As the Congressional legislative year comes to a close, success might be measured in anti-environmental bills blocked—but those successes may be coming to an end. The Trump agenda is decidedly pro-corporation, pro-development, anti-regulation, and anti-conservation. Climate change has been virtually erased from federal policies, research, and the scientific equation by the administration. The truth is, however, that climate scientists are embedded in almost every department and agency of the federal government. Like a dormant seed, they hold the promise of new life in a warming spring of political change, whenever that might come.
As this EcoNews goes to press, many bills are poised for action by Congress and the President. The NEC will continue to send alerts if there are actions readers can take to support good legislation and stop bad laws. If you have not signed up for EcoNews Alerts, please do so in the right sidebar of our website homepage (www.yournec.org). The NEC Action Group—which tracks legislation and organizes letter-writing will be starting back up this winter. If you would like to receive direct emails about legislation and opportunities to make an impact, please send your name and email address to Dan Sealy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issues on the table as EcoNews goes to print:
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
"The Refuge is home to some of the most diverse and spectacular wildlife in the arctic. The Refuge’s rich pageant of wildlife includes 42 fish species, 37 land mammals, eight marine mammals, and more than 200 migratory and resident bird species.”–U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Mammals include iconic Arctic species such as muskoxen, polar bears and caribou.
Senator Murkowski (R-AK) authored a bill to allow oil drilling on the coastal plain of the refuge—a bill that would change the underlying purpose of the non-wilderness portions of the refuge from wildlife and habitat protection to commercial oil extraction. The bill passed Murkowski’s Senate committee in spite of strong opposition from ranking member Cantwell (D-WA), Franken (D-MN), Sanders (I-VT), and King (I-ME). Efforts to allow drilling in ANWR have been pressed forover 40 years, primarily by oil industry representatives. Only strong public opposition has stopped those efforts. Now Murkowski sees a path to allow drilling: attach it to the Republican Tax Bill. Attaching ANWR language to the larger tax package through reconciliation allows it to move by a simple majority vote without the threat of a filibuster, which means it won’t need any Democratic support in the Senate.
Resilient Federal Forests Act H.R. 2936, and the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act S. 2068
H.R. 2936 passed the full House of Representatives on November 1 and was referred to the Senate for action. If enacted, H.R. 2936 would immediately remove important protections provided by the Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act, the Northwest Forest Plan, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). All existing forest plans would become advisory and unenforceable. It also allows the Forest Service increased use of Categorical Exclusions as recognized in NEPA in popular recreation areas, old-growth mature forests, roadless areas, and endangered species habitat. The purpose of the bill is clearly to increase lumber production based on uncertain economics rather than on scientifically based sustained-yield practices.
“Extreme legislation (H.R. 2936) introduced by Rep. Westerman (R-AR) would give logging interests virtual absolute primacy in setting forestry policy, to the exclusion of others that depend on our forests. It would make compliance with the Endangered Species Act a sham by removing obligations to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s experts. H.R. 2936 also broadly undermines (conservationists) access to court to enforce environmental laws.”–David Soper, professor of Law, Georgetown University (The Hill, July 19, 2017).
The bill would allow logging projects up to 30,000 acres to go forward with little-to-no public or scientific scrutiny through the use of Categorical Exclusions. Even some pro-logging voices have expressed concern about tilting the balance of power to local economic interests and minimizing the regional and national public voice in these matters, even though national forests belong to all Americans. H.R. 2936 passed the House on November 1.
The Senate companion bill is the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act, S. 2068, authored by Senator Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Though Barasso’s bill primarily addresses concerns regarding fire prevention and wildfire suppression funding, it is similar to the House bill—allowing massive logging to be approved with little public comment or scientific review and limiting environmentalists’ access to court proceedings to stop egregious logging plans.
Take Action: The NEC supports wise, scientifically-based forest fire prevention but this bill has serious flaws. Contact Senator Harris, who sits on the Environment and Public Works committee, and Senator Feinstein to tell them to oppose S. 2068.
Senator Kamala Harris
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Senator Diane Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Antiquities Act and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
Rep. Bishop (R-UT) is surely licking his chops at his success in passing H.R. 3990 out of his committee on a strict party line, 23-17. (Unsurprisingly, our local representative, Jared Huffman, voted no.) Rep. Bishop has consistently and vocally opposed most public lands protection—especially the Antiquities Act—but now he has a perfect equation for passage. Although the bill is cynically titled the National Monument Creation and Protection Act, it requires local support, an easy path to reducing the size of existing monuments. The bill guts the original purpose of the Act to allow protection of important natural, scientific, and cultural resources through swift executive action. Had Bishop’s bill been law 100 years ago, Grand Canyon National Park, Muir Woods National Monument, and scores of other national treasures would have been ransacked before protections could be put in place. Bishop’s bill would have a direct negative effect locally on the Cascades-Siskiyou National Monument that straddles the California–Oregon border.
Take Action: Contact your Congressional delegation to tell them you oppose this shackling of one of our most important conservation authorities. Contact information for Senators Feinstein and Harris are above. Information for Representative Jared Huffman is below.
If you live outside the North Coast region, you can look up contact information for your Senators and Representatives here: www.usa.gov/elected-officials.
Representative Jared Huffman
1406 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
317 Third Street
Eureka, CA 95501