Brass Tacks on Federal Budget: Sens. Lautenberg and Menendez Draw Line in the Sand on Environmental Attacks & Public Health Rollbacks
Trenton — As negotiations around funding for the federal government continue into the weekend in Washington, D.C., Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are taking actions to ensure that the final bill does not include attacks on New Jerseyans’ public health and our environment. Most notably, both Senator Lautenberg & Menendez signed onto a letter to President Obama this week urging him to not allow for any attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to clean up dangerous pollution. The letter was written in response to the many attacks on EPA’s ability to protect public health and the environment that were in the original House-passed funding bill (H.R. 1, passed on February 19, details below), and the fear that similar attacks could be included in the funding bill being negotiated this weekend. Senators Lautenberg and Menendez also signed onto a resolution calling for continued implementation of the Clean Air Act. A total of 19 Senators and 56 House members signed onto the letters opposing anti-environment pieces in a government funding bill, and 34 Senators are original cosponsors of the Clean Air Act resolution introduced on Thursday.
Environment New Jersey Field Director Doug O’Malley issued the following statement in response:
“Senators Lautenberg and Menendez should be loudly applauded for standing up for New Jerseyans’ health and our environment. With polluters and their allies in Congress trying to hijack a must-pass government funding bill this weekend with an all-out assault on the air we breathe and the water we drink, Senators Lautenberg and Menendez’s leadership is critical. We urge Congress and President Obama to follow their lead and reject attacks on New Jerseyans’ health and our environment, and instead stand up for cleaner air and a healthier future.”
BACKGROUND ON H.R. 1:
The U.S. House of Representatives launched an outright attack on America’s health, clean air, and clean water in the early morning hours of February 19, when it passed a funding bill (H.R. 1) that amounts to one of the most far-reaching assaults on the nation’s core environmental and public health programs in recent history. This bill was later rejected by the U.S. Senate, but there is a push by polluting industries and some members of Congress to include some of these same attacks on the nation’s health and environment in the funding bill being negotiated this weekend in Washington, D.C. The original House-passed version of H.R. 1 would have done the following:
• Threaten the health of America’s children, elderly citizens and other vulnerable populations by blocking EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act and cleaning up coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources of dangerous carbon dioxide pollution. The EPA estimates that clean air regulations saved more than 160,000 lives in 2010 alone, and this success should be built upon—not torn down.
• Put children at risk of learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and lower IQs by blocking the EPA from limiting mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement kilns.
• Threaten the health of millions of Americans by stopping the EPA from updating air quality standards for coarse particulate matter (“soot”) pollution, which is linked to heart and lung disease, asthma attacks and premature death.
• Threaten drinking water supplies for more than 117 million Americans and endanger thousands of streams and wetlands across the country by blocking EPA’s ability to restore Clean Water Act protections for these waterways.
• Put Americans’ drinking water and waterways at risk of sewage and urban runoff pollution by cutting $1.4 billion in funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs).
• Allow polluters to continue dumping in and destroying the Chesapeake Bay by blocking EPA’s Bay-wide clean-up plan from going into effect.
• Put thousands of people living near coal ash pools at risk of toxic disasters like the Tennessee Valley coal ash spill by stopping the EPA from developing or issuing standards that treat coal ash as the hazardous waste that it is.
• Block states’ ability to put cleaner cars on the road, by disabling the EPA program through which California and other states are allowed to issue state-level clean car standards.
• Endanger efforts to ensure that our national parks and other treasured places across the country are protected for families to enjoy for generations to come, by cutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill would slash the Department of the Interior by $1.4 billion, with specific attacks to the department’s ‘Wild Lands’ policy, which gives the Bureau of Land Management another tool to protect public lands based on their unique wilderness characteristics. These cuts to the Department of the Interior would also limit resources for environmental education programs for youth, park maintenance and public safety across the country.
• Threaten wildlife by eliminating Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah, setting a dangerous precedent for allowing Congress to delist endangered species. The funding bill also eliminates measures to prevent the collapse of the San Francisco Bay-Delta, one of the most imperiled and productive ecosystems in the country.
• Threaten the health and environment of communities across Appalachia by doing a number of things to block protections against the destruction and pollution of mountaintop removal coal mining.
• Waste energy and homeowners’ money by eliminating future funding for home weatherization assistance. In the last two years, the Weatherization Assistance Program has renovated 423,918 homes nationwide to lower families’ energy bills and reduced our consumption of energy. Weatherizing our nation’s homes is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to save money, cut energy use, and reduce dangerous pollution.
• Implement the largest percentage cut in EPA’s overall budget in 30 years, severely threatening the Agency’s ability to ensure that all Americans have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.