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Republicans Double Down on Big Coal and Big Oil, Killing Clean Air and Clean Water

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It isn't your fault if you tune into the House of Representatives floor proceedings this week and mistakenly think you're watching Groundhog Day. During the last week Republicans will call the House into session before the November elections, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor have chosen to bypass the important issues that the American public is asking for action on -- a comprehensive jobs package, a bipartisan Farm Bill, dealing with the looming fiscal cliff and sequestration -- in order to once again consider several extreme anti-environment and anti-public health bills that have already passed the House before but which will never pass the Senate or be signed into law by President Obama.

The American people have made it clear how they feel about these policies, and yet here the Republicans go again. For example, earlier this month, Appalachian citizens, environmental advocates and faith community leaders alike came together in Washington DC to fight against the continued injustice of mountaintop removal coal mining practices in Appalachia, which for too long has contaminated water supplies in Appalachia, endangering the health of families who live in the region and taking steps backward for the health and prosperity of our nation.

Yet Republicans press forward to do not the business of the people, but the business of the polluters. Since January 2011, House Republicans have amassed the most anti-environment record in the history of Congress. During this period, the House has voted over 300 times on the floor to block environmental regulations, weaken environmental laws and stop environmental research, and H.R. 3409 may well be the single worst anti-environment bill to be considered in the 112th Congress.

While almost 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been filled by mountaintop removal coal mining, polluting water supplies for local residents and endangering public health, H.R. 3409 would prevent the Obama Administration from issuing any rule to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining waste. H.R. 3409's overly broad language would, in fact, block Interior Department action from issuing ANY new rules regarding coal mining or reclamation for 15 months, no matter how minor.

Despite the catchy title given to the bill by House Republicans, H.R. 3409 is about far more than coal. H.R. 3409 denies the findings of climate scientists by repealing EPA's scientific finding that greenhouse gasses endanger public health and the environment. Having thus dispatched with the threat of global climate change, the bill would nullify the broadly supported emissions standards to reduce carbon pollution from model year 2017-2025 vehicles; repeal California's authority to regulation carbon pollution from motor vehicles; bar EPA from requiring power plants and refineries to reduce carbon pollution; and eliminate existing requirements for large sources to disclose their carbon pollution.

H.R. 3409 replaces the Clean Air Act's top priority of achieving air safe enough to breathe with standards that are based on industry costs. It rolls back protections that require power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxics pollutants and replaces the EPA process for setting toxic air pollution standards with an unproven, indefensible method. The bill will also set off a "race to the bottom" on water quality standards by eliminating EPA's ability to apply minimum federal water quality standards to protect human health if weaker state standards are in place, as well as EPA's authority to object to state discharge permits that fail to meet Clean Water Act standards.

While it may feel like Groundhog Day, H.R. 3409 is really an early Christmas present to Big Coal and Big Oil at the expense of the American people and their health and safety. H.R. 3409 will create uncertainty for businesses and undermine the development of clean energy technology, and it should be defeated.

Rep Michael Honda (CA-15) represents Silicon Valley and is a member of the House Budget and Appropriations Committee.

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