A Republican War on the Environment

As the nation’s attention remains riveted on the GOP attempt to downsize government, the Party was working through the back door to destroy environmental protections. 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 businesses and weaken environmental protections that could affect profits. Undoing efforts to address climate change is a 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 GOP’s efforts don’t stop there. Because they believe private property should be the basis for environmental policy, owners would be the only ones protecting the environment. Toward that end, House Republicans created a rider for the 2012 appropriations bill (HR 2584). As 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. Nevertheless, the attempt reveals the GOP’s plans to rollback environmental protections already agreed on, promising more jobs and economic recovery as a reward for such actions.


“Many of us think that over-regulation from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is at the heart of our stalled economy,” Mike Simpson (R-ID) said. HR 2584 is loaded with a promise to business to end environmental regulation and leave 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
  • Pesticide manufacturers to use false and misleading information on their labels and chemical companies and agriculture to dump pesticides into 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 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 preventing 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 bighorn sheep by allowing more livestock to graze in their habitat


In addition, the GOP would:


  • Eliminate the regulation of livestock waste runoff and 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
  • Require detailed records to be kept and quarterly reports on any gas or oil permits not allowed


These efforts make it clear Republicans are ignoring the role of deregulation of financial institutions that sunk the economy and robbed millions of Americans of their jobs and their savings. They hope voters will forget President Bush and the Republican role in this disaster, blame the depression on 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 culture and politics and writes occasional satire.