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Congress Snubs Climate Change Policy in Budget Bill

Washington, D.C. – The $1.1 trillion 2015 Fiscal Year Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by the U.S. Senate Saturday to keep the U.S. government running for another year has all kinds of riders snuck into it including some that compromise environmental policy especially impacting efforts to reduce global climate change.

Prior to the opening of the G-20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia earlier this year, President Obama pledged $3 billion support to the Green Climate Fund. According to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, investments from the UNFCCC help developing nations to “leapfrog some of the dirty industries that powered our development” and move straight to a clean-energy economy.”

President Obama took the lead among developed nations in making his pledge in November, hoping to spur other countries to respond to global warming. However Congress is not allowing this pledge to be fulfilled.

The Sierra Club calls the budget “a direct attack” on clean air, clean water and safe communities. In a statement issued Tuesday, Sierra Club Federal Policy Director Melinda Pierce said, “This budget rolls back the Obama Administration’s climate action plan and their vital efforts to end taxpayer financing of coal plants overseas, opening up the door for American dollars to once again be wasted on dirty fuels abroad that contaminate our climate and threaten our safety at home.

According to the EPA, “globally, the agriculture sector is the primary source” of methane emissions, a major greenhouse gas contributor. However, the bill prohibits the EPA from requiring farmers to report on “greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.” In addition, it strips the EPA’s ability to require ranchers to obtain permits for “methane emissions” produced by bovine flatulence and belching.

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Additional ways the budget bill impacts efforts to reduce climate change include:

  • Reverses a ban on loans for the construction of overseas coal-fired power plants.
  • Prevents the Department of Energy from enforcing new standards for energy-efficient lightbulbs.
  • Derails most of the current light-rail projects of the Department of Transportation.
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    The bill makes a $60 million cut from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget bringing it down to its smallest budget since 1989. According to the Center for Effective Government, these cuts will result in “the lowest EPA staffing levels since 1989, at a time when the president’s climate change initiative is entering a critical stage.”

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    More Ways the Appropriations Bill Impacts Environmental Issues:

  • Dismantles a provision of the Clean Water Act to limited the amount of waste released into waterways.
  • Prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from taking steps to prevent the extinction of the declining Gunnison sage grouse, including steps to regulate fracking in their habitats.
  • Cuts $40 million in funding for cleanup of long-term radioactive and hazardous waste at Los Alamos.
  • Reduce regulations on the trucking industry, including truck weight limits, limits on the number of consecutive hours truck drivers can work, and the transportation of hazardous materials.
  • Requires the Department of Agriculture to speed up permits for companies to develop genetically modified organisms such as disease-resistant rice and soybeans.
  • Requires the option to substitute white potatoes for fruites and green vegetables in the USDA supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC), while cutting funding for program by $93 million..
  • Prohibit the federal government from requiring less salt in school lunches.
  • Michelle Obama’s inititive for healthier school lunches can no longer require that schools serve whole grains.
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    JD Sullivan

    JD Sullivan is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Green Action News. He has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism/Mass Communication. JD is passionate about journalism & sustainable living.

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