DEFENDING THE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH AGAINST
In what has become an annual ritual, Republicans are again loading up budget bills with legislative “riders” that would surrender our environment to special interests. These riders not only threaten important environmental and public health protections – they also subvert the democratic process by trying to force through legislative changes without the benefit of hearings or public scrutiny. Time and again, President Clinton has stood firm and forced Congress to withdraw dozens of the worst stealth riders. The President is calling on Congress to drop this latest wave of anti-environmental riders, including these:
Undermining New National Monuments. A rider on the House Interior Appropriations bill would prohibit any spending to develop management plans, improve visitor services, enhance protections, or undertake other activities at the new Grand Canyon-Parashant, Giant Sequoia, Agua Fria and California Coastal National Monuments. The monuments were created by the President earlier this year to strengthen protection of these unique federal lands.
Blocking Action on Global Warming. Riders attached to several appropriations bills could seriously undermine U.S. efforts to combat global warming. The riders seek to prohibit the executive branch, including the State Department, from even trying to reach agreement with other countries on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, they seek to bar efforts to reach further agreement on emissions trading and the Clean Development Mechanism – two key provisions of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at ensuring that emissions reductions are achieved at the lowest possible cost.
Refusing to Consider Increases in Auto Fuel Economy. A rider on the House Transportation Appropriations bill would once again bar the Department of Transportation from even considering an increase in corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. In the past, these standards have resulted in a doubling of the fuel economy of the car fleet, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, saving billions of gallons of oil, and saving consumers billions of dollars. Continuing the ban would contribute to rising energy consumption, increasing both environmental and energy security risks.
Crippling Water Quality Protections. A rider on the House VA/HUD Appropriations bill would block the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing a major rule aimed at strengthening clean water protections nationwide. The proposed rule, set to go final later this year, would update EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load requirements, setting a new strategy for cleaning up nearly 20,000 water bodies nationwide still too polluted for fishing and swimming. Blocking Drinking Water Standards. A second rider would block EPA from adopting a new rule to protect the public from radon in drinking water, as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996.
Stalling Sensible Reform at the Army Corps. A rider on the FY 2000 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill in the Senate would reverse important advances being made by the Army to ensure effective civilian oversight and accountability of the Corps of Engineers. This accountability is essential to ensure that Corps projects affecting the nation's rivers, wetlands, coastlines and other water resources are economically justified and environmentally acceptable.
Reneging on Mining Reform. Another rider on the Senate Agriculture/Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill would severely weaken proposed Interior Department regulations aimed at reducing the environmental impact of hardrock mining on public lands, including large-scale cyanide leaching for gold. The rider would renege on an agreement last year between Congress and the Administration to allow the long overdue mining reforms to go forward provided they were consistent with the findings of a recent National Research Council report.
Encouraging Overgrazing of Public Lands. Another rider on the House Interior bill would automatically extend for up to 10 years any grazing permit on Bureau of Land Management lands that expires in fiscal year 2001 if the agency has not completed necessary environmental reviews. BLM is on track to complete processing of all permits up for renewal in 2001. But the rider would create an incentive for permit holders to delay processing in hopes of winning an automatic renewal.
Undermining Pesticide Safety Standards. Another rider on the House VA/HUD bill would cripple efforts to protect the public from dangerous pesticides by barring the Environmental Protection Agency from collecting fees from pesticide makers to support mandatory safety reviews. The proposed EPA rule to assess the fees is required under the Food Quality Protection Act, passed overwhelmingly by Congress, which calls for systematic reviews of the potential health risks posed by thousands of commonly used pesticides.
Thwarting Cleanup of Hudson River PCBs. Another rider on the House VA/HUD bill seeks to prevent EPA from adopting a long-awaited plan to clean up PCBs discharged from General Electric manufacturing facilities that have seriously contaminated New York’s Hudson River. Despite years of scientific study by EPA and independent scientists, the rider would bar EPA from ordering the dredging of contaminated sediments in the river pending completion of yet another study by the National Academy of Sciences.
Denying Communities Help on River Restoration. Riders on the House Agriculture and Interior bills would restrict spending on voluntary programs that assist communities in protecting and restoring their rivers and in building sustainable riverfront economies. The riders specifically target communities along the 14 rivers designated by the President under the American Heritage Rivers initiative, which provides assistance in identifying federal tools and resources that communities can use to help implement their local restoration and development plans.
Blocking New Protections for Wildlife. Two riders in the House Interior bill would bar establishment of new National Wildlife Refuges on the Kankakee River in Illinois and Indiana, and in the Yolo Bypass of the San Francisco Bay in California. These riders would infringe on the Interior Department’s ability under current law to protect and preserve migratory birds and endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service is coordinating on both of these proposals with the Army Corps of Engineers and many state and local groups.
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