HOUSE VOTE DESCRIPTIONS1 & 2. Climate Change & Clean Energy
The generational challenge of addressing global warming only grows in importance. Additionally, America faces a deepening energy crisis predicated on our growing demand for fossil fuels and our dependence on the hostile foreign nations that provide them. Absent a drastic change in the way the world uses energy, we will soon reach a tipping point from which we will not be able to reverse the course of catastrophic climate change. We have already witnessed the onset of these effects, including increases in hurricane intensity, storm frequency, and sea-level rise that threaten coastal communities. In 2009, an increased pro-environment majority in the House of Representatives and the leadership of the Obama administration led to historic progress in the fight to stop global warming.
In the spring, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act. H.R. 2454 would reduce global warming pollution 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050. Additionally, it would mandate that 20% of American electricity consumption come from clean, renewable sources like solar and wind power, with a portion coming from gains in efficiency, by 2020. Multiple analyses showed that ACES, when paired with unprecedented clean energy investments in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, would create nearly 2 million jobs, re-energizing our economy and making America a global leader in developing the next generation of clean energy technologies.
On June 26, after months of negotiations, the House voted to adopt the American Clean Energy and Security Act by a vote of 219-212 (House roll call vote 477). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The Senate did not bring companion legislation to the floor during 2009.
H.R. 2454 marked the first time either House of Congress passed a bill to institute an economy wide cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the historic nature of this legislation, LCV has made the decision to double-score the vote, a rarely-used practice employed only for landmark bills.
3. Clean Energy Recovery
The Obama administration and Congress quickly took steps to address the nation's economic crisis early in 2009. As job losses mounted, numerous proposals circulated regarding how best to stimulate the economy repositioning the United States for sustainable economic growth. Investing in clean-energy research, development and deployment can solidify America's status as an economic power while creating jobs, improving our national security and protecting our planet.
In January, the House took up H.R. 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The $787 billion package included nearly $80 billion in clean-energy investments, by far the largest down payment on renewable technology in American history. Included in this funding were resources to rebuild the national electricity grid to promote efficiency and accommodate next-generation technology, tax credits for clean-energy businesses, weatherization of low-income homes and investments in cleaner transportation like high-speed rail. Together, these investments will preserve 390,000 jobs and reduce oil consumption by 15 million barrels of oil per year.
On February 13, the House approved the H.R. 1 conference report by a vote of 246-183 (House roll call vote 70). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The Senate passed the conference report the same day, and the President signed the bill into law on February 17.
4. Public Lands Protection
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act, considered one of the most important public land conservation measures in decades, designated more than 2 million acres of public lands as wilderness in nine states and established three new national park units, a new national monument, three new national conservation areas, more than 1,000 miles of national wild and scenic rivers, and four new national trails. The Act enlarged the boundaries of more than a dozen existing national park units and established ten new national heritage areas. It also formally established the National Landscape Conservation System, containing millions of acres of wilderness, monuments and conservation areas that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act also authorized numerous land exchanges and conveyances to help Western communities, addressed water resource and supply issues, and launched programs to study the effects of climate change on natural resources. A provision not supported by the conservation community was a measure that may permit a road within the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
On March 25, the House passed the bill 285-140 (House roll call vote 153). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. This followed Senate passage of H.R. 146 on March 19, and the President signed the bill into law on March 30.
When the President's annual budget is submitted, typically in February, Congress begins to develop its own budget plan that reflects its spending priorities. The federal budget resolution sets funding levels for the next fiscal year and sets forth budget totals for the next five years. Because the budget resolution determines the spending authority of the House Appropriations Committee, the federal budget is a powerful tool for establishing national policy priorities. Programs that protect our air, water, climate, wildlife, parks, forest, refuges and other public lands fall under the Interior-Environment Appropriation Subcommittee.
S. Con Res 13 marks the third year of reversing cuts to many important environmental and conservation programs that occurred for nearly a decade. The budget agreement increases investments in a clean energy economy, supporting a healthier environment and paving the way for comprehensive climate legislation this year. The concurrent resolution allows for up to $1.086 trillion in non-emergency discretionary spending for FY 2010. It also creates a deficit-neutral reserve fund for climate change legislation.
As a concurrent resolution the bill does not need the President's signature. On April 29, the House passed S. Con Res 13 by a vote of 233-193 (House roll call vote 216). That same day the Senate approved S. Con Res 13, setting the congressional budget for fiscal year 2010. YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.
6. Environmental Funding
The Interior-Environment appropriations bill allocates yearly funding for many federal environment and natural resource programs that protect our public lands, wildlife, air and water and safeguard communities from toxic pollution. In addition, the Interior-Environment appropriations bill has become an important vehicle for making advances in addressing climate change.
H.R. 2996, the FY 2010 bill as passed by the House, continues to make significant progress in reviving programs devastated by many years of starvation budgets, providing a total of $32.3 billion, $4.7 billion (17%) more than the FY 2009 level. The bill provided significant funding in a number of areas including $420 million for global climate change; $3.9 billion for clean drinking water and wastewater; $667 million to protect great bodies of water such as the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay; $1.5 billion to clean up dangerous toxic waste; $383 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy; and significant increases for wildlife conservation and for the operations of our national forests, wildlife refuges, parks, monuments and other public lands.
In addition, the report accompanying the bill included constructive direction for developing a comprehensive national strategy to assist fish, wildlife and ecosystems in adapting to global warming; for ensuring sustainable populations of fish and wildlife as renewable energy development is expanded; and for defining national strategies and goals for land acquisition consistent with agency missions and responding to climate change.
On June 26, H.R. 2996 passed by a vote of 254-173 (House roll call vote 475). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The conference report on the Interior-Environment appropriations bill was passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President on October 30.
7. Defunding Environment & Energy Staff The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) coordinates federal environmental efforts working closely with agencies and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives.
In addition, the President created a new position, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, and directed her to coordinate environmental, energy, climate, transport, and related matters for the federal government. Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) offered an amendment to cut off salaries for the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and her deputy as well as all the employees of the Council on Environmental Quality. The goal of defunding these positions was to weaken the Obama administration's efforts to address climate change and transition to clean energy sources.
On July 16, Broun's amendment, offered to the FY 2010 Financial Services appropriations bill, failed 149-282 (House roll call vote 558). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.
8. Greening Schools
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that 25,000 public schools need extensive repair and replacement, and that it will take $112 billion to bring existing buildings into conformity with minimum building standards. The GAO has also concluded that the air is unfit to breathe in nearly 15,000 public schools. As we improve our nation's schools we have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure they are green, energy-efficient school buildings that will provide multiple benefits for the American taxpayers, our teachers and, most importantly, our children.
The 21st Century Green High Performing Public School Facilities Act (H.R. 2187), sponsored by Representative Ben Chandler (D-KY), authorizes $6.4 billion for school renovation and modernization projects from FY 2010 through FY 2015. The bill would authorize an additional $100 million each of these years for supplemental grants for school districts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama that were affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. H.R. 2187 would require that school districts direct an increasing percentage of funds received to projects consistent with identified green building rating systems or Energy Star, starting with half of such funds in 2010 and reaching 100% by 2015.
On May 14, the House voted 275-155 in favor of H.R. 2187 (House roll call vote 259). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The Senate did not act on companion legislation in 2009.
9. Clean Water Funding
Our nation's aging water infrastructure is in need of immediate improvement--cities and states across the country are trying to cope with sewer overflows that often contain toxins and other pollutants, including microbial pathogens that threaten the public's health.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is intended to help address that need by providing loans to improve our nation's water quality through water-infrastructure improvement projects. Specifically, this program helps local communities meet water quality standards, protects public health and helps ensure continued progress in restoring the health and safety of America's waters by replacing old and decaying pipelines and other water infrastructure.
H.R. 1262, the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009, would fill the approximately $3.2 billion to $11.1 billion annual gap that exists between wastewater infrastructure needs and current funding through an investment of $13.8 billion in federal grants over five years. In addition, it would provide $150 million a year through 2014 to the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a program specifically designed to address sediment contamination in the Great Lakes. This legislation would also require timely notification of the public when sewer overflows occur.
On March 12, the House passed this important legislation by a vote of 317-101 (House roll call vote 123). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VO TE. The Senate did not act on companion legislation in 2009.
10. Water Resources
The Bay-Delta Estuary is the largest estuary on the West Coast. It is an ecosystem that supports an important array of species including listed salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and smelt populations. In recent years, the Delta ecosystem has been on the verge of collapse. Water diversions from the Delta have depressed salmon numbers and resulted in the closure of the salmon fishery for the last two years. This has caused an economic disaster along hundreds of miles of the Pacific Coast, with estimated losses in California of $2.8 billion and 23,000 jobs in the commercial and recreational fishing industries in 2008 and 2009.
During consideration of H.R. 2847, the FY 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) offered an amendment which would have prohibited funding of a biological opinion, or court-mandated protections, for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary and for the threatened and endangered species that depend on the estuary. The amendment would have also threatened thousands of fishing jobs. Implementation of these protections is critical to restoring the health of the Bay Delta ecosystem and sustaining California's sport and commercial salmon fishery. The biological opinion is the result of several years of consultation with state and federal agencies and has undergone two separate peer review studies.
On June 18, the amendment was defeated 208-218 (House roll call vote 366). NO IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE.
11. Protecting the Molalla River The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational value. It is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.
Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced legislation (H.R. 2781) to add federal protections to 21.3 miles of the Molalla River in Oregon under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
One of the critical functions of the Molalla River is to provide clean drinking water to the cities of Molalla and Canby, Oregon. The river also supports an abundance of fish and wildlife, including native winter steelhead and salmon runs, geological wonders and a wide range of recreational opportunities.
On November 19, the bill passed by a vote of 292-133 (House roll call vote 905). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The Senate did not act on companion legislation in 2009.
12. Undermining Forest Management
Currently, the U.S. Forest Service spends approximately half of its budget fighting forest fires, causing the agency to cut into non-fire programs to meet this important need. The Federal Land Assistance Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act of 2009 (H.R. 1404), aimed to reduce the need for agencies to transfer non-fire funds to fight wildland fires when dedicated funds run out.
The amendment offered by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) would have given state foresters expanded authority to carry out potentially harmful projects on national forests. The language contained two significant National Forest Management Act waivers, which would not require state foresters to advertise timber sales and eliminate federal oversight of marking, designating, and implementing logging projects on national forest lands. On March 26, the amendment was rejected 148-272 (House roll call vote 161). NO IS THE PROENVIRONMENT VOTE. The FLAME Act was included in the Interior-Environment appropriations bill, which the President signed into law March 30.
13. Rare Cat & Dog Conservation
Wildlife around the world is increasingly imperiled by a number of threats including habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, illegal hunting, disease, illegal trade, pollution and rapid climate change. In addition, there are hazards that specifically impact great cats and rare canids, such as human-wildlife conflict, poaching and illegal wildlife trade and a diminished prey base. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) authored H.R. 411, The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act, to provide financial resources authorizing up to $5 million to support the conservation of 15 rare cat and canid populations, including lions, leopards, and jaguars. These populations live outside the United States and Europe and are all listed as endangered or threatened on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species.
On April 21, the House passed H.R. 411 by a vote of 290-118 (House roll call vote 194). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee reported out a companion bill, but the full Senate did not take action.
14. Chemical Security
After the September 11th attacks, chemical plants were recognized as one of the sectors most vulnerable to terrorism. According to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, an attack on a chemical facility in a major U.S. city could result in 100,000 casualties. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, 110 million Americans live in vulnerability zones surrounding 300 chemical facilities.
Since 2001, more than 200 facilities switched to safer chemical processes, eliminating themselves as targets and reducing the risk posed to millions of Americans. Yet more than 6,000 chemical facilities have been designated as "high risk" by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In 2006 Congress enacted a temporary law championed by the chemical lobby barring the DHS from requiring the use of safer chemical processes and exempted thousands of water treatment plants and port facilities. That law is set to expire on October 4, 2010.
In 2009, Representatives Thompson (D-MS), Waxman (D-CA) and Oberstar (D-MN) co-authored a compromise bill, the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2868). H.R. 2868 authorizes the DHS and the EPA to set comprehensive security standards for all chemical facilities, requiring each plant to evaluate safer available processes and highest risk plants to use safer processes, if they are feasible and cost-effective.
On November 6, the House passed H.R. 2868 by a vote of 230-193 (House roll call vote 875). YES IS THE PRO-ENVIRONMENT VOTE. The Senate did not act on companion legislation in 2009.