An article of faith on the American Right is that the “free market” can solve pretty much all problems and the government should simply get out of the way. After the debt-limit crisis, the Republicans turn to the environment, writes Don Monkerud.
By Don Monkerud
As the nation’s attention remains riveted on the Republican attempt to downsize government by refusing to raise the national debt limit, the GOP is working through the backdoor to destroy protections for the environment.
In a study that reveals the Republican pledge to protect business interests at all costs, the Center for Media and Democracy recently analyzed 800 bills supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
This secretive group consists of big businesses and conservatives who influence state legislatures around the country to lower wages and taxes on business, and weaken environmental protection that could crimp profits.
Undoing efforts to address climate change is a major priority of ALEC sponsors such as Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, AT&T and Peabody Energy.
For example, they created a model law — State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives — that is being introduced by state lawmakers to curb carbon reduction mandates and overturn cap-and-trade deals.
The Republican efforts don’t stop here. Because they believe private property should be the basis for environmental policy, owners become the only protection for the environment.
According to the GOP, only self-regulation and a laissez-faire market can provide protection. Toward this end, House Republicans created a rider for the 2012 appropriations bill (H.R. 2584), consisting of items to weaken environmental regulations by cutting funding and rolling back rules.
Since the Senate would have to confirm the changes and President Obama would have to sign the bill, it’s unlikely that such changes will pass.
The bill also continues to change; nevertheless, the attempt reveals Republican plans to roll back environmental protections agreed upon by both parties over the past 40 years. The GOP promises more jobs and recovery from the current depression as a reward for such actions.
“Many of us think that overregulation from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is at the heart of our stalled economy,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R- Idaho.
The bill cuts up to 18 percent of the funding from the Forest Service, the Interior Department and the EPA. It was voted out of committee by House Republicans.
The bill is loaded with a promise to business to end regulation and leaves only the profit motive to determine the use of land, water and wildlife.
By blocking regulations the GOP would allow:
–Automobiles to stop increasing gas mileage after 2016, and allow them to spew fine particles that cause cancer into the air.
–Pesticide manufacturers to use false and misleading information on their labels, and chemical companies and agriculture to dump pesticides into the waterways.
–Uranium mining in the Grand Canyon.
–The cement industry to pump cancer-causing dust into the air.
–Increased levels of arsenic, formaldehyde and other cancer-causing substances in the air, soil, drinking water, and sediment, as well as allow increased ammonia emissions from power plants.
–Oil conglomerates to ignore health-based air quality standards offshore, and make it more expensive for citizens to challenge government actions regulating oil extraction companies.
–Increased storm water discharge from commercial and residential construction sites, mountaintop removal water to run off into streams, and prohibit the EPA from forcing Florida to enforce the state’s Water Quality Standards.
–Increased ash from the burning of coal, and methane from manure piles.
–Lawsuits over grazing on public lands to proceed more easily, livestock to move freely across government grazing land, and prevent reviews of grazing permits.
–Alaskan western red and yellow cedar to be cut and sold for shipment overseas.
–Unlisted endangered animals to be hunted and killed, and wolves to be de-listed from protection.
–Endangering of bighorn sheep by allowing more livestock to graze in their habitat.
In addition, the GOP would:
–Eliminate the regulation of livestock waste runoff or disposal.
–Allow greenhouse gas producers, such as coal plants, to continue emitting for one year, and bar lawsuits during this time.
–Prohibit funding for listing or protecting any new animal species under the Endangered Species Act.
–Block any updates to the Clean Water Act, and prevent regulation of cool water intake facilities.
–Limit public appeals of Forest Service timber harvest plans.
–Provide financial breaks for mining companies, and prevent any new hard rock mining regulations.
–Allow Texas to implement its own cap-and-trade system without Federal input.
–Prevent boat inspection safety checks on the Yukon River.
–Prevent the EPA from adopting water ballast requirements that stop the intrusion of invasive species into the Great Lakes.
–Force the EPA to ignore Clean Air Rules for power plants, and ignore the public health benefits of the Clean Air Act.
–Block the designation of Federal land to be set aside as wilderness areas.
–Require detailed records to be kept and quarterly reports on any gas or oil permits not allowed.
These efforts make it clear that Republicans ignore the role of deregulation in creating the problems that the nation faces, such as the financial institutions that sank the economy and robbed millions of Americans of their jobs and their savings.
The Republicans hope voters will forget the role of President George W. Bush and the Republicans in this disaster, put the blame for the depressed economy on President Barack Obama, and give them the presidency in 2012.
They destroyed the economy once and they can do it again – this time taking the environment with it.
Don Monkerud is an Aptos, California-based writer who follows cultural issues and politics and writes occasional satire. Copyright 2011. Non-exclusive rights only.