Rumored Environmental Projects NOT Earmarked in the Economic Stimulus Bill
On Tuesday, President Obama is set to sign the Economic Stimulus Bill in Denver. Passed largely without Republican support, the Stimulus Bill is a package of tax cuts and spending totaling $787 billion.
Over the weekend, Obama called congressional approval of the Economic Stimulus Bill a “major milestone on our road to recovery,” but Republicans have been spreading rumors and crying foul to discredit the legislation. Here are two rumored environmental projects NOT earmarked in the 1000 page Stimulus Bill:
$8 billion for a High Speed Rail from LA to Las Vegas
The truth is that $8 billion has been included in the Economic Stimulus Bill for unspecified high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects. Harry Reid, D-NV, has proposed an Anaheim-to-Las Vegas high-speed rail, but this specific project is not earmarked in the Stimulus Bill, even though Republicans have tried to confuse the public on the issue. According to the LA Times:
“Tell me how spending $8 billion in this bill to have a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is going to help the construction worker in my district,” House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio complained as he and all his fellow Republicans voted against the stimulus. Republicans cited the rail project in accusing Democrats of breaking their word to keep the bill free of pet projects.
“It’s not just specifically for us,” said Bruce Aguilera, chairman of the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission, but this project will be vying for the money on a competitive basis with other HSR projects. California officials will also seek $2 billion for an Anaheim-to-San Francisco high speed train that could travel up to 220 mph and was approved by voters.
$30 Million to Save the Bay Area Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse
Major news organizations, such as CNN and the Washington Post, fell for this rumored Stimulus Plan project credited to Nancy Pelosi, D-CA. Started by Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-OH, this rumor began in an email in which he wrote about the Stimulus Bill, “Thirty million dollars for wetland restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area — including work to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse.” Once major news organizations took off with the story, Steel himself corrected his statement:
There is no language in the bill that says this money will go to this project. There are large pots of money in the bill that go to various agencies. One of those agencies said the salt marsh harvest mouse project is something we’d do if you gave us the money.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hamill stated she did not lobby for money to protect the mouse be included in the Stimulus Bill.
The $30 million figure originated with a recommendation from the California Coastal Conservancy, a state agency, with “shovel ready” projects that could be funded by the Stimulus Bill. The California Coastal Conservancy wish list includes five major ongoing wetlands restoration projects totaling nearly 4,000 acres, and yes, protecting the endangered mouse is included in these projects. Other species that could benefit from these projects are salmon, steelhead trout, ducks, and egrets. The Army Corps of Engineers will decide what projects are completed under the Stimulus Bill. Ironically, the marshes in question are not even in Pelosi’s district.
Both of these rumored pet projects attacked powerful Democrats in Congress and were started by Republicans wishing to undermine the Economic Stimulus Bill. Ridiculing environmental projects without telling the whole story is misleading. Drew Hammill summed it up best, “You can say it’s about a worm or you can say it’s about a turtle or you could say it’s about clean water, a better environment and creating jobs.” Could the high speed rail from LA to Las Vegas or the salt marsh harvest mouse benefit from the Economic Stimulus Bill? It’s possible, but focusing on these projects doesn’t tell the whole story of how the environment and our economy may benefit from the package.