Front Porch Blog

House Passes Dangerous Budget in the Dark of Night

The Stakes are High for Appalachia as the Fight Moves to the Senate

Late Friday night and into the wee hours of Saturday morning, the long-anticipated assault on clean air and clean water laws began in the House of Representatives. At 4:39AM on Saturday morning, Republicans passed their bill with zero Democratic support, and only three Republican dissenters (Jones (NC), Flake (AZ), Campbell (CA)).

The House approved a number of amendments to the budget bill (H.R. 1) that would prevent the EPA from updating rules on mountaintop removal permitting, coal ash storage, emissions of coarse particulate matter, and a variety of other clean air and clean water safeguards. Those amendments that were attached included the coal lobby wishlist of #109, #216, #217 (previously labeled as #10), and #498 (previously labled as #219/220) These were revenue-neutral amendments, meaning they weren’t aimed at reducing the federal budget deficit, but were designed solely to prevent the EPA and other government agencies from updating and enforcing clean air and clean water laws. In short, it was Christmas for polluters.

Fortunately, the House version of the budget bill is only the first step, and for any of these rules to take effect, they must also pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President.

How did Mountaintop Removal Amendments Fare?

Since three of these amendments were aimed specifically at reversing the actions of the Obama Administration to strengthen permitting requirements for mountaintop removal mines (and thus would reinstate the polluter-friendly rules set up by the Bush Administration), we thought we’d provide a break-down of how these amendments faired, who voted for them and who voted against.

Appalachian Voices’ supported a “NO” vote on each of the following three amendments. Most Republicans voted “AYE,” and most Democrats voted “NO,” with variations noted below each vote.

#109 Griffith (Defunding EPA’s mountaintop removal “guidance”)

#109 Ayes Nays Not Voting
Republicans 227 10 3
Democrats 8 175 10
Total 235 185 13

Ds voting Aye: Altmire, Boren, Critz, Donnelly, Holden, Matheson, Rahall, Ross
Rs voting Nay: Bass, Fitzpatrick, Hayworth, Johnson (IL), Lance, LoBiando, Reichert, Smith (NJ), Webster (FL), Wolf

216 McKinley (Defunding EPA’s 404c veto authority)

#216 Ayes Nays Not Voting
Republicans 223 14 3
Democrats 17 168 8
Total 240 182 11

Ds voting Aye: Altmire, Boren, Cardoza, Carson, Costa, Costello, Critz, Donnelly, Gutierrez, Holden, Kissell!, Matheson, McIntyre, Olver, Peterson, Rahall, Ross
Rs voting Nay: Amash, Bass (NH), Cravaak, Fitzpatrick, Forbes, Gerlach, Johnson (IL) LaTourette, LoBiando, Paulsen, Reichert, Smith (NJ), Wittman, Wolf

498 Johnson (Defunding Dep. of Interior’s “Stream Protection Rule)

#498 Ayes Nays Not Voting
Republicans 228 9 3
Democrats 11 177 5
Total 239 186 8

Ds voting Aye: Altmire, Boren, Costello, Critz, Donnelly, Holden, Matheson, McIntyre, Peterson, Rahall, Ross
Rs voting Nay: Bass (NH), Fitzpatrick, Hayworth, Johnson (IL), Lance, McCaul, Reichert, Smith (NJ), Wolf

Appalachian Voices also joined many of our national partners in opposing #217, which limits EPA’s ability to regulate toxic coal ash. Compared to the mountaintop removal amendments, #217 passed with much greater Republican support, but also lost many more Democrats.

Though these votes didn’t go the way we would have liked, we have now seen 206 members of Congress take an anti-MTR action by either cosponsoring the Clean Water Protection Act, or voting “NO” on #109, #216, or #498. It does allow us a clearer picture of where many in Congress stand regarding mountaintop removal, and presents a more clear of who we can work with.

Several Republicans voted with us at least 3 times.

109 216 217 498
Bass + + + +
Fitzpatrick + + + +
Johnson (IL) + + + +
Reichert + + + +
Smith (NJ) + + + +
Wolf + + + +
LoBiando + + +
Hayworth (NY) + + +
Lance + + +

We also have a better picture of Democrats who voted incorrectly 3 or more times, and who will need to hear from their constituents about why mountaintop removal needs to end.

109 216 217 498
Altmire x x x
Costello x x x
Peterson x x x
Boren x x x x
Donnelly x x x x
Critz x x x x
Ross (AR) x x x x
Rahall x x x x
Matheson x x x x
Holden x x x x

Senate Democrats have been VERY cool to the House Republicans budget, and that was before many of these amendments were passed that not only endanger public health and the environment, but according to some studies would cost more than 800,000 jobs.

Last week, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) said:

It is clear from this proposal that House Republicans are committed to pursuing an ineffective approach to deficit reduction that attempts to balance the budget on the back of domestic discretionary investments, which constitute only a small percentage of overall federal spending.

Once again, even before these bad amendments were added, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and Chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee said:

Any effort to limit EPA’s authority “will not be accepted in the Senate. It’s not even in the ballpark.

There is an even smaller chance that these attacks on Appalachia will be signed into law by President Obama, who also released a “Statement of Administrative Position” (SAP) in opposition to HR 1, calling the Clean Water Act language “irresponsible” and “reckless.”

Appalachian Voices will continue engaging with key targets in the Senate and the national base of support for ending mountaintop removal to ensure that he language from the coal lobby wishlist is not included in the federal budget. We’ll have much more to come this week, including details on what will happen when the Senate returns to finalize their budget.

Finally, I just wanted to say a personal word of thanks to the thousands of people who are participating in this fight by calling their Representatives and encouraging their friends and family to do the same. We will all have to work even harder to ensure that these amendments are signed into law and will be asking folks to call key Senators in the upcoming days and weeks. Because of all of your hard work, we were able to convince roughly 200 members of a very hostile Congress, including 18 Republicans, to act against mountaintop removal.

Feel free to leave questions in the comments, and thanks for all you do. I’ll leave you with a video of John Yarmuth, defending Appalachia on the House floor.




AV Mountain border tan1

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  1. Mike McCoy on February 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Here is Va Rep. Griffith talking about why 109 should be passed and Jim Moran (also a Va Rep.) rebutting him. Note that toward the end Griffith states that there is more biodiversity AFTER mountaintop removal:

  2. Bot Warble on February 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Great job Mr. Randolph…..keep up this timely reportage. There’s a reason we send a check to Appy Voices…YOU DO THE WORK!

    Everybody else, call those 10 Dem punks and let the GOP corporateers know that poisoning voters is not healthy for re-election campaigns.

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