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February 24, 2011

Details on the Now-Approved House Budget Plan

Capitol Last Saturday the House of Representatives passed a funding bill, or Continuing Resolution, that rolls back bedrock government programs that protect Americans' health and environment while doling out giveaways to corporate polluters. The bill, H.R. 1, which passed by a vote of 235-189, now heads to the Senate for approval.

The Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to take action on greenhouse gases have been under attack in the House since the New Year started. One of the attacks that we were expecting was a possible amendment to the Continuing Resolution (CR) - the appropriations bill to fund federal agencies - to undermine the EPA budget and therefore, its mission to protect public health and environment.

The CR (also known as H.R 1) was introduced to the House by Republicans during the second week of February and it had over 400 amendments that attacked our health and environmental protections.

Sierra Club and all its 1.4 million of members and supporters worked really hard to obtain the right votes on these amendments: 502 phone calls and 26,529 emails were sent to the House asking Representatives to oppose the CR. Unfortunately, despite our efforts to oppose the amendments against the EPA, the bill made drastic cuts to its budget, severely limiting the agency’s ability to protect the health and safety of Americans.

Some of the most critical amendments were on the Clean Air Act, air pollution, mountaintop removal mining, coal ash, clean water and public lands and wildlife (Click here to download a document detailing many of the amendments). The bill, as passed, slashes more than $100 billion dollars from the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget request and targets already underfunded programs and agencies charged with protecting and providing for the health and well-being of citizens, as well as those agencies that care for and manage our federal lands for the benefit of all Americans.

The proposed $3 billion, 30% cut to EPA's budget for example, represents the largest percentage cut to the agency in 30 years. In addition to these crippling budget reductions, legislative riders included in the underlying bill represent an unprecedented attack on our air, water, wildlife, and wildlands.

But the damage doesn't end there; a number of amendments were offered during floor debate that would block fundamental safeguards that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink from mercury, arsenic, and other hazardous pollution.

It also ensures that oil companies already raking in billions in annual profit will continue getting billions more in subsidies from taxpayers.

The Sierra Club is urging the Senate to reject the House's short-sighted Continuing Resolution. Similarly we encourage everyone to keep sending emails thanking those Representatives who voted against the CR, and keep spanking those who voted for the CR.

As for the coming Senate battle, tell your senators to reject this short-sighted bill from the House, and instead pass a clean bill that protects our health, not corporate polluter profits. 

-- Elizabeth Lopez, Sierra Club Global Warming and Energy Team


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