Friday, July 10, 2015

Which 19 Democrats Voted to Weaken Environmental Oversight of the Nation's Forests?

After pulling the polluter-friendly Interior/EPA appropriations bill after a backlash from Republicans against Democratic amendments on the Confederate flag, the House moved forward with another anti-environment bill: the so-called Resilient Federal Forests Act.

Is this act about forest resilience?

Of course not:
This bill modifies federal forest management practices to increase timber production on forest lands as a means of promoting greater forest health and reducing wildfires. The bill seeks to end the Forest Service's and Interior Department's "borrowing" of fire prevention funding for fire suppression efforts by providing funding to fight certain catastrophic wildfires from FEMA's disaster relief fund.
The bill also establishes five new categories of categorical exclusions (CE) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that could result in timber harvesting with limited environmental review.  The measure simply waives NEPA requirements in several cases, while expanding the types of forestry activities that can occur without environmental impact statements, therefore oversight on the environmental consequences of such activities.
Additionally, H.R. 2647 limits legal challenges by requiring litigants to post a bond when challenging forest restoration projects.  Plaintiffs would only get their bond back if they prevailed on all claims and they would not recover attorney’s fees even if they won as currently required by the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).  This provision of H.R. 2647 would discourage American citizens from holding their government accountable and ensuring the Nation’s federal forests are protected.
H.R. 2647 also requires that 50 percent of Secure Rural Schools Act Title II funding be spent on timber management projects rather than stream and watershed protection or road maintenance as required under current law. Lastly, the White House has issued a SAP stating that the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2647.
The bill passed 262 to 167

One Republican--Ed Whitfield (KY-01)--joined Democrats in voting against it.

19 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it.

Brad Ashford (NE-02)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Gwen Graham (FL-02)
Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Annie Kuster (NH-02)
Rick Nolan (MN-08)
Ed Perlmutter (CO-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Terri Sewell (AL-07)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Dina Titus (NV-01)
Tim Walz (MN-01)

Jared Polis (CO-02) offered an amendment to strike the section that  prohibits U.S. courts from issuing restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and injunctions pending appeals in cases involving timber harvest activities authorized by the bill and the section that requires litigants challenging timber harvest projects under the bill to put up a bond covering all litigation expenses of the government.

It failed 181 to 247.

One Republican--Justin Amash (MI-03)--joined Democrats in voting against it.

4 Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it:

Jim Costa (CA-16)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)

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