Debt deal: While they were busy screwing the economy, GOP was also screwing the environment

  • Published on August 1st, 2011

Mountaintop removal coal mine

Washington didn’t come to a standstill last week. While the GOP leadership was busy holding a gun to the economy and threatening to shoot if we didn’t give in to all their demands… the rank and file were taking a little time to trash the environment.

The House started the budget process for the Interior Department, which covers a lot of environmentally sensitive ground. Here are just a few of the things the Republicans have planned for us:

Open up the Grand Canyon for uranium mining– because nothing says GOP like giving away our most pristine national treasures to private companies to blow up (to supply a nuclear industry that should be on the way out, anyway).

Block ALL regulation of mountaintop removal mining– Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is one of the most destructive and wasteful and polluting practices ever come up with (plus, as a cherry on top, it ALSO slashes large numbers of jobs for miners!). The EPA has been trying to make it less destructive, but the GOP wants to put all MTR regulations on hold. No enforcement. Zilch. (See: Coal Company Refused Changes That Would Have Cost $0.55 a Ton)

Increasing pollution of streams – The Bush administration made lots of things easier for industry, including allowing MTR mining companies to just dump their toxin-laden leftovers in streams. The streams that feed much of the drinking rivers of the Atlantic region and the Ohio Valley. Because nothing says GOP like allowing industry to use everyone’s drinking water as their personal toilet. They want to prevent the EPA from returning to the pre-Bush standard (of no dumping within 100 feet of streams). (See: EPA Vetoes Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine).

Blocks EPA Funds to Great Lake States due to Ballast Water Requirements –  Ships carry water for ballast, water that is often pumped into the hold in strange and exotic places. It’s a big way that invasive species get introduced, so there have been rules put in place to limit that danger. This one is so obviously needed that even the GOP isn’t going after it directly – but ARE proposing to block ALL EPA funds to Great Lakes states if they have adopted ballast water requirements that are more stringent than Coast Guard requirements. The Coast Guard believes this will block at least four Great Lake States from receiving any EPA funds. Nice, eh?

-> next page: Cutting oil companies exemptions from the Clean Air Act

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
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  • The problem of ballast water has a long history of being addressed by the Coast Guard with out much accomplished or enthusiasm to protect American waters. The continued problem of ballast water pollution from bacteria, virus, nuclear waste water, oil, tar balls, and other invasive s is still obviously problematic. The concept of state rights being used to protect state waters as a results of the Federal governments failure to act should be respected, but until we have leadership in our country that will address ballast water with comprehensive legislation to address all the issues and quell the state rights issues used by some to curtail enforceable, concise and meaningful plans to create national legislation requiring mandatory installation of technology,(under the guise of stronger state regulations) shipping will not bother to spend the money.
    Legislation with a short time line mandating expenditures by shipping to install technologies, while authorizing the Coast Guard to take on a mission of inspection, testing, and surveillance will be the only way to ensure that short cuts and total compliance will be adhered to by foreign sea captains representing foreign economic interest delivering foreign manufactured products. Legislation creating comprehensive Coast Guard authorization to protect our countries against the use of these systems as a tool to discharge biological or toxic substances as a weapon of terror, destruction, or just the greed of shipping’s economic interest, is the best fix.
    Sadly it looks as though under this commander and chief the Coast Guard will continue to follow the IMO an international organization primarily made up of foreign economic interest and their dilution is the solution plan.
    The following is from a report prepared for congress in DEC 2009 “Although estimates of the costs of ballast treatment may be imprecise and vary from vessel to
    vessel, there is some general agreement on average costs.14 For example, it may cost an estimated
    $400,000 per vessel for modification of container/bulk vessels to use onshore ballast water
    treatment facilities at California ports. More generally, the cost of retrofitting vessels to treat
    ballast water has been estimated at between $200,000 and $310,000 per vessel for mechanical
    treatment and around $300,000 for chemical treatment.15 Most of this expense will be borne by
    foreign shipping companies, as the U.S. flag fleet is a small percentage of the global fleet,16 and
    likely passed along to consumers of products imported on these ships.”
    Our largest employers are providing the largest employment opportunities in America as store clerks selling foreign made goods, and in a election year as Americans are out of work and employment numbers will matter, do not expect much of a “change” in the Coast Guard policy under this commander and chief who has not bothered to address the problem for the last three years. Unfortunately do not hold out “hope” as the continued health risk and destruction resulting from a weak Coast Guard plan will continue to affect Americas economic structure, health and environment long after the election results of 2012.

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