WASHINGTON, DC – Senate appropriators continued their full-scale attack on the nation’s air, water, and climate today, adopting a spending bill riddled with anti-environmental policy riders that also severely underfunds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and land conservation.
“By defunding pollution control and blocking critical protections for our air, water, and climate, Senate leaders hit our environment coming and going today,” said Anna Aurilio, a program director and veteran lobbyist at Environment America. “This spending bill is a backdoor and a front-door assault on our treasured waters, our families’ health, and our wild places.”
The spending authorization bill cuts funding for EPA by more than half a billion dollars compared to this year, and continues to shortchange the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It targets air and water pollution prevention and environmental enforcement specifically, slashing as much as $80 million from these programs.
Appropriations bills are supposed to direct government spending only, not also determine policy. But on Tuesday senators added to their spending bill provisions to block a long list of environmental policies, starting with two of the Obama administration’s most popular environmental initiatives: the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule.
The Clean Power Plan, a central component of the president’s Climate Action Plan, requires a 30 percent cut in carbon pollution from power plants, and has been backed by more than 8 million public comments and broad majorities of voters across party lines.
The Clean Water Rule restores federal safeguards to small streams and vulnerable wetlands, and is supported by 80 percent of the American public and a broad range of constituencies, from local elected officials, to brewers, to farmers.
The spending bill also blocks ozone pollution limits, fracking regulations on public lands, protections for endangered wildlife, requirements that polluters pay to clean up hazardous waste sites, and more.
Along party lines, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted down an attempt by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to strip the bill of its 11 anti-environmental policy riders.
“Kudos to Sen. Udall for standing up to the polluters, and speaking out for due process and environmental protection,” said Aurilio. “And thanks to all the senators who voted with him today.”
The committee also rejected another amendment from ranking member Udall, this one only stripping the rider that blocked the Clean Power Plan. That measure won support from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), but not from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), considered a potential “yes” vote on climate action.
"On today of all days, with the pope declaring it a moral imperative to solve global warming," said Aurilio, "it's especially disappointing to see so many senators vote to block meaningful action on climate."
Environment America urged lawmakers to reject the spending bill if and when it comes to the Senate floor.
“This bill is a dream for the oil and gas industry, the coal companies, and other polluters," said Aurilio, "but it’s a nightmare for everyone who wants clean air, clean water, and a healthier planet for our kids.”