|December 19, 2011
Good News with the Bad
The good new is that House and Senate finally passed the more than $1 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill Thursday night and most of the egregious attacks on public health and the environment were left out. However, there were some notable dirty riders such as a step backward by repealing energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. Unfortunately, this bill also included provisions for exempting Arctic drilling from critical Clean Air Act standards which is not only bad for the environment but also the wrong way to legislate decisions like those. The bill also contained provisions from previous years that block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from requiring permits for greenhouse gas emissions from production of livestock and from requiring greenhouse gas reporting on manure management systems. To read more click here (Politico Pro).
Saturday, the Senate voted to force President Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days or less. This dirty rider came as a provision in the vote for a two-month payroll tax-cut extension. In response, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club wrote in a statement “Using the payroll tax cut package to advance Big Oil’s profits was an insult to America’s working families. But the real insult to this injury is the poisoned water and air, the destroyed livelihoods for farmers and ranchers that this dirty Keystone XL pipeline brings to the nation’s heartland.” This statement and many others were that of disappointment with our leaders but also called on President Obama to protect the American people and to reject the Keystone XL pipeline “once and for all.” Others concluded that this development surely means the pipeline will not be approved and that this tactic will backfire on proponents of the pipeline. For more information check out the action alert below. On a more positive note, the same Senate version takes out language that blocks new EPA air quality standards for industrial boilers that was included in the House bill. Stay tuned though, as the fate of the deal to extend the payroll tax cut for two months is uncertain. House Republicans said Sunday they oppose the bill because of its short time frame among other things.
Looking forward to this week, we still expect the Obama Administration to announce final life-saving standards that will curb mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants. These new measures could save up to 17,000 lives every year and will prevent 11,000 heart attacks. When these rules were first proposed in draft form, March 16 of this year, an overwhelming show of support of more than 800,000 concerned citizens calling for strong mercury safeguards were sent into the Environmental Protection Agency during the comment period. On Friday, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse led 15 of his colleagues on a letter urging President Obama to move forward on implementing this new clean air rule. “Given that so many utilities are well-positioned to comply with the Utility Air Toxics Rule, and the flexibility afforded particular units, there is no reason for an across-the-board delay of this important public health measure,” the Senators wrote. The press release and letter can be found here.
Marie Risalvato, Communications Coordinator