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First On 2014 Congressional Agenda: Dismantle EPA Protections That Save Lives

After nearly a month off, U.S. elected officials returned to Washington, D.C. this week.  And just as they so often do after returning from vacation, one of their first legislative actions was to dismantle portions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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. 

The package, known as the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act, is a compilation of three separate bills, each attacking a different area of the EPA.

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. 

Other parts of the legislative package compel the EPA to consult with states before imposing rules on the cleanup of Superfund sites, in addition to language that requires the President to consult with state leadership before enforcing environmental 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.

Tea Party Holding GOP Back On Climate Change

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. 

That may not seem like a reason to celebrate, but considering the fact that just a few years ago the vast majority of Republicans denied the science of climate change, it is a massive step forward.

But there is still one faction of the Republican Party that largely refuses to accept scientific findings:  The Tea Party.

According to recent polling by the Pew Research Center, Republicans in general are evenly split, with 46% saying that climate change is real, while 46% say that there is no solid evidence.  However, 70% of self-described “Tea Party members” say that there is no solid evidence of climate change, and only 25% accept the 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.

Pandering to the minority becomes a more serious problem when that pandering leads to stalled nominations for environmental posts, lax regulations on the country’s worst polluters, and huge cash giveaways to companies that already pull in tens of billions of dollars in profits every year.  These minority policies harm consumers, the environment, and our economy.

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.

Congressional Republicans Take Stab At EPA Before Heading To Recess

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives kicked off the month of August with one of their favorite activitiesattacking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.)

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:

Industry Influence To Blame For Tavares, Florida Explosion

Ryan Budget Includes Mandatory Approval Of Keystone XL, Other Dirty Energy Giveaways

In what is becoming an annual tradition, Republican Representative Paul Ryan has put forth his budget plan for the coming fiscal year.  Ryan’s previous budget proposals were approved by the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, but rejected along party lines in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. 

Not unlike his previous budget plans, the new Ryan budget would be a disaster for the environment.  In addition to cuts to crucial environmental and health programs, the budget would mandate immediate approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Like other proponents of the pipeline, Ryan cites the “large” numbers of American jobs that would be created by the construction and maintenance of Keystone XL.  However, the massive job boon from Keystone is an industry myth, as reports – even those from TransCanada – show that the pipeline would only create a few thousand permanent jobs, so few that it would have almost zero impact on the unemployment rate in America.  Ryan claims that the pipeline will bring at least 20,000 new jobs to America, and an additional 118,000 in indirect jobs.  The State Department says that, in the end, only 35 new jobs would be created from the pipeline. 

As Ben Geman at The Hill points out, the inclusion of Keystone XL shows how entrenched the modern Republican Party has become with the oil industry, and how essential the pipeline is in the Party’s negotiations with Democrats.

Poll Shows Strong Bipartisan Support For Healthy Environmental Choices From Congress

While politicians in America have been slow to react to both the threat of climate change and the need for expanded renewable energy resources, the American public has made their priorities clear:  Give us clean energy that protects our health, our environment, and our resources.

According to a new poll conducted by ORC International for The Civil Society Institute and the Environmental Working Group, strong majorities of Americans from both ends of the political spectrum believe that Congress should take public health and safety measures into consideration before giving a blank check for production to the dirty energy industry.

Among the major findings of the survey:

Are Coal Mine Employees Forced To Support Romney?

According to a Federal Election Commission complaint filed by the Democratic Party of Ohio, employees for coal mining company Murray Energy have been coerced by their bosses into not only voting Republican, but also helping to fund Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

From Eric Dolan of Raw Story:

Two Murray Energy managerial sources told The New Republic that the company pressures employees into giving money to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates. In addition, internal documents revealed that the company tracks which employees are and are not making contributions. Employees of the company allegedly fear that if they do not make the political contributions and attend fundraisers, they will face repercussions including demotions and being refused bonuses.

This is the second time that a FEC complaint has been filed against Murray Energy.  The first occurred last month when Progress Ohio filed a complaint against Murray for allegedly forcing employees to attend a Romney rally in August of this year.

Top Romney Advisor Touts Coal, Fails To Mention His Role As Coal Lobbyist

Jim Talent, a former Republican Senator and one of Mitt Romney’s top campaign advisors, has played an instrumental role in the Romney camp’s positions on energy.  Specifically, Talent has pushed for greater consumption and mining of coal to meet America’s energy needs.

What the campaign failed to mention is that the lobbying firm that Talent is still on the payroll with lists one of the largest coal-producing companies in the country as one of its top clients. 

And although Talent is not registered as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. (thereby making it illegal for him to engage in lobbying activities,) his website clearly states that “lobbying” is one of the services he is able to personally provide for clients.

David Halperin has the story at Republic Report:

Wyoming Governor To Interior Department: Back Off With Fracking Rules

Republican Wyoming governor Matt Mead has some advice for the U.S. Interior Department: Back off your fracking rules.

Governor Mead was responding to a recent proposal by the Interior Department that would require energy companies who are fracking in the United States to disclose the chemical cocktails that they are pumping into the ground, posing a threat to our water supplies. Thanks to a law known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” these chemicals are currently protected as an “industry secret,” and therefore do not have to be revealed to the public.

Governor Mead says that the requirement is “duplicative” and “unnecessary,” as Wyoming already has laws on the books that require energy companies to disclose which chemicals they are using in their fracking fluid. Mead believes that the federal government should let the states take the lead and enact their own laws regarding fracking. Wyoming was the first state in the nation to require disclosure from fracking companies, and Mead believes that other states will follow Wyoming’s lead on the issue.

While Wyoming’s disclosure law appears to be a positive step on paper, it has completely fallen apart when put into practice. EarthJustice says that the state has already granted more than 50 waivers to energy companies so they can still keep certain ingredients a secret from the public. That’s hardly a step in the right direction.

What To Expect When You're Electing: The Parties' Platforms On The Environment

Now that the Democratic convention is underway, and the Republican convention is history, both parties have released their respective “party platforms” for 2012, and both are bad news for the environment.

The Republican platform is exactly what we might expect from a party whose representatives have called the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a “a job-killing regulatory engine of higher energy prices.” In their entire stated party platform, the phrase “climate change” only appears one time, and that mention is only to criticize President Obama’s (and other prominent leaders’) claims that climate change is a threat to our national security.

Their platform specifically calls for an “all of the above” energy approach, which primarily means dependence on fossil fuels. Here is what they say:
  

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