed rule fully preserves and respects the effective federal-state partnership and federal-tribal partnership established under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule will not affect state water laws, including those governing water supply and use. Tweet the truth

MYTH:  Nobody wanted a rulemaking to define Waters of the U.S.

TRUTH: A rulemaking to provide clarity was requested by the full spectrum of stakeholders: Congress, industry, agriculture, businesses, hunters and fisherman, and more. Tweet the truth   

See who requested this rulemaking

Here’s Why The Carbon Regulations EPA Announced Monday Are So Important

by Jeff Spross

power-plant-sunset
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

 

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency will release a first-ever set of regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the country’s existing fleet of power plants. The agency recently issued similar rules for new power plants, which will be finalized next year after a public comment period. The rules for existing plants will undergo a similar process.

But before the political storm around the rules begins in earnest, here are the basic points everyone needs to know about why EPA’s carbon rules are so important.

It’s The First Step Towards A Global Solution

EPA-header2

One of the points the Chamber of Commerce made Wednesday in their premature analysis of the EPA regulations was that, by 2030, the cuts would only amount to 1.8 percent of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. The point is technically accurate — climate change and the greenhouse gas emissions driving it are a global problem — but it assumes U.S. policy occurs in a weird sort of civilizational vacuum.

The projections of future emissions the Chamber used are based on the assumption that business-as-usual continues and that various countries’ climate policies don’t change much. That, in turn, is an assumption about how countries will behave in the future. But as Obama has made clear, half the point of the new regulations is to change the way other countries behave.

America may be the world’s second-biggest carbon emitter, but it remains by far the largest on a per-person basis. It’s also emitted more than any other country historically. And while China and India’s economies are huge, they’re spread over far larger populations than the U.S., and they’re still trying to lift hundreds of millions of their citizens out of very deep poverty. So Americans effectively emitted their way to our current prosperity. Furthermore, because we have so much more wealth per person, we have far more economic room to cut carbon emissions and take risks on developing clean energy than China or India.

capacity-US-China-India
CREDIT: THE GREENHOUSE DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS FRAMEWORK

What this all means is that trust and goodwill between countries is enormously important to building a cooperative international response to climate change. Because of its position and prosperity, the United States can’t build that goodwill without taking the initiative to cut its own emissions: “It’s not [that] I’m ignorant of the fact that these emerging countries are going to be a bigger problem than us,” Obama told the New Yorker a few months ago. “It’s because it’s very hard for me to get in that conversation if we’re making no effort.”

So when the next round of global climate talks occurs in 2015, we’ll have a far better chance of actually locking down an international treaty to cut global emissions if the United States has already stepped up. Then we can bring other countries on board with their cuts, and then circle back around in a few years for an agreement to cut more. And suddenly that 1.8 percent isn’t a mere 1.8 percent anymore.

“American influence is always stronger when we lead by example,” Obama said yesterday at West Point. “We cannot exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everyone else.”

Climate Change Is A Threat To America And The World

Because carbon dioxide molecules absorb heat well, the more we dump into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the more heat the atmosphere can absorb. This raises the overall temperature of the Earth as a system, in what’s called the “greenhouse effect” — carbon dioxide and other gases trap heat within the atmosphere, like the glass walls of a greenhouse trap heat within its interior. We can actually measure it: satellites have tracked the heat imbalance as the Earth absorbs more energy from the sun, while ice cores and other measurements show a a long period of climate stability going back thousands of years, followed by a sudden spike in carbon dioxide and global temperatures around the arrival of the fossil fuel-powered Industrial Revolution.

temperature_record-wheelchair1

What does all this mean for the Earth’s climate? Hotter average global temperatures mean more heat waves, more wildfires, and faster evaporation leading to more drought. But it also means more moisture in the atmosphere, so precipitation becomes heavier when it does come, and wetter areas become wetter while dry areas become drier. Sea levels rise from ice melt at the poles and cyclones become stronger from the oceans’ rising heat content, leading to more flooding and storm damage on the coasts. The poles heat up faster than the equator, destabilizing global weather patterns. Species and ecosystems collapse on both land and sea as climate change and ocean acidification alter their habitats. Crop production and food supplies are upended, fresh water becomes harder to come by, and vectors for pests and disease increase. Basically, rising global temperatures shift the range of possible weather so that destructive and extreme events become more likely.

The scientific consensus is that global temperatures can warm 2°C before those changes become truly catastrophic, though some research suggests even that threshold is too much. At humanity’s current rate of carbon dioxide emissions, we’re set to blow past that limit and get somewhere near 5°C of warming by 2100. Simply put, that would bring a degree of climate change far beyond anything that’s occurred the entire time human civilization has been on the planet. It might not even be possible, much less likely, for us to adapt to those circumstances.

U.S. Carbon Emissions Are A Sizable Part Of The Problem

At about 14.5 percent of 2012′s global emissions, the United States is the world’s second-biggest producer of carbon dioxide, with China now in first and India in third. That same year, electricity generation made up almost a third of the greenhouse gas emissions from America’s economy, with cars and other vehicles also making up close to a third, and industry emitting a fifth. The rest was filled in by commercial and residential buildings and agriculture, each for a tenth a pop.

EPA’s rules for new and existing power plants will address the electricity sector only, but the rest of President Obama’s climate action plan aims to use the executive branch’s regulatory authority to cut emissions from those other sectors as well — by ratcheting up emission standards for cars, improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings, changing forestry and land-use practices, and plugging the various holes in our economy that release other greenhouse gases such as methane.

So while the carbon dioxide pumped out by America’s power plants is ultimately only a slice of the problem, the regulations to cut them down are the central pillar of the Obama Administration’s interlocking effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in every sector of the economy. And the political, social, and economic effort to sustain that central push will flow into all the other efforts as well.

Congress Isn’t Going To Do It Anytime Soon

It’s been well-documented by political scientists that partisan polarization has increased significantly in the legislative branch over the last few decades, meaning both parties — but the Republicans especially — move more in ideological lockstep.

Senate_means_2013
CREDIT: HTTP://VOTEVIEW.COM/

In 2009, when the Democrats still dominated Congress, that unity actually helped them pass bills like the stimulus, financial regulatory reform, and Obamacare. But policies to cut carbon emissions are different. The benefits are spread across the entire population, and are still mostly to come in the future, while the costs will be here and now and fall the hardest on some specific and very influential groups — namely the fossil fuel industry. So when President Obama and the Democrats tried to push a cap-and-trade bill through Congress that year, moderate Democrats — especially in the coal-dependent states like West Virginia and Kentucky — felt enormous pressure to jump ship. And moderate Republicans were pressured by their own ideological cohort to not jump on board.

As a result, cap-and-trade passed the House but went down to defeat in the Senate. Now that the Republicans have taken back the House, the situation is even worse for climate policy, and it will likely take several election cycles before another chance emerges for Congress to pass something. And we simply don’t have that much time. Global carbon emissions quite literally need to peak within the next few years and then start falling fast if we want a good shot at staying below the 2°C threshold.

Fortunately, Congress has actually already handed the executive branch the tools to address this problem. Amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 require EPA to regulate emissions that threaten public welfare, and in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled the agency could regulate carbon dioxide emissions if it found they posed such a threat. EPA came to that exact conclusion in 2009, citing the rising seas, stronger storms, heavier floods, more intense heat waves, disrupted food supplies, shrinking fresh water supplies, and increased vectors for disease climate change would bring. By carrying through with the new regulations, the Obama Administration and EPA are in fact carrying out the will of Congress — just not the will of this particular batch of congress members.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Let the EPA Do Its Job!

Dear Representative Amodei —

There was a time when the Republican part stood for something.  It was  President Richard Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency by executive order, and which began operation on December 2, 1970. That order, establishing the EPA, was ratified by committee hearings in both the House and the Senate.  If you still stand for anything, we implore you to PLEASE VOTE NO on any bill that would block the EPA’s ability to do its job, including HR 3826, introduced by Rep. Whitfield.

Power plants are required to limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, lead, soot and other pollution they put in our air and water, and they can do the same for carbon. But we know that polluters will never clean up without a push from the EPA.  Representative Whitfield’s bill would handcuff the EPA from limiting carbon pollution from power plants. Without those limits, polluters will continue to dump an unlimited amount of carbon pollution into our air.

Cleaning up dirty power plants is the strongest step we can take to protect us, and all our grandchildren the Republican party is so fond of professing to protect, from the harmful effects of climate change. Don’t stand in the way of the EPA’s ability to clean up power plants, VOTE NO on HR 3826.

TAKE ACTION! Don’t Soil Laws That Clean Up Toxics

Rusty fuel and chemical drums on the Arctic coast. (Vladimir Melnik / Shutterstock)

It’s a lesson we learned in kindergarten: if you make a mess, you should clean it up. But, when it comes to the polluted messes of our air, land and water, some members of Congress seem to have forgotten how important this lesson can be.

The House of Representatives is planning to vote on a bill that would delay cleanup at hazardous waste sites and eviscerate the nation’s Superfund law.  They’ll vote very soon on H.R. 2279 [summary], a bill that would gut the laws that require companies to clean up their toxic messes. The bill would delay cleanup at hazardous waste sites, prevent the EPA from cleaning up sites quickly and limit efforts to make toxic industries safer. It would eviscerate the nation’s Superfund law, which over the past three decades has allowed the EPA and other agencies to identify and clean up thousands of polluted hazardous waste sites across the country.

One in four Americans live within three miles of a hazardous waste site. We see these sites on our way to work, and pass them as we pick up our children from school or head to the local grocery store. Companies that make a toxic mess in our communities should be required to clean it up; not leave it for neighbors and taxpayers to deal with.

Tell your Representative to vote no on H.R. 2279. Remind them that when you make a mess, you should clean it up. Or, call your member of Congress today and tell them to vote NO on H.R. 2279. Dial the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Congressional Representative

Contact information for Nevada’s Representatives:

Representative Dina Titus (CD1) Twitter
202-225-5965 (DC) / 702-220-9823 (LV)

Representative Mark Amodei (CD2) Twitter
202-225-6155 / 775-686-5760

Representative Joe Heck (CD3) Twitter
202-225-3252 / 702-387-4941

Representative Steven Horsford (CD4) Twitter
202-225-9894 / 702-802-4500