U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is among the antagonists singled out in a new report detailing the first session of what it calls “the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress.”
The report, commissioned by Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Howard Berman, D-Calif., notes that, as of Dec. 15, the Republican-led 112th Congress voted a record 191 times on legislation that would undermine environmental protections.
The House averaged more than one anti-environmental vote for every day Congress was in session during 2011, which equates to more than one out of every five of all roll call votes, the report found.
Republicans targeted the Environmental Protection Agency the most, with the House voting 114 times to weaken the agency’s purview. On 27 occasions, Congress voted against actions to address the threat of climate change and it worked to overturn scientific findings that climate change endangers human health and welfare.
Gardner was one of at least a dozen Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee who made public statements indicating that they question or reject the scientific consensus that climate change is predominantly human caused.
“Rep. Cory Gardner admitted that the climate is changing but said that he does not ‘believe humans are causing that change to the extent that’s been in the news,’” according to the report (pdf), which notes that House Republicans also voted to block the EPA from regulating carbon pollution from power plants and oil refineries, and they voted to prevent the EPA from working with the Department of Transportation and the automobile industry to develop fuel economy standards for vehicles.
The report also calls out Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., who introduced the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which seeks to overturn the EPA’s finding that climate change endangers human welfare and to upend the Supreme Court’s decision that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The bill also prohibits the EPA from enforcing existing greenhouse gas reporting requirements to collect emissions information.
“During the floor debate about the Upton bill, the House Republicans voted against several Democratic amendments to restore [the] EPA’s authority to address climate change. Only one Republican supported an amendment offered by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., to allow the EPA Administrator to suspend the bill’s prohibitions if impacts from climate change affect public health.”
The attacks on climate science aren’t exactly a surprise.
In 2010, Gardner and fellow Colorado Republican U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman signed a “No Climate Tax Pledge” in which they promised to oppose “any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”
That same year, Native Alaskans and environmental groups successfully appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board to overturn a permit the EPA issued to Shell Oil Co. for exploratory drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the coast of Alaska. During an appropriations debate, the House obstructed the Appeals Board from using government funds to invalidate the permit.
“Rep. Cory Gardner then introduced H.R. 2021, the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act, which makes significant revisions to Clean Air Act provisions relating to [Outer Continental Shelf] activities,” the Waxman, Markey and Berman report states. “The bill limits EPA review of a permit application to six months; it eliminates any appeal to the Board, forcing all appeals to be brought in federal court in Washington, D.C.; it blocks EPA from requiring pollution reductions from support vessels, which often comprise the bulk of emissions from a drilling operation; and it provides that the impact of emissions from [Outer Continental Shelf] sources must be measured at the shoreline, where the emissions are diluted, rather than at the source, as current law provides.”
At the time, House Republicans said the purpose of H.R. 2021 was to accelerate the permitting process in the Arctic Ocean. But the bill was drafted so that it also applied to both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts despite objections from officials in California, Delaware and other states.
“This bill will create tens of thousands of jobs, increase energy security, and lessen our dependence on foreign oil,” Gardner said in a press release at the time. “It will add billions of dollars in salary to Alaska and other states over the next several decades, bringing good paying jobs to our country.”
The EPA isn’t the only agency in the GOP’s crosshairs. The House targeted the Department of the Interior with 35 votes meant to weaken its authority and the Department of Energy with 31 of them.
The report goes on to detail how the House proposed to slash funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service, cut clean-energy programs, curtail reviews of the Keystone XL pipeline, allow unsafe disposal of toxic coal ash, transfer public lands to a mining company, remove protections for forests and wetlands, repeal water quality standards, and promote loopholes for polluters.
On Dec. 7, the House passed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, or H.R. 10, which requires approval from both houses of Congress before federal agencies can implement any significant rule, including those to protect the environment and public health. “In effect, this bill would force Congress to re-legislate provisions in the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other laws that require the agencies to conduct significant rulemakings. If Congress fails to act on a rule, the new rule would not go into effect, delaying important safeguards and wasting years of scientific inquiry, stakeholder comment, and agency staff resources,” the report contends.
Among the 191 votes highlighted in the report, 94 percent of Republican members voted for the anti-environment position, while 86 percent of Democrats voted for the pro-environment position.
Rachel Boxer, the spokeswoman for Gardner, and Joanna Burgos, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, did not return messages seeking comment for this story.