A week after their electoral victories in the 2014 midterms, Senate Republicans have already set their sights on one of their all-time favorite targets: the Environmental Protection Agency.
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will become the Senate majority leader when the 2015 Congress convenes, announced last week that one of his main goals was to “rein in” the EPA. One of the main items that McConnell has problems with is the agency’s power plant emissions standards that would cut down on the amount of allowable air pollution from coal-fired power plants.
In the last week, the Republican-led efforts to force President Obama to approve the disaster of a plan have reached a fevered pitch. To begin with, to mark the 6th anniversary of the original permit application, every single Republican in the U.S. Senate signed a letter to President Obama demanding that he take action and approve the pipeline.
In the letter, Republican Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) played on the fears of American citizens while trying to force an approval. Hoeven wrote: “After more than six years of study, five favorable environmental reviews, numerous polls showing the support of the American people, ISIS and the turmoil in the Middle East, it is way past time we take off the blinders and do what is in the best interest of the United States: approve the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Not to be outdone, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made an appeal to the American public (and the dirty energy industry) by making the bold claim that, if Republicans gain control of the Senate in this year’s midterm elections, the Keystone XL pipeline will be one of their top priorities. McConnell claimed, “If we have a new majority next year, and a new majority leader, the Keystone pipeline will be voted on on the floor of the Senate, something the current majority has been avoiding for literally years.”
Even before the anniversary of the application, Senate Republicans were hard at work trying to force the project’s approval. A few days before they sent a letter to the President, Senate Republicans (and a West Virginia Democrat) introduced a bill that would strip the President of his authority to approve pipeline projects, and would limit the review period by the State Department down to 120 days. According to The Hill, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill back in June.
Two Republican members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be releasing a white paper later this week that will allegedly make the case that “regulations” and legislation that “raises energy costs” is damaging America’s underclass.
Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Tim Scott (SC) have teamed up with the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to once again push the bogus theory that government regulations and environmental safeguards are costing American consumers too much money and destroying jobs. The paper will officially be released at a Manhattan Institute event on September 18.
According to The Hill, a representative from Murkowski’s office said that the Senators will be speaking about “the economic, political, and social consequences of allowing energy insecurity to rise in America.”
Congress has less than a week left to finish delivering promises for their donors before they head out for a month-long August recess undoubtedly filled with campaigning, and members aren’t wasting any time in their attempts to suck up to the dirty energy industry.
It is simple math: Congress currently has a 15% approval rating, and every single seat in the House of Representatives is up for election this year (as it is every two years). Reports show that the candidate with the most money wins 91% of the time.
When 80% of the public disapproves of the job that you’re doing, the only way to counter that negativity is with a massive advertising blitz, and that costs a lot of money. In order to satisfy the equation, Republicans in Congress are hoping to secure money from electric utilities.
As mentioned above, the main target of the committee was the EPA’s power plant rule, but it also tries to defang the EPA’s proposed rules on corporate dumping in waterways. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Jim Duran, said that there were at least 24 measures in the Republican budget that were designed as “veto bait” for President Obama, which would give the campaigning Republicans an edge when it comes to vying for dirty energy funds.
The U.S. House of Representatives is serious about job creation. So serious, in fact, that they are willing to sacrifice a healthy environment just so corporations have the “potential” to create new jobs without having to worry about all of that burdensome red tape that so often comes with environmental safety standards.
Republicans in the House claimed that the bill was aimed at preventing the EPA from stalling projects that could create jobs for American citizens. They said that environmental reviews, which are required by law, can hold projects up for years, and they believe that this is a cost that the economy simply cannot afford. If signed into law, the bill will limit environmental reviews to a firm 18 months, with only 36 months to complete an environmental impact statement.
The White House indicated that, if the legislation were to reach the President’s desk, he would most certainly veto it. The Hill quotes the White House as saying; “H.R. 2641 will increase litigation, regulatory delays, and potentially force agencies to approve a project if the review and analysis cannot be completed before the proposed arbitrary deadlines.”
The bill passed the House largely on party lines, with all Republican members and only 12 Democratic members voting in favor. A provision of the bill will allow projects for which an environmental review could not be completed in time to receive automatic approval. Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee proposed an amendment to strip this provision of the bill, but it failed to pass.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a big year ahead of them, as they attempt to dismantle a slew of environmental protections from state to state. More specifically, the corporate front group is hoping to pass dirty energy friendly legislation to ease the rules for electric utilities.
From state to state, ALEC is drafting legislation that would cut renewable energy, increase dependence on coal and dismantle energy efficiency standards.
ALEC specializes in crafting legislation at the state level and pushing it through legislatures that are often under much less scrutiny than the federal government. This is what has made the group so successful in the past.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a legislative packet that will greatly reduce the EPA’s ability to monitor environmental and health violations, leaving that responsibility to the states, many of which are constrained in their ability by tight budgets.
One of the biggest changes stemming from the legislation is a requirement that EPA update its rules for solid waste disposal every three years, and the agency will no longer be able to impose any regulations on solid waste disposal that interfere or attempt to supersede state laws.
The three separate pieces of legislation included in the packet were proposed by Republican representatives Cory Gardner of Colorado and Bob Latta and Bill Johnson of Ohio. Altogether, the three Republicans have received more than $1,190,000 from the dirty energy industry.
The Republican Party has always been a little reluctant to side with science and accept things like global climate change, but recently, polls have shown that the Grand Old Party is actually evenly split on accepting climate change science.
This puts the entire Republican Party, including the Tea Party, at odds with the American public at large - 67% agree that climate change is real and that human beings are making the problem worse.
The problem with these numbers is that those in charge of the Republican Party continue to pander to the minority within their own party, and of course to the heavyweight campaign donors like the Koch brothers, who don’t want any legislative action to tackle climate change.
America cannot afford any more policies that are designed to appeal to a fraction of a fraction of citizens, especially when the views of that particular faction are being dictated by the dirty energy industry itself.
Last Thursday, in one of their final acts before they take the entire month of August off, the Republican-controlled House passed a piece of legislation that would greatly reduce the EPA’s ability to regulate corporate pollution. The vote, according to The Hill, was largely along party lines, with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing.
The legislation, cleverly titled Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny or REINS, would give Congress the ability to approve or deny any regulations put in place by the EPA, if they cost more than $100 million or any standards that would tax carbon emissions.
The Hill details the conservative reasoning behind the legislation:
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.