The GOP's "Environmental Wish List" is Horrifying


Photo: eschipul, Flickr, CC BY-SA

Unless you've been hiding in a cave -- or perhaps a lavish, sealed-off compound -- for the last few months, you're likely fully aware that the GOP is in full-bore Tea Partying mode. Which means ultra-anti-regulatory sentiment and pro-corporate cheer-leading rule the day. Man, that was a lot of hyphens. Anyhow, Republicans have seized their moment in the sun to pursue a bill known as the 3-D Act (Domestic Jobs, Domestic Energy and Deficit Reduction). It's essentially what the New York Times calls "the right's environmental wish list" -- a series of 12 initiatives that include gutting the Clean Air Act, opening up pristine lands for drilling, and trampling the Endangered Species Act.

Here's the abridged "wish list" from the NY Times, and my response to each entry:1. Put oil and natural gas leasing on the Outer Continental shelf on a fast track, holding lease sales every nine months and making them dependent on commercial expressions of interest (rather than, say, ecosystem requirements) to determine what parcels should be leased. Ensure that a year after the bill becomes law, there will be three lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one off the coast of Virginia.

In other words, this would put oil interests first and make ecological considerations near-obsolete. It would also mean much more drilling in the Gulf and off the East Coast.

2. Open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to an "environmentally sound program for the exploration, development and production of the oil and gas resources ..."

Republicans have been after this for years, but there's a reason they haven't gotten it: Cleaning up oil spills in the Arctic, as we saw with the Exxon Valdez, is excruciatingly difficult -- and spills therefore do immense damage to the native habitats and local economies.

3. Expedite lease sales for companies seeking to extract oil and natural gas from complex geologic formations like oil shale and tar sands in the West.

The GOP wants to bring the devastatingly destructive tar sands operation like the one in Alberta, Canada, to the United States. Remember, that operation produces what is considered the "dirtiest fuel on earth".

4. Set a nine-month deadline for the environmental review of any federal action like such leasing.

Read: less talk, more drilling.

5. Prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from classifying carbon dioxide or methane from agricultural activities ... as a pollutant. No state ... could get federal permission to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from passenger vehicles.

Whatever happened to the conservatives' love for states' rights? Why couldn't a state decide to reign in carbon pollution if its voters approved such an effort? Seems pretty tyrannical -- in reality, it's just an effort to appeal to the auto industry and its lobby in DC.

6. Allow state governors to declare emergencies, which, once declared, require federal officials to ignore the provisions of the Endangered Species Act when dealing with the emergency.

Who needs endangered species anyways?

7. Allow mountaintop removal mining to proceed at Spruce Mine in Logan County, W. Va..

The EPA has gone some ways towards stalling these destructive projects, but the GOP wants to do its buddies in the coal industry a solid and let them get back to blowing up mountains for profit.

8. Reinstate the oil and gas leases in Utah that were purchased in the last years of George W. Bush's administration.

Obama overturned these right when he got into office for a reason -- they were rushed and unlawful.

9. In California's dry central valley, ensure that no federal scientific report ... requiring water for endangered fish be allowed to interfere with farmers' rights to their historical maximum allocations.

Yes. Let's agree to never let science inform our policy-making ever again.

10. Expedite approval of construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the United States.

Ah, the tar sands oil again! Let's get that stuff flowing to the US asap, and encourage one of the most environmentally-damaging projects in history to keep at it.

11. Give Shell oil a long-delayed license to drill for oil in the Beaufort Sea above Alaska.

Why not? Everyone else will be doing it, so why can't Shell?

12. Prohibit federal agencies from paying legal fees to environmental groups that prevailing lawsuits challenging the government's environmental stewardship ...

After they've opened up every square inch of the nation for drilling and let private interests have priority over any semblance of ecological preservation, they need to discourage pesky green groups from challenging the status quo in court.

In other words, it's a corporate love-fest of a manifesto that renders any and all environmental protection secondary to industrial interests. That's not even an exaggeration! That's exactly what this bill does, in its own words, on just about every front imaginable. Thankfully, most of it won't pass, as it doesn't have the votes to make it through the Senate.

Nonetheless, merely observing the intentions of a GOP that long ago abandoned any conservationist impulses whatsoever is enough to make you shudder.

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More on the 2011 Congress
GOP Votes to Deny Existence of Climate Change
GOP Has Voted to Support Big Oil 7 Times in 2011
GOP Congressman Proposes Clear-Cutting Rainforest to Fight Climate Change

Tags: Congress | United States

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