Weekly Update from DC
Our weekly update on environmental news from DC. Clean Water The dirty water attacks in Congress are unrelenting. The U.S. House is once again trying to push through a must-pass funding bill that would block the clean water guidance. Similar to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill a few weeks ago, the Interior-EPA Appropriations bill, which went through committee on Thursday, once again has several dirty water riders included in its language and decimates funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill will be up for a vote after the July 4th recess, specific timing unclear.
Our weekly update on environmental news from DC.
The dirty water attacks in Congress are unrelenting. The U.S. House is once again trying to push through a must-pass funding bill that would block the clean water guidance. Similar to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill a few weeks ago, the Interior-EPA Appropriations bill, which went through committee on Thursday, once again has several dirty water riders included in its language and decimates funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill will be up for a vote after the July 4th recess, specific timing unclear.
Clean Air, Healthy Families
On Tuesday, the DC District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of (using very strong language) several actions that EPA has taken to cut carbon pollution. This was a big victory, and may discourage some of the more rational members of Congress and within the polluters’ ranks from casting doubt on EPA’s authority to regulate carbon pollution (but don’t hold your breath). Check out this great editorial in the NY Times.
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to mark-up a package of energy tax credit extensions in July. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) is expected to be included, but the offshore wind Investment Texas Credit (ITC) is up in the air. The environmental community has sent up a letter on the policies we’d like to see extended in the package; the list includes PTC, offshore wind ITC, 48C (advanced energy manufacturing credits), Sect. 1603 Treasury Grant Program, and some energy efficiency and vehicle efficiency policies.
On Wednesday the Obama Administration issued new guidelines that will make it easier for state and local governments to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency projects – through making $2 billion in low-cost financing “Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds” (QECBs) more easily accessible.
On Thursday, the House and the Senate conference committee reported a transportation bill. Unfortunately, this bill limits public participation and otherwise cripples the environmental review process for transportation projects, giving many projects a free pass regardless of their potential harmful environmental impacts. In addition, it rolls back core clean transportation policies, including dedicated funding for safe biking and walking infrastructure, that provide Americans with safer, cleaner, and healthier transportation choices. The bill did adopt the RESTORE Act, directing 80% of civil penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill towards Gulf cost restoration. It also avoided the potentially disastrous provisions to approve the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and to deregulate the disposal of toxic coal ash, but this bill is a step back when we need to move forward with the investments in transit and other forms of clean transportation that will get America off oil. Environment Texas opposes this transportation bill. The bill will pass both the House and Senate this weekend, and the new funding will extend through September 2014.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
Unfortunately, the final transportation bill failed to include the Senate amendment providing $700 million in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – money which would have gone in part to help protect east Texas’ Neches River National Wildlife Refuge. There was overwhelming support in the Senate for the provision and broad bipartisan support in the House, and LWCF received more high-level attention than ever before.
Concurrently, the House Interior Appropriations Committee proposed to slash LWCF funding to $66M—which is considerably less than the $450 million the president requested for FY13, and 80% less than is received in FY12. For context, LWCF has only been fully funded at $900M once in its 50 year history. On a positive note, the Senate defeated an amendment by Senator Lee (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.
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.