House Dems Pack the “Minibus” Government Funding Bill With Environmental Fixes

Rail News - House OKs legislation including THUD appropriations ...

It’s the time of year that Congress passes funding bills for agencies and this year’s mashup of bills — known as a “minibus” because it only funds some parts of the government — is chock full of environmental provisions intended to reverse Trump rollbacks, take actions the Administration has blocked, and to prevent them from taking others. Politico reported that the provisions include things like blocking the Trump plan to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and curtailing hunting for bears and wolves on federal land in Alaska, providing funding international climate change efforts, and undoing numerous Trump Administration rules rolling back Obama Administration clean water and air pollution regulations.

Why This Matters:  There are more than 100 environmental amendments that the House is debating and many will pass only on party lines.  Democrats are determined to make Republicans take tough votes on issues that may not be popular in their districts, like protecting oil and gas companies and other polluters and weakening of environmental health and safety standards, particularly during the pandemic and the protests to end racism and ensure environmental justice.  These amendments, though unlikely to become law now, are a preview of coming attractions if there is a blue wave and Democrats take over the Senate.

What’s Up For Debate In the House

The provisions of the Interior-EPA spending bill that Politico’s Morning Energy highlighted are:

  • “An amendment from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) that prohibits funds from being used for oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”
  • “A measure from Don Beyer (D-Va.) to ensure the U.S. Park Police adopt body cameras.”
  • “One amendment from Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) that would stop funds from being used to reject any application for a grant on the basis of the terms “global warming” or “climate change” in the application.”
  • “An amendment from Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich) to block the Trump administration’s final rule revising the National Environmental Policy Act.”
  • “A measure from Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Calif.) to block EPA from increasing the compensation of non-career appointees employed in the Office of the Administrator under the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
  • “An amendment from Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) to prohibit EPA from taking any “backstop” action related to watershed implementation plans by Chesapeake Bay states.”

An amendment for implementation of PZP-humane fertility control to manage wild horse populations has already passed the House.  A few proposals have enough bipartisan support that they are expected to pass, including, according to Politico:

  • An amendment from Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Dingell to require that EPA develop guidelines with limits as part of the EPA’s PFAS Action Plan
  • Another amendment from Hudson, Dingell and Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) to increase funding for EPA to study the relationship between PFAS exposure and susceptibility to Covid-19.
  • One to block a final rule allowing trophy hunting practices to kill hibernating bears and wolf pups on Alaska’s federal lands.

E&E News noted that there is a Democratic proposal to increase environmental justice funding at EPA by $2 million (is that all?) and one from Michigan’s Dan Kildee and Rashida Tlaib (both Dems) that would double the funding in the bill for replacing lead pipes to $1 billion, an issue that has hit low-income, minority communities the hardest. We understand from House staff that there is also $3B in funding for coastal resilience and restoration programs.

What Already Passed In A Defense Department Bill

The Defense Department bill that already passed the House had a few lands-related amendments, such as one to restrict future energy development in the area surrounding the Grand Canyon and in the Thompson Divide in west-central Colorado, and one to expand the sanctions to other entities involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 or TurkStream pipeline projects.

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