Earth Week Challenge To Livingston: Drop The Riders

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(04/22/1996) - For Earth Week, nineteen conservation and fishing groups called on Rep. Bob Livingston, (R-LA) Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, to remove thirteen anti-environment riders from the pending Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

Responding to a challenge from Chairman Livingston last week to "prove that our bills harm the environment," on Earth Day (April 22) the groups sent the accompanying letter describing the destructive impacts of the riders: "These legislative provisions are comprehensive changes that suspend numerous environmental laws and inflict irreparable damage upon our water, parks, forests, wildlife, public health and economy."

The coalition's letter issued its own challenge to the committee, urging it to "cease its sham fixes and eliminate these riders from the bill completely." The letter joined Vice President Al Gore's call to remove all of the anti-environmental riders in the Omnibus Spending bill by Earth Day in order to pass the bill by April 24 when the temporary funding measure expires: "We join Vice President Al Gore in urging you to honor the wishes of the American people and the welfare of future generations by removing these provisions today."

Groups signing the letter included the Center for Marine Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Mineral Policy Center, Mount Graham Coalition, National Parks and Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Pacific Rivers Council, Sierra Club, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Trout Unlimited, The Wilderness Society, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Western Ancient Forest Campaign.

"This Congress just doesn't seem to understand the fact that Americans don't want dirtier air, unsafe drinking water and clearcutting in our national forests," said Jim Wyerman, Defenders of Wildlife VP for Program. "Congress keeps bringing the same riders back again and again, claiming to have fixed them. It's time they admit defeat and stop holding hostage the funding for environmental programs supported by the American people."

Rindy O'Brien, The Wilderness Society VP for Public Policy said, "The Mojave National Preserve rider says it all about this bill. The words have been changed, but the result is the same. This rider still aims to undo the California Desert Protection Act. It would force the Park Service to administer the Mojave under BLM rules, with the Appropriations Committees looking over their shoulders. This is subterfuge at its worst."

Mary Marra, National Wildlife Federation VP for Resources Conservation, said in summary that, "These riders don't make a whit of difference as far as the budget is concerned. They deserved the veto they got when Congress first passed them and they will again if Congress won't drop them."

April 22, 1996

The Honorable Bob Livingston
Chair
House Appropriations Committee
H-218, Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Livingston:

We are writing in response to your challenge to demonstrate that H.R. 3019, the Omnibus Appropriations bill, no longer contains provisions harmful to the environment. Contrary to your charges of "environmental fear mongering" and claims in your press release of April 17 that concerns about the bill have been addressed, the controversial policy riders have not been altered in any substantial way. As we have stated on numerous occasions in the past year, these legislative provisions are comprehensive changes that suspend numerous environmental laws and inflict irreparable damage upon our water, parks, forests, wildlife, public health, and economy. They have no place in an appropriations bill. We commend President Clinton for his strong and courageous stance opposing these riders and remind you that the American public stands strongly behind the President on this issue.

Riders addressed in your press release:

Tongass National Forest: The Tongass Rider blocks efforts to protect the Tongass National Forest, the world's largest remaining temperate rainforest, from unsustainable clearcut logging. It would raise the effective Tongass timber target from the current 399 million board feet (mmbf) of sawlogs (the effective allowable sale quantity after the Tongass Timber Reform Act) to 418 mmbf. The rider would do so in part by placing special Tongass fish, wildlife, and community use areas now protected from logging onto the chopping block.

More importantly, the rider seeks to pre-empt the Forest Service's lowering of the timber target even further in their new revision of the Tongass Land Management Plan. The new plan, released on April 18, proposes an annual allowable logging level of 303 mmbf (sawlog measure), with an expected economic offering of 250-260 mmbf. Even these levels are unsustainable for all the forest's resources. But the Tongass rider's target of 418 mmbf of sawlogs is over 60% higher than the Forest Service proposal. Once adopted, the Tongass rider will be treated as a Congressionally mandated timber target. The rider also seeks to impede any revision of the Tongass land plan by imposing a new standard for acceptable data and science -- inviting litigation and increasing the chance that the Tongass rider will remain in effect. Finally, the rider seeks to permit several illegal and damaging timber sales to go forward without necessary environmental review, reversing a recent Ninth Circuit Court decision which supported equal treatment for tourism, fishermen, and subsistence and recreational users.

California Desert: The revised rider for the Mojave National Preserve continues to subvert the intent of the California Desert Protection Act. The new rider would require the National Park Service to manage the Mojave under the "historic management practices of the Bureau of Land Management" rather than under the policies and regulations of the National Park System. This would establish a dangerous precedent for the management of units of the park system. It again would expose the Mojave to the threat of open pit mining, cross-country motorcycle races, and uncontrolled use of firearms; sets funding at inadequate levels; and gives the Appropriations Committees unprecedented control over the park's management plan.

Endangered Species: A supposedly "temporary" moratorium on final listing of species and designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been in place since April 1995. The revised "Extinction Rider" has been altered to allow emergency listings, but still precludes final listings and critical habitat designation and threatens more than 500 species in need of protection such as the Florida black bear and Atlantic salmon.

Allowing only emergency listings will cost the taxpayers more money because emergency listings are temporary and must be repeated after 240 days. Furthermore, the species must still go through the final listing process once the moratorium is repealed. Moreover, forcing listings to be delayed until an emergency exists will result in greater recovery costs, fewer management options for landowners, and a greater likelihood of extinction. Finally, until final rules are issued for proposed species, they will be denied a wide range of protections including the recovery planning process, state protections, and consultations on federal activities.

Clearcut/Logging Without Laws Rider: Nothing less than full repeal of this disastrous legislation, added to last year's Rescissions bill, is acceptable. The Hatfield-Gorton proposal, contained in section 325 of H.R. 3019, is a bogus fix. It extends suspension of environmental laws for logging old growth forests and maximizes cost to the taxpayer. The proposal does nothing to rescind the exemption from environmental law which the timber industry now enjoys for logging old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest and nationwide for any timber sale classified as a so-called "salvage" sale. In fact, it actually extends the period of lawlessness for logging the old-growth sales (P.L. 104-19 Section 2001 (k)) for a minimum of two and a half more years -- and possibly longer. Under the Logging without Laws Rider contained in the 1995 Rescissions bill, those sales subject to 2001(k) had to be completed by the end of FY 1996. Section 325 strikes this requirement.

Furthermore, Section 325 does not give the government more flexibility in dealing with these 2001 (k) sales. On the contrary, it actually limits the government's ability to exercise its rights contained in the very timber sale contracts under which these sales are being logged. The current contracts provide the government the authority to terminate these sales over environmental concerns and also establish specific compensation requirements for such cancellations -- intended to limit liability. Section 325 overrides this authority and sets up a mechanism to maximize the timber industry's leverage to obtain substitute volume exempt from all environmental law -- or to maximize the cost to the taxpayer of buying out these sales by overriding the very fiscal limitations agreed to by the purchasers in their original contract.

Wetlands Rider: This provision bars EPA from exercising its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect wetlands. Senator Bond (R-MO) has asserted that this rider would reduce unnecessary duplication between the Corps of Engineers and the EPA. Although both agencies do address wetlands issues, there is little duplication. The EPA does not build dams or canals like the Corps, and the Corps does not have a mission and a history of protecting wetlands, like EPA. The Corps itself has made the same point and gone on record in opposition to this rider. Moreover, the EPA's existing authority is essential to ensure that the Corps follows the environmental standards set forth in the Clean Water Act. For example, without this authority the EPA could not have protected part of the Florida Everglades or the South Platte river from destruction. This rider represents a grave threat to the protection of our nation's remaining wetlands. Finally, while your only defense to this rider seemed to be a claim that it is the single EPA rider in the bill, we must disagree -- other EPA riders remain in the legislation (see below).

The following riders were omitted from your press release, but are still in H.R. 3019:

Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project: This rider halts a scientific assessment of species protection needs in the Columbia River Basin. It cripples a joint forest Service and BLM ecosystem management project for the federal lands of the Columbia River Basin. H.R. 3019 aborts this critical planning process in mid-course, prohibiting the agencies from correcting serious flaws in their draft documents or addressing region-wide problems at the regional level. It also maximizes political influence into the process by directing that the draft documents -- as well as public documents -- be turned over to Congressional committees in lieu of the agencies responsible for managing these public lands.

Furthermore, the rider suspends cumulative impacts analysis of widespread logging and grazing on natural resources. Finally, it bars important inter-agency consultation to protect salmon and other endangered species as is required by current law.

Mt. Graham Red Squirrel: The University of Arizona is seeking to carve away a portion of Arizona's Mt. Graham in the Coronado National forest for construction of a $60 million observatory. This fragile ancient boreal forest ecosystem is home to 18 varieties of plants, insects and animals -- including the endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel -- found nowhere else. The mountain is also the most sacred site for the Carlos Apache Indian tribe. Despite three federal court decisions ruling against clearing the land for the observatory, this rider arbitrarily declares the observatory to be in full compliance with the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws. It marks the latest in a long series of backdoor moves by the University to circumvent these laws.

Clearwater National Forest: This provision 1) eliminates a court- ordered revision of the management plan for the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho; and 2) bars court- ordered interim management guidelines for the forest. A September 1993 settlement required the Forest Service to revise the Clearwater Forest Plan and follow interim management guidelines designed to protect the old-growth stands and environmental health of the forest. This rider overrides the court's direction to the Forest Service to manage the Clearwater for multiple use, rather than solely for timber harvest, eliminating the interim protections and ordering the Forest Service to amend, rather than revise, the Clearwater's management plan.

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges: This rider requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to permit toxic pesticides on farmed areas within the two national wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin of California and Oregon. Farming was authorized on certain areas within these refuges under a 1960's statute, but only to the extent consistent with the refuge's primary purpose of conserving migratory water fowl and other wildlife. The rider would prohibit the Service from implementing long-overdue new pesticide policies at the refuges that would restrict certain pesticides known to harm wildlife.

Implementation of United Nations Biodiversity Initiative: This rider undermines the ability of the United States to play its part in vitally important international efforts to protect endangered species and preserve the planet's genetic resources. Approximately 100,000 species -- birds and mammals, as well as less visible insects and fungi -- are lost worldwide each year. Although much of the work related to the biodiversity convention is done by the State Department, the National Park Service is prohibited from making a key contribution to the international effort to preserve biodiversity. In absence of this rider, the Park Service could bring valuable experience and expertise to the process.

Energy Appliance Efficiency Standards: This provision would bring an end to an 8-year-old energy efficiency program that has made refrigerators and other home appliances more efficient, saving the average household $1,300 in lower energy bills and dramatically reducing air pollution. Even a one-year delay in standards would cost consumers $5 billion in wasted energy. This language effectively rewards companies such as General Electric and Magnetek that have invested in lobbying to block new standards, rather than improved technology. These companies joined the other major appliance manufacturers in agreeing to the efficiency standards when they were signed into law during the Reagan administration. Only now, as some companies pull ahead in developing new technology, are the losers like GE trying to change the rules of the game.

Tap Water Standard for Radon: EPA is prevented from issuing new standards to protect the public from contamination of tap water with radon. EPA does not currently have a radon standard in place, although it is under a court order to issue such a standard. EPA studies have concluded that radon in tap water kills over 180 people every year. As reported to Congress in 1994, EPA stated that "the cancer risk from radon in water is higher than the cancer risk estimated to result from any other drinking water contaminant."

Hazardous Waste Sites: This rider prohibits the addition of new hazardous waste sites to the Superfund list for clean-up unless requested by a governor. As a result, serious health threats may remain unmitigated because no provisions are made for cleanup.

We believe we have met your challenge to demonstrate the irreversible harm these riders will inflict upon our precious natural heritage and, in turn, issue a counter challenge. If the Appropriations Committee really wants to prevent H.R. 3019 from damaging the environment, the Committee will cease its sham fixes and eliminate these riders from the bill completely. We join Vice President Gore in urging you to honor the wishes of the American people and the welfare of future generations by removing these provisions today, Earth Day 1996, without any further delay.

Sincerely,

Susan Iudicello
Vice President for Program
Center for Marine Conservation

James K. Wyerman
Vice President for Program
Defenders of Wildlife

William J. Roberts
Legislative Director
Environmental Defense Fund

Kenneth A. Cook
President
Environmental Working Group

Gawain Kripke
Director, Appropriations Project
Friends of the Earth

James S. Lyon
Vice President
Mineral Policy Center

John Fitzgerald
Washington Representative
Mt. Graham Coalition

William J. Chandler
Vice President for Conservation Policy
National Parks & Conservation Association

Mary Marra
Vice President, Resources Conservation
National Wildlife Federation

Greg Wetstone
Legislative Director
Natural Resources Defense Council

Glen Spain
Northwest Regional Director
Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations

Judy Noritake
National Policy Director
Pacific Rivers Council

Debbie Sease
Legislative Director
Sierra Club

Marty Hayden
Senior Policy Analyst
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund

Dave Katz
Forest Plan Coordinator
Southeast Alaska Conservation Council

Rindy O'Brien
Vice President, Public Policy
Wilderness Society

Steve Moyer
Director of Government Affairs
Trout Unlimited

Carolyn Hartmann
Environmental Program Director
U. S. Public Interest Research Group

Jim Jontz
Director
Western Ancient Forest Campaign

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Contact(s):

Joan Moody, 202-682-9400 x220 (Media)