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Riders In GOP Interior Appropriations Bill Reward Shell Oil, Ban Light Bulb Standards

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"Riders In GOP Interior Appropriations Bill Reward Shell Oil, Ban Light Bulb Standards"

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By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, and Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy, Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Shell Oil's Noble Discoverer drill ship

Early this morning, House Republican appropriators unveiled their version of the 2012 spending bill for the Department of Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and related agencies. Rather than focus on just spending provisions and monetary details, appropriators added a handful of nasty policy riders that would advance Republicans’ Big Oil agenda and reward corporate polluters at the expense of public health and our lands and waters.

One of the worst of these riders is Section 432, which would keep companies interested drilling off the coast of Alaska from needing to get Clean Air Act permits. Also, the bill would transfer air permitting authority from EPA to DOI, which “in essence eliminates the Environmental Appeals Board from being able to review permits (and prevents legal challenges),” according to Earthjustice. This rider is designed to fast-track oil drilling in Alaska’s frigid and fragile Chukchi Sea, which Shell Oil has been pursuing for years.

Alaska native communities have been most successful in protecting their homes from Shell’s drilling operations by challenging EPA’s issuance of Clean Air Act permits. This provision would remove that safety net for their survival.

Other bad policy riders snuck into the bill include “light bulb ban” language and denial of climate rules:

- Section 122: Limits judicial review on lawsuits brought against grazing on public lands.

- Section 125: Prohibits the Secretary of the Interior from enforcing the “wildlands” policy, which would have protected some of the last wild places on public lands. In one of last year’s spending bills, Republicans were successful in forcing Secretary Salazar to walkback this important policy, and they are ensuring that he is unable to enforce it next year.

- Section 315: A Tea Party favorite, prevents implementation of modern efficiency standards for light bulbs.

- Section 409: Allows the Secretary of Agriculture to rely on outdated forest plans, ignoring the reality that national forests are quickly changing in the face of climate change.

- Section 415: Circumvents environmental review for grazing under the National Environmental Policy Act by allowing grazing permits to be renewed, transferred, or issued without prior NEPA analyses.

- Section 425: Forces the president to submit a report “describing in detail all Federal agency funding, domestic and international, for climate change programs, projects and activities.” Presumably this would become a spending hit list for Congressional climate deniers in the future.

- Section 426/427: Prohibits EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions–particularly potent methane– from livestock and manure from corporate livestock operations.

- Section 429: Prohibits EPA from regulating water pollution from logging roads under parts of the Clean Water Act. A landmark decision in the Ninth Circuit ruled in August 2010 that storm water runoff from logging roads should be regulated under the Clean Water Act.

- Section 431: Prevents the Forest Service from protecting wild bighorn sheep from diseases carried by domestic sheep, and for the Interior Department, adds a level of administrative interference in reducing conflicts.

It’s unclear exactly what the next step will be on this bill, as the Senate is determining its own version of a spending bill that will need to be conferenced with this House version. But the Continuing Resolution for spending this year runs out tomorrow, which means unless an emergency short-term bill is passed, the government would shut down.

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