The 115th Congress: A Threat to Our Environment

The 115th Congress may be the worst environmental Congress in the history of our union.

Undoing Regulations —  Beginning with undoing 16 Obama Administration safeguards, by May of 2017, the 115th Congress focused on permanent repeal of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) methane rule. The vote was a nail biter. In the end, the entire Democratic caucus along with GOP Senators Collins, McCain, and Graham defeated this ill-advised attempt to rip off American taxpayers and pollute our air. Congress has since considered a dozen other bills seeking to remove federal safeguards from fracking. The EPA has proposed a rollback of their methane rule, with a public hearing planned in Denver, possibly in October.

Limiting Environmental Oversight and Public Input — At last count, the 115th Congress considered over 60 attempts to limit or repeal the “Magna Carta” of environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires our government to seriously consider environmental impacts of its decisions and solicit public comment before implementing a decision.

Fast-Tracking Mining — Among the greatest NEPA threats Earthworks faced during this Congress came during consideration of so-called critical minerals legislation. At the beginning of this Congress, Rep. Amodei (R-NV) and Sen. Heller (R-NV) introduced H.R. 520/S. 145, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act. The legislation deemed virtually all minerals critical and waived NEPA for all mine permits.

The real danger emerged when the legislation appeared as an amendment to the FY’19 John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the must pass funding bill for our troops and military needs. Our efforts to defeat this rider involved lobbying from community advocates and Earthworks Board members, and a communications blitz.

What’s Next? — Washington, D.C. gridlock works to our advantage as we try to fight off Congressional attacks to our air, land, water, and health. Earthworks members have been very active opposing many federal policies to emerge over the last couple years. Defeating bills still happens by lending your voice to the debate ­– so keep calling and writing! Mid-term elections are just around the corner, so this November, we can put an end to this madness.

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