Battle over anti-environmental amendments attached to US budget bills

One of America's most influential environmental campaigning organisations has declared war on anti-environmental riders that are attached to compulsory spending bills currently facing Congress.

The US Public Interest Group (US PIRG) has identified 39 riders, and eight riders that are likely to be added soon. US PIRG accuses the oil, automotive and mining industries of systematically “sneaking through” anti-environmental legislation by attaching exemptions to spending bills.

In what has become an annual event, riders have been attached to appropriations bills that Congress must pass in order to authorise the US Budget. Congress is under pressure to pass appropriations bills quickly in order to maintain the smooth operation of US Government departments and agencies, and it is this pressure that makes riders attractive to interests seeking to reverse or weaken environmental legislation, according to US PIRG.

In particular, US PIRG highlights:

  • a provision that would prevent increases in the fuel economy standards for light trucks and sports utility vehicles
  • three different riders that would block air quality improvements
  • a rider that would provide mining companies with no limit to the amount of public land they can use for the disposal of toxic chemicals
  • permission for logging, mining and road building projects to go ahead without wildlife surveys being conducted in advance
  • a rider that would keep oil companies’ royalties for drilling on public land at current levels, instead of the planned increase
  • the continuation of wetlands destruction by developers, instead of a planned tightening of the planning applications approval process

Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California, has called on President Clinton to veto bills passed that include anti-environmental riders. It is thought that the bill containing the wetlands rider is likely to be vetoed by the President, who is fully in support of wetlands protection as part of a national effort to reduce the risk of floods.

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