Friday, January 10, 2014

House Brings in the New Year with a Vote against Environmental Protection

Yesterday, the House passed the creatively and misleadingly named Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act of 2013 (H.R. 2279), a bill aimed at meddling with the EPA and curtailing environmental protections.

Here is the summary provided by The Hill:
Specifically, it removes a requirement that the EPA revise solid waste disposal regulations every three years, and prohibits the government from imposing solid waste regulations on states that overlap current state-wide rules.

Other language in the bill would require all federally owned facilities to comply with state rules on hazardous substances, and require the government to consult more closely with states before imposing cleanup requirements under Superfund, the federal program that funds the cleanup of abandoned waste sites.

The legislation would also ensure that if a state has rules requiring companies in polluting industries to post a bond or offer other financial sureties for possible cleanup costs, those rules cannot be affected by possible rules the EPA might develop in the future.
Business and polluter interests see H.R. 2279 as a way to curtail the practice they label "sue and settle", in which environmental groups sue the EPA for non-performance of its duties resulting from missed deadlines and the EPA enters the settlement process. The linked editorial offers an amusing view of how "free market" think tanks write about environmentalists.
Democrats were critical of the bill because of how it would slow down cleanups and pass their costs onto the taxpayer:
But several Democrats criticized the legislation as an attempt to weaken current law. Many argued that the bonding language would let companies avoid the cost of cleaning up pollution, and pass those costs onto taxpayers.

"The outcome of enacting this bill should be obvious," said House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). "If polluters don't pay to clean up their pollution, then it just becomes one more burden to the taxpayer, and none of us should want that."

Others argued that the bill could further confuse how the federal government and the states must work together on clean-up efforts, which could slow down that process. That argument was also made by the Obama administration earlier this week, in a statement saying President Obama would veto the bill.

"H.R. 2279 would unnecessarily increase the potential for litigation between the Federal government and the States, negatively impacting the timeliness and number of cleanups," the White House wrote.

"The administration already works closely with the States to ensure that remedial goals for the protection of public health are met and that the states' preferences and requirements are taken into account," the White House wrote.
The bill passed 225 to 188 on mostly partisan lines. 
4 Republicans voted against it:

Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Chris Smith (NJ-04)

5 Democrats voted for it:

Jim Costa (CA-16)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)

Paul Tonko (NY-20) introduced an amendment to block the implementation of the bill if any provision increases litigation, reduces funds for, or delays clean-up of contaminated sites. It failed 190 to 227.

Republicans Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08) and Chris Gibson (NY-19) voted for it. Democrats Collin Peterson (MN-07) and Nick Rahall (WV-03) voted against it.

Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09) introduced an amendment to eliminate language that would expand eligibility for sites being listed on the national priorities list of cleanup sites. It failed 189 to 228.

Chris Gibson (NY-19) was the lone Republican supporter. Pete Gallego (TX-23) and Collin Peterson (MN-07) were the sole Democratic opponents.

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