This week in Washington, DC

A lot happened on the environment in Washington, D.C. in the last week. Here's a quick recap: The Farm Bill Yesterday, the Senate voted on the Farm Bill, and thankfully, we kept some of the very worst provisions out of it. Senators Barrasso and Paul both introduced amendments that would have blocked the proposed clean water guidelines we strongly support from being finalized or implemented. Thanks in part to our outreach, Senate leadership opted to keep these dirty water amendments out of the final amendment deal on the bill, so they didn’t even come up for a vote. Still, Congress continues to try to roll back the guidance—in the House they now are moving another funding bill with a provision in the original bill to block the guidance. Also, an amendment to the Farm bill offered by Senator Lee (R-UT) to eliminate the Forest Legacy Project—a program under the Land and Water Conservation Fund umbrella that has led to the conservation of more than 2.2 million acres of working forest land since it was authorized in 1990, was defeated by a vote of 21 to 77.

A lot happened on the environment in Washington, D.C. in the last week. Here’s a quick recap:

The Farm Bill

Yesterday, the Senate voted on the Farm Bill, and thankfully, we kept some of the very worst provisions out of it. Senators Barrasso and Paul both introduced amendments that would have blocked the proposed clean water guidelines we strongly support from being finalized or implemented. Thanks in part to our outreach, Senate leadership opted to keep these dirty water amendments out of the final amendment deal on the bill, so they didn’t even come up for a vote. Still, Congress continues to try to roll back the guidance—in the House they now are moving another funding bill with a provision in the original bill to block the guidance. Also, an amendment to the Farm bill offered by Senator Lee (R-UT) to eliminate the Forest Legacy Project—a program under the Land and Water Conservation Fund umbrella that has led to the conservation of more than 2.2 million acres of working forest land since it was authorized in 1990, was defeated by a vote of 21 to 77. Finally, Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) offered an amendment to the Farm Bill which would prevent any organization receiving a loan for a wind energy project from also receiving another federal incentive. The amendment was voted down, 33-66

Mercury pollution

On Wednesday we won a vote stopping Sen. Inhofe’s (OK) Congressional Review Act (CRA) blocking EPA’s Mercury & Air Toxics Standard for power plants. Unfortunately, Texas Senators Cornyn and Hutchison voted for the measure.

Soot Standards

If you missed it, last Friday, the Obama administration announced new proposed air quality standards for particulate matter (or soot) pollution. This will force the clean-up of a variety of sources including power plants and diesel trucks and buses. Soot is a deadly form of air pollution, cutting short the lives of thousands of Americans each year.  A judge has ordered the rule to be finalized by the end of 2012.

Transportation Bill

In the next week, we’ll either see the transportation bill either come out of conference negotiations or have another extension of current transportation funding. We will continue working to avoid anti-environmental provisions and to secure the inclusion of an amendment to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Fund would help acquire land for the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge in east Texas. There is renewed hope in DC that we will see the Transportation Bill come to the floor next week. At the same time, the House Interior Appropriations subcommittee passed their budget proposal that slashes the Land and Water Conservation Fund to $66M—7% of what it is intended to receive annually, and a far cry from the president’s request of $450M.

Oil Drilling 

H.R 4480, an oil-drilling bill, passed through the House of Representatives this week. This would indefinitely delay three upcoming critical pollution standards under the Clean Air Act in the name of lower fuel prices–which it would not actually achieve–while also sideswiping critical environmental protections and forcing drilling on our public lands. It also severely limits the scope of citizen participation in federal decision-making. It passed by a vote of 248 to 163 in the House on Thursday.: 

Lands Defense

We unfortunately saw two bills pass the House that take aim at our public lands, worsen our dependency on oil and rolls back environmental and public health protections. A package of lands bills (HR 2578) passed that would open old growth in Alaska to logging, allow motorized vehicles in Cape Hatteras and the Boundary Waters, waive 30 cornerstone environmental laws within 100 miles of the border (including the clean water act and safe drinking water act, in national parks and public lands in border states.)

Authors

Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas

As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.