18 Proposed Environmental Rule Eliminations through the Congressional Review Act

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle  (This article is a feature of an important SF Chron investigative piece: “Trump Gains, Science Loses.”)

18 PROPOSED ENVIRONMENTAL RULE ELIMINATIONS THROUGH THE CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW ACT

Cleanup crews work to remove coal sludge from a stream near Inez, Ky., after a spill that polluted the Tug Fork and Big Sandy rivers in October 2000. Rhonda Simpson / Associated Press 2000 ………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The Congressional Review Act, created in 1996 to allow Congress to eliminate rules with a simple majority vote, had been used just once before this year. But since Jan. 20, when President Trump took office, the Republican-led Congress has applied it vigorously to do away with environmental protection rules.

The act accounts for a large share of the legislation Trump has signed since he entered the White House. Because of the simple-majority threshold, the Republican majority in Congress has been able to use it to roll back environmental protection rules finalized during the last six months of the Obama administration.

The law gives Congress 60 legislative days after a rule has been finalized to roll it back, and that period will expire this month. But some conservatives argue that an obscure provision could be used to eliminate federal regulations going back decades. Once a regulation is revoked, it cannot be undone. The law forbids a federal agency from writing any “substantially similar” new rule.

To date, Trump has signed 11 laws reversing rules covering everything from Internet privacy to gun purchases by the mentally disabled. Four of these laws reversed environmental safeguards under the act. They are:

Stream protection: It was a guard against mountaintop-removal coal mining that has destroyed 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia and released waste into streams that has been linked to cancer and birth defects. The Congressional Research Service said the rule was effective in combatting climate change and protecting drinking water. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the rule “a regulatory assault on coal country.” It was among the first to be revoked.

Methane flaring: Required oil and gas companies to recapture methane flared or leaked from gas and oil wells on public lands. The Bureau of Land Management found that methane flaring wastes enough gas to power 5.1 million homes a year, costing taxpayers $300 million annually in royalty payments. Republicans argued that methane releases have been declining, making the rule unnecessary. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.

Public lands: Gave the public a stronger voice in planning for logging, drilling, mining and other uses of 250 million acres of public lands, mostly in the West. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, argued that the rule gave too much power to special interests over local elected officials.

Extreme hunting: Banned shooting wolves and bears from airplanes, killing bears and cubs and wolves and pups in their dens, and trapping and baiting predators on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The rollback was sought by the Alaska congressional delegation. Members said that local officials are better equipped to manage wildlife in Alaska, and that the rule impinged on subsistence hunting.

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