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House Bill Fires Broadside at Environment

One rider would prohibit the EPA from enforcing the Clean Power Plan. (snowpeak/Wikimedia Commons)
One rider would prohibit the EPA from enforcing the Clean Power Plan. (snowpeak/Wikimedia Commons)
July 15, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Environmental groups say the appropriations bill to fund the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that passed the U.S. House on Thursday contains dozens of anti-environmental riders that would end efforts to clean up pollution and slow climate change.

Riders are attachments to a bill used to say what a government agency cannot spend money on. Martin Hayden, vice president of policy and legislation for the environmental law firm Earthjustice, thought last year's House appropriations bill - with 60 riders - set a record that would be hard to beat.

"The bill passed with over 65 anti-environmental riders that affect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the lands we cherish, the oceans we cherish," he said.

The Senate version of the appropriations bill has only about a dozen riders, but hasn't made it to the Senate floor for a vote.

House Bill 5538 includes a rider to prevent enforcement of the Clean Water Rule that protects streams and wetlands, and another to block new rules to prevent smog pollution for at least eight years.

And according to Hayden, it takes aim squarely at the EPA's plan to clean up coal-fired power plants.

"The bill says that the EPA cannot spend any money to implement the Clean Power Plan, period," said Hayden. "So, that's to stop the first-ever limits on carbon pollution for power plants."

Another rider would prevent implementing the recently-finalized rule to curb emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, at new oil and gas production sites.

Even EPA rules for cleaning up lead paint come under attack. But the process is far from over. Hayden said eventually, the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled before final passage.

As Hayden put it, "At the end of the day, this is going to end up in some dark, smoke-filled room for an end-of-the-year funding measure that will come together in late November, or sometime in December."

The question is, how many of the riders will remain at the end, and if the President will sign the bill.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA