Good and Bad Environmental Amendments to the ‘Minibus’ Bill

This week, the House of Representatives is expected to bring to the floor its second “minibus” package of the appropriations season. The bill combines the appropriations bills from the interior, environment, and related agencies subcommittee and the financial services and general government subcommittee.

The House Rules Committee has given the green light as of now for many amendments to be considered on the floor. The following are just some of the environmental-related amendments.

The Good Amendments

  • Stops unjustified restrictions on genetically engineered crops(Amendment 35, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La.). 

This amendment helps to ensure that the federal government is not blocking the use of agricultural biotechnology, which plays a critical role in American agricultural production. Specifically, this important but narrow amendment “prevents the enforcement of limitations or prohibitions on the use of genetically modified crops in commercial agricultural operations conducted on National Wildlife Refuges.”

  • Ends Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grants to contribute to deficit reduction (Amendment 65, sponsored by Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala.).

This amendment eliminates Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grants, which, while relatively small, fund projects that are appropriately managed at the state and local levels. The government has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars over the years to develop clean diesel technology, such as retrofitted tractors, cherry pickers, and electrified parking spaces.

  • Prohibits funds for methane rule (Amendment 138, sponsored by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.).

In 2016, the Obama administration published a final rule to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas sources. This amendment would block funding for the enforcement of this rule that was part of the Obama administration’s efforts to address climate change. The costly methane rule will drive up energy priceswhile having negligible, if any, climate benefits. Further, government intervention is unnecessary since energy producers already have an incentive to capture and sell methane, as it has valuable economic use for the production of electricity and heat.

  • Prohibits use of the social cost of carbon (Amendment 139, sponsored by Mullin).

This amendment would prohibit funding for regulation or guidance that utilizes the social cost of carbon. The Environmental Protection Agency is using three statistical models to estimate the value of the social cost of carbon estimating the economic damage that 1 ton of carbon dioxide emitted today would cause over the next 300 years.

These models arbitrarily derive a value for the social cost of carbon and are highly sensitive to reasonable alterations in inputs. By placing a significantly high arbitrary price on carbon dioxide emissions, agencies can inflate the benefits of regulation or inflate the costs of a new project.

Congress should prohibit all federal agencies from using the social cost of carbon for any purpose, especially regulatory rule-making.

  • Blocks implementation of burdensome ozone standard (Amendment 143, sponsored by Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis.).

This amendment would prevent funds from being used to implement or enforce the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone.

When a third of the nation’s population lives in areas that have not met the current standard, adopting an even more stringent standard is at best premature and is becoming more expensive to meet tighter standards with smaller margins of tangible benefits. Congress should restore accountability in the face of an EPA that is increasingly setting American economic policy as it sets environmental policy through the ozone standard.

  • Blocks funding for environmental justice grants (Amendment 163, sponsored by Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga.).

The EPA’s “environmental justice” programs were originally designed to protect low-income commu­nities from environmental harm. However, the EPA now too often goes beyond this purpose to prevent job-creating businesses from developing in low-in­come communities, thus blocking the very econom­ic opportunity that the communities need.

The Bad Amendments

  • Blocks WOTUS repeal (Amendment 25, sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.).

This amendment would strike existing language in the appropriations bill that would repeal the Obama administration’s infamous “waters of the United States” rule. This rule is a major federal power grab and an attack on private property rights. It would regulate almost any water imaginable, from most ditches to so-called waters that are actually dry land most of the time.

  • Blocks language that would reduce the regulatory burden on farmers and ranchers (Amendment 26, sponsored by Beyer).

This amendment would strike existing language in the appropriations bill that would allow farmers and ranchers to engage in normal farming activities and other critical work on farms (e.g. constructing irrigation ditches) without having to get a Section 404 dredge and fill permit under the Clean Water Act.

  • Prohibits the EPA from changing the coal ash rule (Amendment 29, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.). 

In 2015, the Obama administration published a final rule imposing requirements on the disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. On March 1, 2018, the EPA proposed rules to amend the Obama administration coal ash rule. These rules would provide states greater flexibility in implementing their coal ash permitting programs.

The proposed amendment would block the EPA from offering this much-needed flexibility and making any changes or modifications to the existing coal ash rule.

The House should utilize the appropriations process to push for critical environmental reforms and to block efforts to undermine those reforms. Legislators often talk about past EPA overreach. This current minibus bill is a way to go beyond words and take action.

Commentary by Daren Bakst and Katie Tubbs. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

New Bill Would Stop Energy Department From Risking Taxpayer Money

This week, Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, introduced the DOE Loan Program Repeal Act, which would prohibit the Department of Energy from offering new government-backed loan guarantees for energy projects.

Weber’s bill would not only protect taxpayers, but would also prohibit government intervention that enables industry dependence on subsidies and empowers Washington to direct the flow of investments.

When it comes to swamp draining, or at least ensuring the swamp water doesn’t rise, eliminating the loan guarantee program is a good place to start.

In fact, the Department of Energy recently offered an additional $3.7 billion taxpayer-backed loan guarantee to build two nuclear power reactors in Georgia. The $3.7 billion is an addition to the $8.3 billion in loans the agency already allocated to the project.

Whether or not the utilities successfully repay the loan makes no difference with regard to the merits of the program. The policy itself is a mistake.

The primary issue is that the federal government should not distort capital markets and artificially lower the risk of energy investments.

The Department of Energy’s loan program has been fraught with problems. It has awarded taxpayer-backed loans to projects that were not viable (even with handouts) to prop up politically favored technologies.

Solyndra, which squandered more than half a billion taxpayer dollars, is the first company that comes to mind within the loan portfolio. But several other projects have also gone under or are struggling financially.

In other instances, the department awarded loan guarantees to very profitable, well-established companies. Projects with backing from Ford, Nissan, Google, Goldman Sachs, and Berkshire Hathaway have all been recipients under the three loan programs administered at the agency.

On top of that, many loan guarantee recipients benefit from the great number of federal, state, and local subsidies. Their long-term success likely depends on more subsidies.

The Trump administration has been intent on promoting the theme of energy dominance. But energy dominance is not built on the backs of taxpayers, nor is it built on unsuccessful energy projects that depend on subsidies. Yet that is precisely what subsidies create: dependence and technological mediocrity.

Success in the energy sector and across the economy occurs when innovative companies invest their own money to supply families and businesses with affordable, dependable power.

This is not “Shark Tank,” and government employees should not be acting like Mark Cuban. Cuban risks his own money, while the Department of Energy risks yours and mine.

The federal government should stop gambling away other peoples’ money. Weber’s DOE Loan Program Repeal Act would be an important first step in stripping away the government’s authority to pick winners and losers.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry remarked that he wanted to make nuclearenergy “cool again.” Fortunately for the secretary, nuclear is already cool. Subsidizing nuclear, on the other hand, is not.

If Congress and the Trump administration want to enhance the “coolness” of any energy source, they should address the government-imposed regulatory barriers that stifle investment and innovation. There are plenty of ways for the Trump administration to encourage energy dominance without wasting taxpayer dollars.

Commentary by Nicolas Loris. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

House Lawmakers Push Legislation to ‘Stop the Spread of Catastrophic Wildfires’

Some House lawmakers are calling for a change in policy to help prevent wildfires.

“Active forest management is needed to stop the spread of catastrophic wildfires,” Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said in a statement last month.

“Irreplaceable natural resources and human lives are at stake, and we must focus on the immediate solutions available. It is time for members of both parties in the House and Senate to work together to pass the Resilient Federal Forests Act.”

Wildfires are spreading across California, covering over 115,000 acres of land, destroying 1,500 buildings, and forcing residents to evacuate from 5,000 of their homes, according to the Los Angeles Times. So far, the state has reported 15 people dead.

According to the Congressional Western Caucus, 2017 has had “one of the worst wildfire seasons in history,” destroying over 8.4 million acres of land and leaving 80 million more at high risk in the U.S. Members of the caucus called last month for forestry reforms to prevent future wildfire disasters.

The bill, introduced by Westerman, is designed to tighten forest management. The legislation includes measures to require litigations against forest management projects to provide an alternative management proposal and would “increase the pace and scale of forest management projects.” According to the House Committee on Natural Resources, “the bill streamlines onerous environmental review processes to get work done on the ground quickly, without sacrificing environmental protection.”

“Backwards forest management policies have [caused] public land management agencies to allocate time, energy, and resources on the back-end trying to put out massive wildfires that are already blazing,” Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said in a statement in September. Anyone with a medical background knows the importance of working to prevent a problem, rather than just treating it.”

But some oppose the bill. In a hearing in June with the U.S. House Natural Resources subcommittee on federal lands, former Forest Service Deputy Chief Jim Furnish said the bill undermines other environmental issues, such as the carbon crisis and fish preservation.

“This bill seeks to take us back to the old days when logging dominated public lands,” Furnish said in prepared testimony. “That policy proved bankrupt socially and legally. The bill essentially creates a series of workarounds by legislating fixes to nonexistent problems, unless you see national forest lands primarily as timber farms.”

Report by Ian Snively. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Committee Passes Bill to Protect Water Rights

The House Committee on Natural Resources June 27 advanced H.R. 2939, the “Water Rights Protection Act of 2017.” Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill protects privately held water rights from federal overreach.  

“In recent years, we have seen federal agencies ignore the concept of private property rights and the tradition of deferring to state water law in an attempt to federalize water resources and pave the way for unilateral mandates,” Rep. Tipton said. “Western water users agree that we can’t let this happen, and I am glad that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle showed their support today for the Water Rights Protection Act, which will preserve the rights of all water users and provide certainty that the federal government cannot take their rights in the future.”


H.R. 2939 prohibits the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture from requiring private entities to relinquish their water rights to the federal government as a permit condition to continue operating on federal lands – an abuse of power with which Western states have been repeatedly threatened.

Click here for more information.

This Bill Improves Transparency, Management of Federal Land Ownership

The House Committee on Natural Resources July 26 passed H.R. 2199, the “Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act of 2017” or the “FLAIR Act.” Introduced by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), the bipartisan bill requires the Department of the Interior to create a publicly available register of federal real property to increase transparency and improve management of the federal estate.

“Federal land managers often do not have a precise picture of what lands the federal government owns because there is not one accurate database of federal lands and their boundaries. The FLAIR Act increases transparency and efficiency by conducting an inventory of its federal property holdings and integrating the findings into one database that can track and manage property. By adopting the FLAIR Act, we can improve federal land management, resource conservation, and environmental protection, all while reducing land ownership conflict and saving taxpayer dollars in the maintenance of one, efficient database,” Rep. Cramer said.

These Three Bills Bring Certainty to Mining Industry

The House Natural Resources Comittee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a legislative hearing July 27 on three bills to bring greater certainty to the mining industry and shield economic development and energy projects from politically motivated actions.  

[T]he effects [of the Obama Administration’s coal moratorium] were felt most by the people in my state who lost good paying mining jobs and the communities that were devastated by drastic reductions in the economic activity our coal industry supports. In Wyoming, this was not a war on coal, this was a direct attack on the livelihoods of the people of my state,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said. The people of Wyoming deserve better and that’s why I introduced the bill before us today.”

H.R. 1778 (Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY) requires congressional approval of any order by the Interior Secretary imposing a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.

We believe that Congress should certainly have a say in the matter. For Wyoming, the state most directly and disproportionally affected, this is critical,” Executive Director of the Wyoming Mining Association Travis Deti stated. “This legislation is about shielding America’s most abundant, reliable and affordable energy resource from politically motivated administrations.”

In addition to the coal moratorium, the Obama Administration in 2016 unilaterally denied renewing mineral leases on National Forest land in Minnesota that were held since the late 1960s. In case that wasn’t enough, the Administration also proposed to withdraw over 200,000 acres from mineral exploration and development, which conveniently covered the area of these longstanding leases.

Rep. Tom Emmer’s (R-MN) discussion draft legislation corrects these injustices to the communities of Northeaster Minnesota by requiring congressional approval to withdraw any minerals on National Forest System lands in the State of Minnesota.

We have the opportunity today to fix this. By considering this proposal, you are not authorizing any mining project in the Superior National Forest. We are simply recognizing the right of Minnesotans to exercise their mineral rights if any proposed mining can satisfy all the stringent environmental requirements,” Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) said.  

[The Obama Administration’s] arbitrary withdrawal of land will decimate the economic future of Northeastern Minnesota and a way of life available to future generations of Minnesotans,” Chairman of Jobs for Minnesotans Nancy Norr stated.

Norr estimates that new mining projects in the proposed withdrawal areas have the potential to generate more than $2.5 billion in royalties for the Minnesota education system and $1.5 billion in annual wages.

H.R. 3117 (Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-WV), the “Transparency and Honesty in Energy Regulations Act of 2017,” prohibits the use of ambiguous metrics in environmental rulemaking such as the social cost of carbon.

The social cost of carbon and its siblings, the social cost of methane and social cost of nitrous oxide, have become political tools. Exaggerating the benefits of regulations to sell them to the American public is disingenuous. The nation is already making major strides to improve the environment and lower emissions. We can continue to do so without sacrificing economic growth,” Rep. Jenkins said.

Click here to view full witness testimony. 

How did your Congressman vote on the Pelosi/Ryan spending bill? Here’s the list.

Democrats may have lost the House, the Senate and the White House, but somehow they still control Congress.

That’s because the new $1.1 trillion federal spending plan, which President Trump says he supports and will sign, funds 99 percent of Obama’s EPA, and includes spending increases for government agencies engaged in falsifying climate data and running welfare programs for billion-dollar wind and solar corporations.

All Democrats had to give up was an agreement to increase defense spending, which several already supported.

Despite being drawn up by Republican leaders and the Trump White House, the plan passed with Democrats providing most of the support.

The bill is H.R. 244, titled the “HIRE VETS Act.”  Inside that bill is the text of “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017,” which funds the federal government through September.

Americans for a Better Economy urged a “NO” vote in the House, and urges the Senate to kill this bill, say ABE Executive Director Donny Ferguson.

Of the 309 votes to pass, 178 came from Democrats.  Only 131 Republicans voted for it.

If the 118 votes against, 103 came from Republicans.  Only 15 Democrats voted against it.
Americans for a Better Economy urged a “NO” vote in the House, and urges the Senate to kill this bill.

How did your House member vote?

Here’s the list.

Abraham R NO
Adams D YES
Aderholt R YES
Aguilar D YES
Allen R YES
Amash R NO
Amodei R YES
Arrington R NO
Babin R NO
Bacon R YES
Banks (IN) R NO
Barletta R YES
Barr R YES
Barragán D NO
Barton R NO
Bass D YES
Beatty D YES
Bera D YES
Bergman R YES
Beyer D YES
Biggs R NO
Bilirakis R NO
Bishop (GA) D YES
Bishop (MI) R YES
Bishop (UT) R NO
Black R NO
Blackburn R NO
Blum R NO
Blumenauer D YES
Blunt Rochester D YES
Bonamici D YES
Bost R YES
Boyle, Brendan F. D YES
Brady (PA) D YES
Brady (TX) R YES
Brat R NO
Bridenstine R NO
Brooks (AL) R NO
Brooks (IN) R YES
Brown (MD) D YES
Brownley (CA) D YES
Buchanan R YES
Buck R NO
Bucshon R YES
Budd R NO
Burgess R YES
Bustos D YES
Butterfield D YES
Byrne R YES
Calvert R YES
Capuano D YES
Carbajal D YES
Cárdenas D NO
Carson (IN) D YES
Carter (GA) R YES
Carter (TX) R YES
Cartwright D YES
Castor (FL) D YES
Castro (TX) D NO
Chabot R NO
Cheney R NO
Chu, Judy D YES
Cicilline D YES
Clark (MA) D YES
Clarke (NY) D YES
Clay D YES
Cleaver D YES
Clyburn D YES
Coffman R YES
Cohen D YES
Cole R YES
Collins (GA) R YES
Collins (NY) R YES
Comer R YES
Comstock R YES
Conaway R YES
Connolly D YES
Conyers D YES
Cook R YES
Cooper D YES
Correa D NO
Costa D YES
Costello (PA) R YES
Courtney D YES
Cramer R YES
Crawford R YES
Crist D YES
Crowley D YES
Cuellar D YES
Culberson R YES
Cummings D YES
Curbelo (FL) R YES
Davidson R NO
Davis (CA) D YES
Davis, Danny D YES
Davis, Rodney R YES
DeFazio D YES
DeGette D YES
Delaney D YES
DeLauro D YES
DelBene D YES
Demings D YES
Denham R YES
Dent R YES
DeSantis R NO
DeSaulnier D YES
DesJarlais R NO
Deutch D YES
Diaz-Balart R YES
Dingell D YES
Doggett D YES
Donovan R YES
Doyle, Michael F. D YES
Duffy R NO
Duncan (SC) R NO
Duncan (TN) R NO
Dunn R YES
Ellison D NO
Emmer R NO
Engel D YES
Eshoo D YES
Espaillat D NO
Estes (KS) R NO
Esty (CT) D YES
Evans D YES
Farenthold R NO
Faso R YES
Ferguson R NO
Fitzpatrick R YES
Fleischmann R YES
Flores R YES
Fortenberry R NO
Foster D YES
Foxx R NO
Frankel (FL) D YES
Franks (AZ) R NO
Frelinghuysen R YES
Fudge D YES
Gabbard D YES
Gaetz R NO
Gallagher R NO
Gallego D NO
Garamendi D YES
Garrett R NO
Gibbs R NO
Gohmert R NO
Gonzalez (TX) D YES
Goodlatte R NO
Gosar R NO
Gottheimer D YES
Gowdy R YES
Granger R YES
Graves (GA) R YES
Graves (LA) R NO
Graves (MO) R YES
Green, Al D YES
Green, Gene D YES
Griffith R NO
Grijalva D NO
Grothman R NO
Guthrie R YES
Gutiérrez D NO
Hanabusa D YES
Harper R YES
Harris R NO
Hartzler R YES
Hastings D YES
Heck D YES
Hensarling R YES
Herrera Beutler R YES
Hice, Jody B. R NO
Higgins (LA) R YES
Higgins (NY) D YES
Hill R YES
Himes D YES
Holding R NO
Hollingsworth R NO
Hoyer D YES
Hudson R NO
Huffman D YES
Huizenga R YES
Hultgren R NO
Hunter R NO
Hurd R YES
Issa R YES
Jackson Lee D YES
Jayapal D YES
Jeffries D YES
Jenkins (KS) R YES
Jenkins (WV) R YES
Johnson (GA) D YES
Johnson (LA) R NO
Johnson (OH) R YES
Johnson, E. B. D YES
Johnson, Sam R NO
Jones R NO
Jordan R NO
Joyce (OH) R YES
Kaptur D YES
Katko R YES
Keating D YES
Kelly (IL) D YES
Kelly (MS) R NO
Kelly (PA) R YES
Kennedy D YES
Khanna D YES
Kihuen D YES
Kildee D YES
Kilmer D YES
Kind D YES
King (IA) R NO
King (NY) R YES
Kinzinger R YES
Knight R YES
Krishnamoorthi D YES
Kuster (NH) D YES
Kustoff (TN) R NO
Labrador R NO
LaHood R NO
LaMalfa R YES
Lamborn R NO
Lance R YES
Langevin D YES
Larsen (WA) D YES
Larson (CT) D YES
Latta R NO
Lawrence D YES
Lawson (FL) D YES
Levin D YES
Lewis (GA) D YES
Lewis (MN) R NO
Lieu, Ted D NO
Lipinski D YES
LoBiondo R YES
Loebsack D YES
Lofgren D YES
Long R NO
Loudermilk R NO
Love R NO
Lowenthal D YES
Lowey D YES
Lucas R YES
Luetkemeyer R YES
Lujan Grisham, M. D YES
Luján, Ben Ray D YES
Lynch D YES
MacArthur R YES
Maloney, Carolyn B. D YES
Maloney, Sean D YES
Marchant R NO
Marino R YES
Marshall R NO
Massie R NO
Mast R YES
Matsui D YES
McCarthy R YES
McCaul R YES
McClintock R NO
McCollum D YES
McEachin D YES
McGovern D YES
McHenry R YES
McKinley R YES
McMorris Rodgers R YES
McNerney D YES
McSally R YES
Meadows R NO
Meehan R YES
Meeks D YES
Meng D YES
Messer R NO
Mitchell R YES
Moolenaar R YES
Mooney (WV) R YES
Moore D YES
Moulton D YES
Mullin R NO
Murphy (FL) D YES
Murphy (PA) R YES
Nadler D YES
Napolitano D YES
Neal D YES
Noem R NO
Nolan D YES
Norcross D YES
Nunes R YES
O’Halleran D YES
Olson R NO
O’Rourke D YES
Palazzo R YES
Pallone D YES
Palmer R NO
Panetta D YES
Pascrell D YES
Paulsen R YES
Payne D YES
Pearce R NO
Pelosi D YES
Perlmutter D YES
Perry R NO
Peters D YES
Peterson D NO
Pingree D YES
Pittenger R DID NOT VOTE
Pocan D YES
Poe (TX) R NO
Polis D YES
Posey R NO
Price (NC) D YES
Quigley D YES
Raskin D YES
Ratcliffe R NO
Reed R YES
Reichert R YES
Renacci R NO
Rice (NY) D YES
Rice (SC) R YES
Richmond D YES
Roby R YES
Roe (TN) R NO
Rogers (AL) R NO
Rogers (KY) R YES
Rohrabacher R YES
Rokita R YES
Rooney, Francis R NO
Rooney, Thomas J. R YES
Rosen D YES
Roskam R NO
Ros-Lehtinen R YES
Ross R YES
Rothfus R NO
Rouzer R NO
Roybal-Allard D YES
Royce (CA) R YES
Ruiz D YES
Ruppersberger D YES
Rush D NO
Russell R NO
Rutherford R YES
Ryan (OH) D YES
Ryan (WI) R YES
Sánchez D YES
Sanford R NO
Sarbanes D YES
Scalise R YES
Schakowsky D YES
Schiff D YES
Schneider D YES
Schrader D YES
Schweikert R NO
Scott (VA) D YES
Scott, Austin R YES
Scott, David D YES
Sensenbrenner R NO
Serrano D YES
Sessions R YES
Sewell (AL) D YES
Shea-Porter D YES
Sherman D YES
Shimkus R YES
Shuster R YES
Simpson R YES
Sinema D YES
Sires D YES
Slaughter D YES
Smith (MO) R NO
Smith (NE) R YES
Smith (NJ) R YES
Smith (TX) R NO
Smith (WA) D YES
Smucker R YES
Soto D YES
Speier D YES
Stefanik R YES
Stewart R NO
Stivers R YES
Suozzi D YES
Swalwell (CA) D YES
Takano D YES
Taylor R YES
Tenney R YES
Thompson (CA) D YES
Thompson (MS) D YES
Thompson (PA) R YES
Thornberry R YES
Tiberi R YES
Tipton R NO
Titus D YES
Tonko D YES
Torres D NO
Trott R YES
Tsongas D YES
Turner R YES
Upton R YES
Valadao R YES
Vargas D NO
Veasey D YES
Vela D NO
Velázquez D YES
Visclosky D YES
Wagner R NO
Walberg R YES
Walden R YES
Walker R NO
Walorski R YES
Walters, Mimi R YES
Walz D YES
Wasserman Schultz D YES
Waters, Maxine D YES
Watson Coleman D YES
Weber (TX) R NO
Webster (FL) R NO
Welch D YES
Wenstrup R NO
Westerman R NO
Williams R NO
Wilson (FL) D YES
Wilson (SC) R YES
Wittman R NO
Womack R YES
Woodall R YES
Yarmuth D YES
Yoder R YES
Yoho R NO
Young (AK) R YES
Young (IA) R YES
Zeldin R YES