Environmental War Crimes – Part 5 – Money

A group of demonstrators, including one dressed as the Grim Reaper, march to protest the proposed resettlement of New York’s Love Canal neighborhood. In 1990, the state began selling new homes in Love Canal, a former toxic dump site whose previous residents had to be evacuated due to health hazards. (Photo by William Campbell/Sygma via Getty Images

On Monday,  we started our multi-point breakdown of a singularly destructive bill – HR 3354, a legislative monster of an appropriations act, whose length and complexity hides gifts, in the form of riders, for industries and anti-environmental extremists.  In Parts 1 and 2, we listed those that pose a clear threat to our health and that of our families by the removal or lessening of protections for our air and water. In Part 3, we spotlighted the ones that are focused on taking or abusing our public lands for private financial gain or on hindering their proper management. In Part 4, we focused on those that demonstrated our legislators disrespect for the our lives and health as well as that of our wildlife.

Environmental War Crimes – Part 1 – Air
Environmental War Crimes – Part 2 – Water
Environmental War Crimes – Part 3 – Land
Environmental War Crimes – Part 4 – Life

We’ve loosely organized these riders on their effects on the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.  That one is listed in “Air” in our arbitrary category system, does not preclude it from harming other aspects of the environment. The gas and oil industries and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) are examples that land in every group.

Today we’re going to talk about the ones that didn’t quite fit into any one group, those that specifically loosen controls on toxins, that allow polluters to shift cleanup costs to us and “industry-friendly” riders that are truly breathtaking in the audacity of their corruption. 

It’s just business! – Call to action:

Action: Make these calls, and just as importantly, share this with friends and family that live in GOP-dominated states and ask them to call their legislators. EVEN IF YOU’VE MADE THIS CALL, MAKE IT AGAIN. Pile them on. Make our legislators concentrate on the horrendous details parked in this bill.

Minimal Script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I’m asking Sen. [___] to reject HR 3354, and HR 4476 and come back with a clean appropriations act with both the removal of all anti-environmental riders and the restoration of full funding to match fiscal year 2016.

Contact your Legislator

Senator Feinstein: DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Other Rep./Senator Contacts: www.phoneyourrep.com

Background Information on HR 3354 toxic issues – go as deep as you want. 

Thanks to defenders.org for their amazing compilation.

These items, from #1-12,  are the perverse easter eggs hidden in HR. 3354, just on a grab-bag of extremist and industry-friendly subjects. 

It’s just business.

#1 – Corruption 101: Shortchanging royalty payments to us, the taxpayers. 

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Oooh, look! This one is so important, that two legislators have made nearly identical bills!

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions – Sec. 453 – Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)
  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions – Sec. 457 – Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM)

Sec. 453: Prevents the Bureau of Land Management from accurately measuring and reporting oil production on federal lands. The effect is to prevent federal agencies from ensuring that all royalties that are due are paid. Thanks, Bruce!
Sec. 457: Prevents the Bureau of Land Management from accurately measuring and reporting oil and gas production on federal lands. Atta boy, Steve! But we’re mystified why the American Institute of CPA’s, a group that loves accuracy, gives you money.

The BLM put out this exciting news on October 17, 2016! Interesting…

“WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management announced the finalization of three rules today designed to ensure the accurate measurement, proper reporting, and accurate recordkeeping of oil and gas produced from Federal and Indian leases in order to ensure that the royalties due are paid.

“The conclusion of this rulemaking effort is a significant milestone in the BLM’s effort to modernize its oil and gas program,” said Janice Schneider, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. “The updates made by these rules create a durable framework for the future that will support the responsible development and management of the nation’s oil and gas resources and ensure that both the American public and tribes receive a fair return for these resources.

Business is more important than your health or the environment.

#2 – Delay and weaken critical health asessments in communities with Superfund sites.

Oh, this is very popular…must be good for us, right? Um…

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title III – Related Agencies – Department of Health and Human Services – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – Toxic Substances and Envitonmnetal Public Health 
  • Interior, Environment, And Related Agencies Appropriation Act (Senate Chairmen’s Mark) Title III – Related Agencies – Department of Health and Human Services – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – Toxic Substances and Envitonmnetal Public Health 

1) Limits and reduces the health studies that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is required to do by removing both the deadlines and the guidelines for studying the impacts of chemical exposure on communities that petition for help. This provision would remove the right of citizens to petition the government for timely assistance after toxic chemical exposure.  The ATSDR would no longer have to complete their assessments within the one-year deadline currently required for Superfund sites, nor would they have complete a full “health assessment”, allowing them to substitute a less rigorous (undefined) health study. If you find yourself within range of a Superfund site on the National Priorities List, the list of the most contaminated sites in the nation, your health is now vulnerable to government “undersight”.

#3 – Leaves us with the cleanup costs for pollution, including mining pollution in all forms.

The GOP administration just opened up millions of acres of wilderness to hard rock mining…see our post on this here.

Embed from Getty Images
US President Donald Trump holds up a pen after signing the hat of Bruce Adams, Chairman of the San Juan County Commission, after signing a Presidential Proclamation shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions – Sec. 433
  • Interior, Environment, And Related Agencies Appropriation Act (Senate Chairmen’s Mark) Title V – Wildfire Disaster Funding – In Senate Interior Appropriations Committee Explanatory Statement – Statement 6)

Sec. 433: Blocks the EPA from implementing, enforcing or finalizing requirements that hard rock mining sites carry insurance to cover environmental damage. This provision will likely leave cleanup costs to the taxpayers under Superfund instead of making the responsible party pay for the damage they caused.

The Denver Post … A large waste-rock pile that is part of the Commodore Mine in Creede is one of two sites the EPA would be targeting as a Superfund site. The other is the Nelson Tunnel which is nearby. (Photo By RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

6) Erroneously suggests that EPA’s work to protect communities from toxic waste isn’t necessary and aims to protect the most dangerous industries that handle hazardous substances from financial liability for the toxic messes that they create. The Superfund Act was written to protect the public from hazardous spills and pollution and to hold violators accountable. Thirty years later, a range of industries declare bankruptcy and opt out of their financial obligations while communities are left with poisoned soil and water, and taxpayers get stuck with an exorbitant cleanup bill. Metal (hard rock) mining is the leading source of hazardous materials production and release in the U.S. In 2012, the EPA reported that the metal mining industry is the largest toxic polluter, releasing over 1.4 billion tons of pounds (about 40 percent of the total released by US industry). Taxpayers are already liable for billions in cleanup costs at hard rock mining sites due to inadequate insurance required for mining operations. EPA must protect human health and the environment, and hold polluters accountable by establish financial assurance regulations for the hard rock mining sector.

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UNITED STATES – MAY 25: The Berkeley Pit, a former open pit copper mine and a part of the Silver Bow/Butte Area Superfund Site, is seen, in Butte, Montana, Thursday, May 25, 2006. The area is contaminated with aluminum, and heavy metals such as arsenic, copper, cadmium, and lead. (Photo by Stephen Hilger/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

#4 – Abandons rules to regulate dangerous solvents

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions – In House Appropriations Committee Report (House Report 115-238)

6) There’s no represenative’s name attached to this beauty and you can see why. It encourages EPA to abandon the three proposed rules to regulate dangerous solvents. These are the first proposed rules to regulate existing chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) since asbestos in 1989. The language is particularly striking since the recently passed TSCA rewrite specifically authorized EPA to move forward with these regulations. The House rider will further delay protecting people from these toxic solvents that have already been extensively studied and linked to death and illness.

Isn’t protecting us and our environment from natural disasters a legislator’s “Business”? Um, no…

#5 – Block Implementation of Flood Risk Mitigation

  • Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (H.R. 3280/H.R. 3354 Title VII – General Provisions – Government-Wide – Sec. 745

Sec. 745:  – This provision would prevent implementation of new measures to protect public infrastructure from flooding. The federal flood protection standard is meant to increase our resilience to future flooding, protecting lives and reducing taxpayer dollars spent to rebuild after a disaster. The provision only serves to harm the American public.

#6 – Undermines ESA and FEMA process regarding floodplain management

  • Making further supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, for disaster assistance for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and calendar year 2017 wildfires, and for other purposes (H.R. 4667) – Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)

The Disaster Supplemental Relief bill for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria (H.R. 4667) contains language that undermines the Endangered Species Act (ESA), exempts the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from its legal obligations regarding floodplain management, and severely undercut FEMA’s ability to safeguard our nation’s endangered and threatened wildlife. Section 2029 of H.R. 4667 would exempt FEMA from its existing responsibility to address the impacts that are caused by the action but occur later in time – of its National Flood Insurance Program and other flood programs on listed species and critical habitat. This damaging legislation both exempts FEMA from its legal responsibility to consult with federal wildlife agencies to examine the effects its flood insurance program has on endangered and threatened species and allows the agency to escape liability for violations of the ESA.

How about promoting a cleaner and more energy-efficient country?

#7 – Prevents us from understanding the costs of climate change

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title II– General Provisions – Dept. of the Interior Sec. 518 – Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions – Sec. 463 – Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)
Sec. 518: Blocks any consideration of the costs of carbon pollution on the rest of the world and bars the Department of Energy (DoE) from assessing and weighing the full costs of extreme weather or other climate impacts caused by our pollution, and the full benefits of any actions to improve energy efficiency or clean up carbon pollution.
Sec. 463: Rep. Mullins, a beneficiary of contributions from both the Koch brothers and the oil and gas industry, wants the government to willfully blind itself to the economic costs of climate change, which affect businesses, families, governments and taxpayers,  healthcare costs, property destruction, increased food prices, and more.

#8 – Block the Cape Wind Project

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title V – General Provisions – Sec. 511 – Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)

Sec. 511: prevent the Department of Energy from doing anything to further the Cape Wind Project off the coast of Massachusetts.

#9 – Blocking energy efficiency standards for light bulbs

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title V – General Provisions – Sec. 519 – Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX)

Sec. 519:  Really, Michael? This winner is trying to block the Department of Energy from implementing and enforcing common sense energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. This transition has been a success in lowering the US electrical load and efficient incandescent bulbs are among the variety of choices available for consumers. Reinstating this provision will prevent DoE from enforcing the standards against inefficient, noncompliant bulbs. Comparison of bulb types.

#10 – Undermines scientific research on fracking with insertion of industry input.

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title V – General Provisions – In House Appropriations Committee Report #12

12) Language in the explanatory statement directs the EPA to conduct a study with a third-party partners on the effectiveness of environmental protections related to fracking. Rather than call for sound science, however, it signals that EPA should work with an organization friendly to industry, toward the likely end of a study that favors them.

Taking our voice away

#11 – Limits citizens without deep pockets from getting attorneys’ fees in settlements.

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions – Sec. 461 – Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO)

Sec. 461: This rider cuts across all our protection acts. It discourage citizens from enforcing essential protections of the ESA, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act by targeting court settlements involving federal agency actions, including public health and the environmental protections by barring payment of citizens’ legal fees whenever parties avoid costly litigation by agreeing to a settlement, thereby favoring continued litigation over settlement. The government needs citizens to be partners in enforcing all manner of America’s laws and this principle is enshrined in the numerous federal laws that provide reasonable fee recovery for successful citizen plaintiffs. This amendment would change this.

#12 – Limits citizens involvement with punitive reporting requirements.

  • Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 3354), Title IV – General Provisions – In House Appropriations Committee Report (House Report 115-238)

1) Language in the report directs the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency to produce “detailed” reports on the cost of successful enforcement actions filed by individuals and organizations in federal court – reports identifying anyone who recovers litigation expenses from the government, and any judges who approve such reimbursements. This report subjects litigants to a punitive set of reporting requirements that target every citizen and judge involved. Congress removed from the Equal Access to Justice Act in 1995 – which provided for reasonable standards, this degrade our ability to bring suits further.

 

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