The Chickahominy Report

News about Earth, Atmosphere, Water, and Life

A GOP war on the environment?

The new majority - plasticware is back.

One of the 112th Congress’s earliest environmental accomplishments — bringing plastics back to the cafeteria. (Brendan Buck)

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — Environmental protection programs took a disproportionate hit in the recent congressional debate over H.R. 1, a continuing resolution to fund the federal government the rest of the current fiscal year.

The core resolution proposed to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 30 percent—the largest cut, percentage-wise, of any federal government agency. Amendments to H.R. 1 were even more drastic: among other things, they would prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and from implementing water-pollution controls in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in Florida. In a smaller, yet symbolically significant move, the House leadership, reversed former policies that promoted recycling and reduced plastic waste inside the halls of Congress.

When the latter policy was implemented, Brendan Buck, press secretary for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) tweeted, “The new majority – plasticware is back.”

The actions of this two-month-old Congress prompt the League of Conservation Voters to do something it rarely does: produce a special edition of its environmental voting scorecard just for this one spending bill rather than an entire session of Congress.

“The Continuing Resolution’s sweeping assaults on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the wildlife and wild places Americans hold dear make it the most anti-environmental piece of legislation in recent memory,” said League of Conservation Voters Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld in a statement released on the League’s Web site. “The depth and breadth of the anti-environmental amendments to this legislation is truly astounding, which is why LCV has taken the extraordinary step of creating a Continuing Resolution Special Edition National Environmental Scorecard.”

TCR to wonder: Has the GOP has launched a war on the environment?

In order to answer the question, one must first establish whether these policies originate primarily from the Republican side of the aisle, or whether they represent a more bipartisan effort. To that end, a document circulated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation provided a great amount of raw data.

The document is a group letter by dozens of environmental and scientific organizations organizations (listed at the bottom of this post) that identified more than two dozen anti-environmental amendments the groups collectively opposed. An examination of the League of Conservation Voters scorecard discovered an additional amendment that could be considered anti-environment.

An examination of the data reveals that all of the provisions of concern originated from GOP representatives. Below is a listing of the representatives and the provisions they introduced.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) introduced an amendment that would eliminate funding for the Global Environment Facility, which supports international environment and develop projects.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) introduced an amendment that would eliminate funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which supports clean energy research.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) introduced an amendment that would eliminate funding for the National Landscape Conservation System.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) introduced amendments that would block or weaken EPA enforcement of restrictions on toxic air pollution and eliminate funding for the salary and expenses of the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced amendments that would reduce or eliminate support for international climate programs for adaptation and mitigation.

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced an amendment that would prohibit EPA from regulating any use of chemicals present in hunting or fishing equipment.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced amendments that would prevent EPA from using federal funds to implement the Chesapeake Bay restoration plan.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) introduced amendments that would prohibit federal agencies from regulating mountain-top removal mining.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) introduced one amendment that called for a National Academies of Science study of hazardous air pollution regulations and discouraged such regulations from being promulgated for cement plants, industrial facilities and utilities and introduced amendments that would block scientific research into the effects of climate change.

Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced amendments that would halt funding of the Antiquities Act.

Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) introduced an amendment that would prevent the USDA Forest Service from regulating off-road-vehicle use.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) introduced amendments that would prohibit foreign travel for NOAA law enforcement officers (which would impede their ability to regulate illegal fishing activity) and which would prohibit new fishery regulations that are intended to help rebuild declining or collapsed fisheries.

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) introduced amendments that would block or weaken EPA enforcement of restrictions on toxic air pollution from cement plants and industrial facilities, defund the Council on Environmental Quality and eliminate any funding for the implementation of the Antiquities Act.

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced amendments that would cut $70 million from the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program, cut $10 million from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Construction of Research Facilities program and zero out funding for international family planning programs.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) introduced amendments that would prohibit funding for the study of the Missouri River ecosystem restoration projects authorized by Water Resources Development Act of 2009 and block scientific research into the effects of climate change.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) introduced amendments that would zero out funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and undermine ability to enforce the Endangered Species Act and protections for wolves.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) introduced amendments eliminate funding for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, defund the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSmart Grant program, zero out funding for Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grants, prevent the Department of the Interior from completing science-based planning for the coho salmon recovery (which includes dam removal) in the Klamath River basin,  eliminate public access to information about whether or not dam removal is in the public interest and cut funding for the Tropical Forest Conservation Act.

Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) introduced amendments that would prohibit EPA from enforcing Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, prevent government regulation of mountain-top removal mining, and weaken proposed federal regulations regarding the treatment of hazardous waste.

Rep.  Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) introduced an amendment that would end federal enforcement of clean air regulations.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) was especially busy, introducing more than one dozen amendments that would stop funding of White House task forces, such as the Gulf Coast Recovery Fund; impede coordination and integration of intergovernmental initiatives, such as the Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and National Ocean Council; undermine ability to enforce the Endangered Species Act; halt efforts to mitigate or adapt to climate change; eliminate funding for all programs under fundamental environmental protection laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and Endangered Species Act; eliminate the land acquisition budget for the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Forest Service; eliminate all funding for construction projects  in the BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service budgets; block scientific research into the effects of climate change; impede the right of citizens to seek legal enforcement of provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act; and zero out funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced an amendment to stop efforts to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kans.) introduced an amendment to prevent the EPA from collecting data on greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) introduced an amendment to prevent EPA from implementing or enforcing water quality standards for Florida’s lakes, rivers and streams.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) introduced an amendment to weaken management of oil and gas drilling off the outer continental shelf.

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) introduced an amendment to prevent EPA from investigating the health effects of the herbicide atrazine.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) introduced an amendment to weaken proposed rules regarding the treatment of hazardous waste.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced amendments to take away EPA’s authority to regulate air emissions in the Arctic and remove the Environmental Appeals Board’s authority to review air permits related to drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The League of Conservation voters noted there were some environmentally friendly amendments—all by Democrats.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced an amendment to eliminate subsidies for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced an amendment to cap agricultural subsidies, especially those to factory farms.

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment to prevent diversion of federal funding for a program that helps low-income families make their homes more energy efficient.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) introduced an amendment to increase funding for the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program.

Of the amendments covered under the League of Conservation Voters’ scorecard, all of the GOP-sponsored amendments passed, save one that sought to eliminate the president’s power to designate national monuments under the Antiquities Act. All of the Democrat-sponsored amendments failed.

TCR decided to look deeper into the data to find out if the anti-environment/pro-environment pattern evident so far extended beyond the mere introduction and sponsorship of amendments that weaken or enhanced environmental protection. For this, the voting data recorded in the League of Conservation Voters’ scorecard was extracted and analyzed. The League assigns scores ranging from 0 to 100 to legislators based on their voting records—as with most sports, a higher score is better.

While Congress should have 435 voting members, in fact only the data for 431 votes were examined. Speaker Boehner votes at his prerogative—he chose to not vote on any of these amendments. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-Ariz.) did not vote on any of the amendments because she is recovering from an attempted assassination. Two representatives resigned: Jane Harman (R-Calif.) resigned in February to accept a position as head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) resigned for reasons better left unsaid.

Harman cast some votes, and has a score, but as the votes that took place after her resignation count against her score, TCR felt it was unfair to include it in the resulting analysis.

Of the 431 representatives whose votes are included, 240 are Republicans and 191 are Democrats.  The average League of Conservation Voters’ score for the GOP representatives was 7.583 (±11.875), with a minimum score of 0 and a maximum of 76. The average score for Democratic representatives was 90.764 (±17.204), with a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 100. The difference is statistically significant with a less than 1 in 1 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) chance of the result occurring by chance alone.

TCR also examined scores by congressional delegation. Those of Maine (two representatives), Rhode Island (two representatives), and Vermont (one representative) had perfect scores: 100. Delegations from Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut and Delaware averaged above 90. Oregon, Maryland and New York averaged above 70, and New Jersey, New Mexico, Washington and California averaged above 60.

Wyoming, with one representative, had the lowest score: 0. Kansas, with four representatives, had an average score of 1. Other states with deleg ations that with average scores of 10 or less were Montana, Alaska, Oklahoma, Idaho, North Dakota and Arkansas. The delegations of South Dakota, Nebraska, South Carolina, Louisiana, Utah and Alabama scored between 10 and 20. The average scores of the delegations of West Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida fell between 20 and 30. The Arizona, Ohio, Missouri, Georgia, Minnesota, Nevada, Kentucky, Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin delegations scored between 30 and 40.

Not all Republicans are happy with the actions of the House GOP.

“The continuing resolution (CR) that the House passed fulfills many items on the wish list of anti-environmental radicals,” David Jenkins, vice president for government and political affairs of the Republicans for Environmental Protection, said in a statement on the organization’s Web site. “Republicans were not elected to gut environmental protections, and this legislation’s attempt to do so is at odds with the stewardship values espoused by Americans of all political stripes. They were elected to practice fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, they are doing the former and weaseling on the latter. This duplicity brings with it the risk of serious political consequences for our party in 2012 and beyond.”

TCR imagines Republican pioneers such as Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and even Richard Nixon would agree.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The signatories to the group letter were Alaska Wilderness League, American Bird Conservancy, American Rivers, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Native Ecosystems, Center for Plant Conservation, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Clean Water Action, Conservation Lands Foundation, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Earthworks, Endangered Species Coalition, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, Geos Institute, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, Marine Fish Conservation Network, National Audubon Society • National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Oregon Wild, Population Action International, Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southwest Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, The Wilderness Society, Trust for Public Land, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Wildlife Fund and Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

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1 Comment

  1. Some readers have asked me to look into Tea Party influence on these amendments. I crosschecked the names against a list of members of the House Tea Party caucus. Eleven of the representatives mentioned are Tea Party caucus members, 17 are not.

    Seven of the aforementioned representatives were first elected in 2010 — ironically, none of them are listed as members of the Tea party caucus. Most (21) were first elected in 2000 or later. Three were first elected in the 1980s, three in the 1990s, and one (Don Young of Alaska) was first elected in 1972. Given that a representative’s term is two years, I am not sure there is anything all that significant in the pattern between length of service and support for these measures.

    Here’s a table with the full results:
    Year Elected
    1972 1
    1974 0
    1976 0
    1978 0
    1980 1
    1982 0
    1984 0
    1986 1
    1988 1
    1990 0
    1992 1
    1994 1
    1996 0
    1998 1
    2000 2
    2002 3
    2004 1
    2006 2
    2008 6
    2010 7

    EDITOR’S NOTE: One representative (Pearce) was first elected in 2002, then ran for Senate in 2008 and was defeated. He ran again for the House in 2010 and won. I have only counted him once in this table, sticking with 2002 as the year he was first elected.

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