Radical Eco-Legislation Coming?
A NUMBER OF ENVIRONMENTAL bills that rely on questionable science to force new regulations on American businesses have already passed the House. Thankfully, they have been stalled in the Senate. But as the elections draw nearer, Democrats could resurrect them. No commonsense American wants to see the country’s land and waterways polluted. That’s why programs effective at cleaning up rivers, lakes, national parks and other natural resources appeal to conservatives, liberals
The trouble often comes when conservation programs are put into the sausage making process of legislation. Often, by the time legislators and lobbyists are done with a bill, it has turned into such a “Frankenstein” that many supporters are turned into vocal critics.
The Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources, or “Clear,” Act (H.R. 3534) is a prime example of this. On July 30, the House narrowly passed the ClearAct by a vote of 209 to 193. The bill had been sold to America as a response to the oil disaster in the gulf. Americans almost universally wanted British Petroleum to clean up the mess it created. As a result, Republicans and Democrats were willing to accept new regulations that would prevent that kind of ecological disaster from happening again. But a host of additions to the bill had many one-time supporters opposing it.
According to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Democrats slipped in language expanding two environmental programs—the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund—that had nothing to do with oil spills. This illustrates why all bills, by law, should be limited to one subject, with no unrelated subjects permitted, and time set aside so legislators can actually read the bills before voting on them.
The larger of the two programs—the Land and Water Conservation Fund—is especially dangerous, critics say, because new language would authorize federal bureaucrats to buy up vast sections of private land in order to shut down ranches and private energy companies.
Nowhere in the Constitution is the central government granted the power to actually own land (other than the District of Columbia and for “needful buildings”). But that hasn’t stopped the feds from using billions of dollars of Americans’ money to close off U.S. lands to taxpayers. In the past, the program has not been all that effective because of congressional oversight and a lack of funding. Now Democrats want it to be automatically funded, via appropriations legislation. Taxpayers know full well what this means: It will cost you.
Another questionable provision in the bill grants the feds even more power to regulate oil and gas drilling. Ironically, says Hastings, it was the prior reports of mismanagement and corruption on the part of the government that were actually used to justify giving the feds even more power, taking oversight away from the states. Finally, even though the bill was originally created to address some offshore drilling dangers, the bill adds a host of new guidelines and regulations for oil companies that drill on land—which runs counter to the country’s need for increased domestic energy production.
When the Clear Act came up for a House vote, 39 Democrats jumped ship to vote against it. These included legislators from Florida, Alabama, Texas, South Dakota and Colorado—states that are home to the ranching, drilling and mining jobs that will be most affected by this bill.
The Clear Act has been placed on the Senate calendar under what is known as “general orders,” meaning it could be called to the floor for a vote at any time.
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(Issue # 38 & 39, September 20 & 27, 2010)