4 Ways the GOP Congress Is Willing to Hurt the Environment
Conservatives in the U.S. Congress are wasting very little time getting rid of those pesky environmental regulations that keep our people and planet safe. Already, Republicans have set their sights on a handful of legitimately useful rules because apparently nothing is more sad to Republican lawmakers than when a business can’t pollute however it damn well pleases.
Here are four of the more alarming regulations that conservatives are already working to undo:
1. Allowing Coal Mine Water Pollution
Do you enjoy drinking clean water? Well that’s too bad if you happen to live near a coal mine. House Republicans have already voted to discontinue an environmental regulation that requires coal-mining companies to clean up their own messes and not dump debris into nearby streams.
“Make no mistake about it, this Obama administration rule is not designed to protect streams,” said Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican representing Ohio. “Instead, it was an effort to regulate the coal mining industry right out of business.”
Except that by most accounts, the coal industry is dying with or without regulations. Requiring companies not to pollute our potable waterways does not seem like too big of an ask. All stripping this regulation away will do is ensure we have dirty water until the coal industry is completely obsolete.
2. Freely Releasing Methane
While oil and gas companies have the ability to capture and contain methane released during fossil fuel extraction, they would prefer to not have to bother, since it’s much cheaper and easier to just burn it instead.
Since methane is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases around, existing environmental regulations require companies to capture and contain it. Alas, conservatives in Congress are preparing to dump these methane rules, declaring that they are too cost prohibitive for energy companies to comply. This excuse comes from the same party of people who refuse to see renewable energy as a viable option, because they willfully ignore the costs of the damage that fossil fuels generate.
3. Eliminating Energy Company Disclosure Laws
When Dodd-Frank went into effect back in 2010, so did a rule to increase financial transparency for energy companies. For the past seven years, oil and gas companies have had to divulge to the U.S. government what kind of payments they are making to foreign governments in order to drill for fossil fuels.
While a little transparency never seems like a bad thing, especially if otherwise unaccountable money is going to oil-rich nations with despotic leaders and terrorist ties, oil giants like incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have argued that it puts them at a “competitive disadvantage” having to admit what they are paying to other countries.
Americans deserve to know the true cost of foreign energy dependence. It’s all the more reason that we should be pursuing home-grown renewable options instead.
4. Getting Rid of the EPA Altogether
With a climate change denier who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over a dozen times slated to be in charge of this same agency, it’s hard to imagine that the EPA will be of much use to environmental causes during a Trump presidency. Still, getting rid of the EPA altogether seems pretty extreme, right?
Not to Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who filed a bill to get rid of the EPA completely. According to Gaetz, environmental regulations are too burdensome and “our small businesses cannot afford to cover the costs associated with compliance.”
Actually, what American can’t afford to continue is pretending that we aren’t facing an environmental crisis. Eliminating one of our best shots to figure out solutions moving forward is like signing our own death warrant.
Photo credit: Daniil Silantev