Pollution, by ribarnica on flickr, creative commons.
Voting 247 times in the last 18 months to undermine regulations that protect the environment, the “House of Representatives has become the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress,” according to a June 16, 2012 report prepared for Congress members Henry Waxman and Edward Markey.
House Republicans have repeatedly voted to undermine basic environmental protections that have existed for decades. They have voted to block actions to prevent air pollution; to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of authority to enforce water pollution standards; to halt efforts to address climate change; to stop the Department of the Interior from identifying lands suitable for wilderness designations; to allow oil and gas development off the coasts of Florida, California, and other states opposed to offshore drilling; and to slash funding for the Department of Energy, including funding to support renewable energy and energy efficiency, by more than 80%.
The House of Representatives averaged one anti-environmental vote for every day the House was in session in 2011 and the first half of 2012. Of the 1,100 legislative roll call votes taken in the House since the beginning of 2011, 19% – almost one out of every five – were votes to undermine environmental protection. During these roll calls, 94% of Republican members voted for the anti-environment position, while 87% of Democratic members voted for the pro-environment position.
The report explains that the oil and gas industry is the largest beneficiary of the numerous Republican votes to dismantle environmental protections. Perhaps the oil and gas industry stands to profit in the short term, but what about the cost of environmental destruction in the long term?
House Republicans have voted to undermine The Clean Air Act that was signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon. According to an EPA full report, the benefits of the Clean Air Act outweigh the costs by a factor of four to one. In 2010, according to EPA:
saved over 160,000 lives; avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits; prevented millions of cases of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and asthma; enhanced productivity by preventing 13 million lost workdays; and kept kids healthy and in school, avoiding 3.2 million lost school days due to respiratory illness and other diseases caused or exacerbated by air pollution.
In addition, House Republicans have voted to remove protections for public lands, fish and wildlife. These are areas that contain scenic wonders as well as endangered species.
America’s public lands and resources also supported two million jobs and generated $363 billion in revenue in 2010.
Yet House Republicans voted 39 times to weaken environmental protections on public lands in 2011 and the first half of 2012.
Why would, and how could, anyone vote to destroy the national parks?
The litany continues:
•77 votes to undermine Clean Air Act protections, including votes to repeal the health-based standards that are the heart of the Clean Air Act and to block EPA regulation of toxic mercury and other harmful emissions from power plants, incinerators, industrial boilers, cement plants, and mining operations.
• 39 votes to weaken protection of public lands and wildlife, including votes to halt reviews of public lands for possible wilderness designations and to remove protections for salmon, wolves, sea turtles, and other species.
• 37 votes to block action to address climate change, including votes to overturn EPA’s scientific findings that climate change endangers human health and welfare; to block EPA from regulating carbon pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and vehicles; to prevent the United States from participating in international climate negotiations; and even to cut funding for basic climate science.
• 31 votes to undermine Clean Water Act protections, including votes to strip EPA of authority to set water quality standards and enforce limits on industrial discharges; to repeal EPA’s authority to stop mountaintop removal mining disposal; and to block EPA from protecting headwaters and wetlands that flow into navigable waters.
Is the current House of Representatives looking to win a world record for voting to put the environment on a fast tract to destruction?
The full report is here, if you can even stand to read it.