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The Planet

November 1997, Volume 4, number 9

Different Image, Same Laws

Newt Gingrich shed some pounds, sure, and his minions have ditched some of the bloated rhetoric. Scratch the surface, though, and you're face-to-face with an ugly reality. When it comes to America's environment, it's the same old Congress.

Like the House speaker himself, the members of the 104th Congress had an image problem: U.S. voters didn't appreciate their strident efforts to roll back 25 years of progress in protecting the nation's air, water and public lands. And, like the speaker himself, polluters' allies in the 105th Congress have bowed to the image consultants. From a PR standpoint, at least, they're a kinder, greener Congress.

But the Republican leadership's War on the Environment isn't dead-- it's just keeping a lower profile. Here's a brief rundown of anti-environmental bills and riders being pushed in the 105th Congress, and how they compare with their relatives in the 104th.

To contact your senators and representative: Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Write: U.S. Senate, Washington, DC 20515; or U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.

104th Congress

105th Congress

-----------------------Wildlife Protection-----------------------

Bills were introduced to hand over ownership of our Western public lands to states, to manage or sell them as they saw fit, and to subsidize the destruction of Western BLM rangelands and cut out meaningful public participation in public land management decisions. A moratorium was imposed on Endangered Species Act implementation by an appropriations rider. Bills were introduced in both the House and Senate that would have made protecting endangered species voluntary.

A bill by Rep. Bob Smith (R- Ore.) would increase the taxpayer subsidy for livestock grazing on public land, cut the public out of the process and tie the hands of federal land managers. The bill, H.R. 2493, has passed two House committees and may reach the House floor this session. A "compromise" bill, S. 1180, would weaken the ESA by undermining its central goal of recovery, and by weakening protection for species on both public and private lands. The bill has passed out of committee, and could reach the Senate floor this session.

---------------------------National Forests-----------------------

The notorious salvage logging rider passed as part of a 1995 spending-cuts bill. It waived environmental laws regulating timber harvest on national forests, and cut out public participation and judicial oversight. Various bills attempted to boost clearcutting in Tongass National Forest. Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) even held a huge omnibus parks protection bill hostage until the last hours of the Congress. A bill by Oregon Rep. Bob Smith, (R) H.R. 2515, would provide funding for increased logging from an off-budget U.S. Forest Service slush fund. A companion bill by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) is expected soon. H.R. 858, by Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.), would make law a plan developed by the Quincy Library Group that would circumvent existing environmental laws in several California forests and effectively double logging levels. The bill has passed the House; a similar bill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) S. 1028, is pending in the Senate.

-------------------------------Clean Air---------------------------

H.R. 479, sponsored by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), would have repealed the entire 1990 Clean Air Act, including programs for control of urban smog, toxic air pollution, ozone depletion and acid rain. The Clean Air Simplification and Efficiency Act, a draft bill by Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) would have created even more serious environmental and health threats than H.R. 479. The Moratorium on Establishment of the Ozone and Fine Particulate Matter Standards, H.R. 1984, sponsored by Rep. Ron Klink (R-Pa.) would undermine the newly updated clean air standards on smog and soot, which already have a flexible phase-in schedule.

---------------------------Safeguards Rollback-----------------------

S. 343, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) would have rolled back long won environmental and health protections and created stringent obstacles for establishing any new public health protections. The Regulatory Improvement Act of 1997, S. 981, sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), in the guise of creating more regulatory accountability, would weaken or block a wide range of vital protections, such as the new Safe Drinking Water Act.

--------------------------------Takings----------------------------

The Private Property Protection Act of 1995, H.R. 925, sponsored by Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.), would have required taxpayers to pay polluters to obey environmental laws. The Omnibus Property Rights Act, S. 605, sponsored by Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) would have created a right to hold every federal safeguard hostage to a taxpayer payoff. In an attempt to ease access to courts, the Private Property Rights Implementation Act of 1997, H.R. 1534, sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), and the Property Owners Access to Justice, S. 1204, would undermine local, state and federal protections and destroy local land use planning.

------------------------------Clean Water-------------------------

The "Dirty Water Act," H.R. 961, sponsored by Rep. Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), and the Wetlands Regulatory Reform Act of 1995, S. 851, sponsored by Sens. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) and Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) would have turned back the clock on 25 years of clean-water progress. A draft wetlands bill sponsored by Sens. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) and John Breaux (D-La.),in an attempt to achieve moderate reform of the Clean Water Act, would provide easy access to wetland destruction permits and establish a phony classification scheme for wetlands.

-----------------Population and Family Planning-----------------

During the 104th Congress, an amendment by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) would have denied U.S. funding to foreign non-governmental organizations that perform abortions or speak out on abortion-related issues, even if these organizations use private funds for these activities. Other attacks on international family planning included passage of a $25 million cap on funding for the United Nations Population Fund which included a dollar-for-dollar reduction in U.S. funds for every dollar the UNFPA may spend in China and a requirement that provided family planning funds in monthly installments, rather than in a lump sum. Rep. Smith again passed an amendment to deny U.S. funding to international organizations that provide legal abortion services or engage in advocacy or education activities around abortion. Allocations to the UNFPA have been capped at $25 million and the House has passed a provision that no U.S. funds will be available if the UNFPA resumes its China program.

http://www.sierraclub.org/planet/199711/104105.asp


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