Tuesday, October 4, 2011

H.R. 2584: The End of the World As We Know It

By Duane Craig

Although it was left as unfinished business in the House of Representatives on July 28, H.R. 2584 is no doubt far from dead, and its implications are that people across the country will begin to feel the sting of industrial contamination and pollution with renewed vigor. They will also potentially be loosing national treasures because of funding reductions, prohibitions on actions or reassignment of decision-making authority to states.

For example, one amendment seeks to reduce the money available to the Bureau of Land Management for processing drilling permits. Language in the bill under Section 431, effectively eliminates EPA oversight of green house gas emissions by stationary sources such as coal-fired power plants. Wording under Section 432 prevents the Office of Surface Mining from updating the stream buffer rule for mining operations that remove mountain tops. The rule required a 100 foot buffer between mining operations and streams, but the Bush administration granted exemptions to the rule for waste dumps, according to this New York Times article. The new language would eliminate any new rule making regarding streams and mining. It also removes implementation and enforcement of two other issues related to mountain top removal mining. According to the 2010 Austin Environmental Directory there are more than 500 mountain peaks that have already been leveled, or are being leveled by as much as 500 to 1,000 feet, and by the end of 2010 mountain top removal mines were anticipated to cover 800 square miles.

Section 434 blocks regulation of coal ash, while Section 435 stops any changes to the Clean Water Act. Under Section 441, Texas, and any other state, can operate a flexible air permitting program without EPA approval, according to this ecial_Interest_List_Interior_Appropriations.pdf">list of legislative riders attached to the bill. Section 443 would allow oil companies to simply comply with the Clean Air Act anywhere except a single onshore area; reduces the time exploration platforms and drill ships are considered to be sources of emissions; eliminates the possibility of using a permitting program to control emissions of surface vessels related to oil and gas activities; and makes it more expensive and time consuming for citizens to challenge government actions.

Among other efforts to cloak the dangers of industrial substances, Section 444 prohibits the EPA from releasing its findings on the cancer-causing characteristics of inorganic arsenic until the National Academy of Sciences completes its study. Section 447 prevents the EPA from releasing opinions on pesticides and the Endangered Species Act, and Section 448 eliminates funding needed to implement Clean Air Act regulations on the manufacture of Portland cement.

When it comes to uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, previously written about here, Section 445 prevents the Interior Department from withdrawing any lands from new uranium mining permits.
Other sections block enforcement of water quality standards in Florida, block 2016 green house gas standards for autos, block regulations on particulate matter, block hard rock mining regulations, block guidelines from being issued on misleading information on pesticide labels, block clean air rules for power plants and allow companies engaged in the manufacture of insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides to release those substances into waterways without permits.

To get a first hand look at the attempted dismantling of protections from toxic substances, the allowances of air, land and water contamination to continue at increased levels and the dwindling protection of public lands, read all about it here, and in one of many recent articles here.

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