New federal budget is bad news for environment, great for Big Oil

Repost from Think Progress
[Editor: See also a similar story on Grist, The new federal budget is chock-full of goodies for pollutocrats.  – RS]

Six Of The Worst Environmental Provisions In The ‘Cromnibus’ Spending Bill

by Katie Valentine Posted on December 10, 2014

Congress unveiled its $1.01 trillion spending bill Tuesday, a 1,603-page piece of legislation that, if passed (and it may not be), will fund the government through September 2015. If passed, the bill — dubbed the “Cromnibus” for “continuing resolution plus omnibus” — would allow the government to avoid a partial shutdown. But it wouldn’t be good news for Americans who want the U.S. to do more on climate and environmental issues. The bill contains multiple attempts to undermine environmental efforts in the United States. Here are a few of the worst:

Preventing Endangered Species Listings

The spending bill would block any federal funds going toward determining whether the Gunnison sage grouse or greater sage grouse — two species of bird native to the western U.S. — are eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The Gunnison sage grouse has been the subject of a decades-long fight between environmentalists, energy companies who want to drill in the sage grouse’s habitat, and ranchers who use the habitat for grazing land. The Gunnison sage grouse was listed as “threatened” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month, but the agency originally had until next September to figure out a listing for the greater sage grouse. Under the spending bill, the agency would have to wait until after September 2015 to determine the greater sage grouse’s status. Concerns over what designation the sage grouse will be awarded have already scared off bidders for oil and gas leases in Nevada, as energy companies worry that an endangered status would make it too difficult to drill or frack in the region.

The bill does include $15 million for the Bureau of Land Management for sage grouse habitat conservation. Still, the National Audubon Society is not happy about the provision.

“The priority right now is to get science-based, state-level conservation plans in place that are effective enough to avoid a federal listing for the Greater Sage-Grouse in the first place,” Brian Rutledge, Audubon’s VP and Policy Director, said in a statement. “This rider will only complicate coordination between the BLM and statehouses and stems entirely from political chicanery, ignoring scientific input and voices across the Mountain West that want strong plans in place.”

Cutting Environmental Protection Agency Funds

Under the bill, the EPA would be allowed a $8.1 billion budget. That’s $60 million less than what the agency got last year, the Washington Post reports, and would mean that the agency, which works on things such as cleaning up Superfund sites and enforcing basic public health protections, would have to cut its staff down to numbers not seen since 1989. The last government shutdown reminded Americans of just how crucial the EPA is, when the agency was temporarily prevented from cleaning up nearly two thirds of the country’s toxic waste sites.

Blocking Regulation of Lead Ammunition

The spending bill includes a provision that would prohibit federal funds going toward regulation of lead in ammunition and fishing. It might not seem like the worst provision in the bill, but it has big implications: when hunters use lead bullets and leave carcasses in the woods, the lead can harm the birds and other scavengers that prey on the carrion. California became the first state to ban lead in hunting ammunition last year, in an effort to better protect the state’s rare California condors and other wildlife. But though the U.S. did ban the use of lead ammunition in water bird hunting in 1991, the country hasn’t acted to restrict lead ammunition for hunting of land birds and animals.

More Coal-Fired Power Plants And Less Renewable Energy Abroad

The spending bill would allow the Ex-Im Bank and OPIC to finance coal-fired power plants abroad, despite the fact that the Ex-Im Bank adopted guidelines last year that prohibited the financing of most coal-fired power plants, unless they used carbon capture technology. Those guidelines align with the U.S.’s stance on overseas coal financing, but the spending bill’s language attempts to put coal financing overseas back into the national conversation. “This provision is expected to increase affordable electricity, especially to those without current access to electricity, as well as to support increased exports from the United States and prevent the loss of United States jobs,” the bill’s authors write. It would also export carbon pollution at the expense of sustainable, clean energy for developing countries.

Preventing Funding To The Green Climate Fund

The bill states that “no funds may be made available for the Green Climate Fund,” an international fund aimed at helping developing nations deal with the impacts of climate change. This language comes despite the fact that, as the bill states, no funds were requested for 2015, and the fact that, according to one Democratic source in Politico, the Obama administration isn’t planning on asking for funds in 2015.

The fund has been in the news recently, as countries around the world have made pledges coinciding with the international climate talks in Lima, Peru. The fund reached its $10 billion goal this week, after Australia pledged AU$200 million ($165 million in U.S. dollars) to the fund. The U.S. has already pledged $3 billion to the fund, a pledge some Republicans have said could have a hard time getting authorized in 2015.

Prohibiting Regulations On Light Bulb Efficiency

The bill wouldn’t allow the federal government to provide funding to “implement or enforce” standards for light bulb efficiency, a rider that’s been introduced before in spending bills. A similar addition was included in January’s spending bill, and as Mother Jones reports, conservative lawmakers have been trying to prohibit the federal government from regulating light bulb efficiency for years, fighting against a 2007 law that stipulates light bulb efficiency.