Today's Top Ten Worst Attacks on Environmental Programs

Authors: Green For All This afternoon, the House of Representatives is discussing a proposal and amendments that would severely restrict funding for critical environmental programs. The discussion centers around a 2012 Appropriations bill, which would set funding levels for the EPA, the Department of the Interior and other Federal departments. There are a lot of bad proposals in the bill and its amendments. These are, in our opinion, the worst ten. We'll reveal them all over the course of the day.

Number 10. New mining near the Grand Canyon

Part of the cuts to the Department of the Interior would prohibit that agency from restricting new mining claims on about 1 million acres of land near the Grand Canyon. Right now, there is a moratorium on new claims, including for the mining of uranium. Why? Because the Department of the Interior is trying to ensure that mining in the area doesn't contaminate local water supplies - as it has in the past.

Number 9. Less Protection Against Pollution from Cement Plants

A proposed amendment would strangle the EPA’s ability to enforce existing safeguards against cement pollution. These protections, already on the books, prevent asthma attacks, heart attacks and other health hazards. This proposal puts children and communities at risk.

Number 8. Party for the Pesticide Industry

One provision aims to weaken the Endangered Species Act, by accepting pesticide applications that don’t have any input form wildlife experts — a break from past protocol. Right now, the EPA must talk with experts to ensure that the pesticides used in our waterways don’t pose a threat to communities and wildlife. Such measures are important; the EPA estimates that more than 1 billion tons of pesticides are used nationwide every year. Without current protections, the negative impact that these substances will have on our country could be devastating.

Number 7. Zero Funding for Smart Growth

The proposal would eliminate all funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Smart Growth. What does this office do? It basically ensures that efforts to protect the environment are aligned with a community’s economic and social needs. For example, when infrastructure investments are made in, say, water, EPA officials work to ensure that it’s done in a way that’s least disruptive to a community. The elimination of the Office of Smart Growth could be a devastating blow to the work to build sustainable communities.

Number 6. Unregulated Coal Ash

Coal ash is made of a lot of dangerous chemicals — lead, mercury and arsenic, to name a few. Yet, remarkably, there are currently no federal standards to dispose of it. Right now, the EPA is in the process of establishing minimum standards to handle and dispose of coal ash. But, a provision in the bill would force the agency to stop this work. Clearly, such a measure would benefit polluters at the expense of people.

Number 5. Overriding Permits to Clean Our Air

Part of the bill could weaken existing Federal and State permits for those that emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases, basically declaring that a Clean Air Act provision - requiring facilities to acquire a permit - has no legal significance. In other words, no lawsuits could be brought against a company because of uncontrolled greenhouse gases. If it passes, it would hurt efforts to hold dirty industries accountable.

Number 4. Prevents EPA Oversight Over Mountaintop Removal Mining

Fact: Mountaintop removal mining can be harmful to surrounding communities. Consider this study which found that kids born near these mining operations suffered from higher rates of birth defects. It is just common sense that protections be put in place to protect people from harms way. Unfortunately, a provision in the bill before the House would block the EPA's ability to rigorously review mining permits. It also prevents EPA representatives from relying on scientific evidence when evaluating these projects. Such measures, if passed, would endanger the public health.

Number 3. Not Enough Oil Inspections

A little more than a year ago, when the BP oil spill took place, we heard all this talk about increasing safety standards and preventing a similar catastrophe from ever happening again. Well, there goes that idea. Because of the way the proposed funding is structure, the bill could erase plans to increase inspections of oil facilities. If the measure passes, once again, the status quo will reign.

Number 2. Less Investment in Water Infrastructure

In recent weeks, we've talked a lot about water. Most recently, as part of Green The Block, we held a National Action Day to address America's water crisis. Studies have found that two-thirds of states will soon face water shortages. 20 million Americans get sick every year from drinking contaminated water due to untreated waste. And 250,000 water mains break annually because of crumbling infrastructure, wasting 1.7 trillion gallons of water a year. Clearly, there is a need for a stronger, more secure water system. Unfortunately, provisions in this bill could reduce funding, leading to roughly 400 fewer waste and drinking water projects. At a time when our nation needs the jobs and health security that investment in our infrastructure will provide, such proposals would clearly do more to harm America than help it.

Number 1. Block Proposed Safeguards Against Power Plant Pollution

In March, the EPA announced its long-awaited standards to limit the mercury and air toxics emitted from power plants. According to the agency, the rule would prevent, on an annual basis, as many as 17,000 premature deaths and heart attacks, 120,000 cases of childhood asthma, and 12,000 emergency room visits. Needless to say, the consequences of waiting to implement these standards are enormous, as chronicled by Green For All's Cost of Delay website. Yet, the proposed House bill would do just that: block the EPA from enacting these pollution rules. It's time that the House views the proposed budget cuts as more than just numbers on a page. Behind these numbers are people's lives; our families, friends and neighbors will be impacted by the decisions made in Washington. That's why we must all urge the House to reject these proposed cuts to our environment, and instead put forth a responsible budget that protects people not polluters.

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