House of Representatives ‘Most Anti-Environment’ in History

WASHINGTON, DC, August 4, 2011 (ENS) – As most members of Congress head back to their districts for the summer, the House Republicans are holding a series of pro forma sessions to prevent the usual congressional summer recess. Their goal is to prevent President Barack Obama from making recess appointments. Although the Senate approves Presidential appointments, neither chamber can take a recess without the consent of the other, under the U.S. Constitution.

Nevertheless, August is a time for summing up the legislative action of the year to date, and two Democratic Congressmen say the voting record in this House is the worst for the environment in the entire history of the U.S. Congress.

The House has voted to block action to address climate change, to stop actions to prevent air and water pollution, to undermine protections for public lands and coastal areas, and to weaken the protection of the environment in dozens of other ways.

Congressmen Edward Markey, left, and Henry Waxman at announcement of higher fuel economy standards, July 29, 2011 (Photo courtesy Congressman Markey)

Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts have released a fact sheet detailing all 110 anti-environment votes taken by the House of Representatives this year.

“This is the most anti-environment House of Representatives in history,” said Waxman, Ranking Democratic Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and factories.”

The anti-environment votes split the House along partisan lines.

Of the 110 anti-environment votes, 95 were roll-call votes. On average, 97 percent of Republicans voted for the anti-environment position. In contrast, 84 percent of Democrats voted for the pro-environment position.

“President Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘A vote is like a rifle’ and House Republicans have one pointed right at the heart of America’s clean energy future,” said Markey, who serves as Ranking Democratic Member of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Time after time, Republicans have voted to leave our air and water more polluted, keep our nation more dependent on foreign oil, despoil our National Parks, and deny that our climate has a rising fever,” Markey said.

“Republicans have spent their 206 days in the majority building a voting record against protecting Americans ‘ public health and increasing OPEC’s wealth,” Markey said. “While House Republicans may not be able to agree on how to destroy our economy, they are in lock-step in their commitment to destroy our environment.”

Representatives Waxman and Markey co-authored the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, an energy bill in the 111th United States Congress (H.R. 2454) that would have established an emissions trading plan similar to the European Union Emission Trading Scheme. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009 by a vote of 219-212, but died in the Senate

The anti-environment votes taken by the House include 20 votes to block actions to address climate change.

These include votes to deny that climate change is occurring; to block EPA from regulating carbon emissions from power plants and oil refineries; to block EPA from regulating carbon emissions from motor vehicles, which also reduces oil imports; and to eliminate requirements that large sources disclose the level of their carbon dioxide emissions.

Republican freshmen Representatives, elected in November 2010, hold a news conference on the debt ceiling, July 29, 2011 (Image from a video courtesy Republican Party)

The anti-environment votes include 28 votes to block actions to prevent air and water pollution.

These include votes to block EPA from regulating mercury and other hazardous air pollutants emitted from cement plants; to relax emission requirements for offshore oil and gas activities; to stop EPA from establishing new water quality standards or enforcing existing ones; and to prevent EPA from protecting streams from the effects of mountaintop-removal mining.

The anti-environment votes include 27 votes to undermine protection for public lands and coastal areas.

These include votes to slash funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; to require oil and gas leasing off of the East and West Coasts; and to waive requirements for environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act for offshore oil and gas activities.

And the anti-environment votes include 22 votes to defund or repeal clean energy initiatives.

These include votes to overturn new, industry-supported energy efficiency standards for light bulbs; to cut funding for renewable energy projects; and to defund research into promising clean energy technologies.

Multiple federal agencies and statutes have been targeted by the anti-environment votes. Among federal agencies, the most common targets have been the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Interior – 42 votes targeted the Environmental Protection Agency; 24 votes targeted the Department of Energy; and 20 votes targeted the Department of the Interior.

Among federal statutes, the most common targets have been the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act – 26 votes rolled back or defunded the Clean Air Act; 16 votes rolled back or defunded the Clean Water Act; and 10 votes limited the application of NEPA.

When the House rose for the summer, members were debating H.R. 2584, the FY 2012 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which some have called “the worst assault on clean air and water in history.”

This legislation contains 39 new anti-environment riders and slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior. The bill remains as unfinished business.

The votes on H.R. 2584 are not included in this analysis.

Click here for a complete detailed listing of the anti-environment votes.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.