Attacks on environmental protection laws expected this summer

US conservation groups have warned that Congress will launch a series of attacks on the environment this summer in the rush to adjourn before the November elections.

The groups expect that most anti-environmental riders will be added to ‘must pass’ appropriations bills that Congress has to enact in order to avoid a government spending shutdown. The groups say that appropriations riders are routinely used by Congress to pass provisions that would not survive as stand-alone legislation.

“Polluters and their allies in Congress are trying to hide their attacks on our environmental and public health protections in massive federal spending bills,” said Gene Karpinski, executive director of US PIRG and chairman of an alliance of US environmental NGOs which has been formed to oppose the riders.

Last year, more than 70 riders were proposed for 11 appropriations bills. Some of the most outstanding riders were withdrawn or defeated after being exposed to public scrutiny.

The riders that conservation groups expect to be proposed this year include:

  • accelerated destruction of wetlands – The National Association of Home Builders has vowed to block new Army Corps of Engineers regulations that would reduce wetlands destruction caused by nationwide development permits. Rep. Ron Packard (R-CA) may attempt to attach this rider to the Agriculture or Energy and Water spending bill (see related story)
  • blocking action on global climate change – Rep. Knollenberg may try to limit the US Government’s ability to address climate change issues and help other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by attaching riders to several spending bills. A rider attached to the Transportation spending bill could be used to block new miles-per-gallon standards that would help curb global warming and save consumers money
  • expand toxic mine wastes – Sen. Craig is also expected to try to weaken the 1872 Mining Law by legalising unlimited toxic mine waste dumping on public lands for the hardrock mining industry, the US’ largest toxic polluter. He may attach such a rider to the Interior spending bill

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