Photo: Señor Codo, Flickr, CC
When the GOP first released its budget outline a few weeks back, I noted the significant cuts it would make to the EPA -- cuts to the tune of 30% of its entire budget. It was an astonishing sum, a number intended to double as an agenda-setting message. And now, with top Republicans pursuing a bill to gut the Clean Air Act, denying high speed rail funding, even replacing the biodegradable food packaging used in the House cafeteria with Styrofoam, that message is ringing loud and clear: the environment can kiss their you-know-what. Now, TreeHugger is supposed to be a nonpartisan website, so allow me to make it clear that the above assessment is not directed at those readers that consider themselves Republicans, but at the party leadership that is making attacks on environmental regulation a key plank of their agenda.
Environmental blogs aren't the only ones who've noticed the GOP's de-greening ambitions, after all -- here's the subhead from a nonpartisan report from the LA Times: "The plan to cut $60 billion from the federal budget targets environmental programs so widely it appears to be as much an ideological gambit as a budgetary one. 'The sheer scope of it is overwhelming,' a UCLA environmental law expert says."
At this point, there's simply no denying it -- the GOP is proceeding, full-bore ahead, with a concerted attempt to dismantle many of the nation's most important environmental regulations. They see such protective regulations as an obstacle to conducting profitable business -- primarily because powerful party donors like the Koch brothers do too -- and view environmental controls as political issues on which they can attack their Democratic opponents.
Just check out the list of ways the GOP is seeking to strip away the nation's environmental protections (all from the LA Times report):
- the resolution would kill appropriations for a salmon restoration program on the San Joaquin River as well as funding for Endangered Species Act fish protections ...
- The measure also withdraws funding for a study on the removal of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River and chops $15 million from the Presidio Trust in San Francisco.
- The proposal slices the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 30% -- the largest cut to any agency.
- It bars the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and from implementing new water pollution limits in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in Florida.
- The bill stops the agency from enforcing new limits on toxic emissions, such as mercury, from cement plants and from updating air pollution standards on dust and other coarse particulate matter that exacerbate asthma and lung ailments.
- It withdraws funding for the enforcement of dredge and fill regulations that the EPA recently used to halt a big mountaintop-removal coal project in West Virginia.
- The legislation blocks a new Bureau of Land Management initiative to identify and protect pristine public lands in the West and withholds funding for a new Forest Service management plan that would restrict off-road vehicle use in national forests.
- It also removes Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rockies and eliminates hundreds of millions of dollars from a federal land acquisition program.
Get all that? De-listing endangered wolves and fish, allowing the dumping of toxic materials like mercury, encouraging mountaintop removal mining, slashing the EPA's ability to regulate the nation's worst polluters, preventing the protection of pristine forests, and on and on. This bill is so aggressive in its enviro-hate that you almost have to wonder if it's a joke. I mean, who supports all this stuff, besides the upper management of coal companies?
And that's where I find solace from this whole misguided assault on environmental protection, in the answer to that very question: Not the American people. 77% of Americans support the EPA, and want Congress to leave it alone. Most Americans support initiatives that keep our air and water clean, and protect endangered species.
The GOP, in an attempted peacock strut to impress big business and raise the ire of Dems, has overreached in a big way. As strong as the anti-regulation sentiment may be amongst the hard right of the Tea Party, the very simple truth is that at the end of the day, most of the nation wants to see the environment protected. And strong environmental regulations and laws are the only way to ensure that gets done.