by Jenny Coyle
What weighs 40 pounds, is 4,000 pages long and is guaranteed to trample public lands, wipe out some ozone and poison part of the planet? The $520 billion omnibus spending package passed by the 105th Congress and signed into law by the president on Oct. 21, that's what.
It's no joke.
So many riders were crammed in the bill at the 11th hour that Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) said after the vote, "Only God knows what's in this monstrosity."
"The budget bill included some good news - increased funding for clean water, land acquisition and addressing global warming - but it still contained riders that do serious harm to the environment," said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. (See "Good News" and "Bad News" below.)
Something else was apparent, according to Club Legislative Director Debbie Sease: "This was a fatally flawed process that yielded a terribly flawed bill, and it must not happen again next year."
Sease characterized the leadership of the 105th Congress as "sneaks who worked in backrooms and used legislative tactics that excluded the public to gain passage for bills that would otherwise be rejected.
"We oppose this way of doing business," said Sease, "and we'll be asking President Clinton to begin the next Congress with a declaration that he will not tolerate anti-environmental riders."
The Good News
The good news is that in final negotiations, Congress stripped provisions that would have:
allowed helicopters in Alaska's wilderness;
put the brakes on salmon restoration efforts in the Northwest;
granted officials of the International Monetary Fund the power to tell Third World countries which environmental laws to eliminate as "trade barriers"; and
punished non-governmental organizations for lobbying or speaking about abortion with their own funds.
Also, Congress reinstated the contraceptive-coverage bill that requires most federal health plans covering prescription drugs to also cover prescription contraceptive drugs and devices.
Many other anti-environmental riders were neutralized or greatly improved during negotiations including provisions that would punch a road through the Chugach Forest in Alaska, regulate fishing in Glacier Bay in Alaska and mandate huge increases in logging in the Tongass.
The Bad News
Anti-environmental riders that stuck to the final bill included provisions that will:
-- double the timber cut in three national forests in California and set a dangerous national precedent (Quincy Logging Bill);
prevent the Interior Department from requiring companies to repair damage to lands they have mined;
betray the Clean Air Act by mandating a four-year delay in the phaseout of the pesticide methyl bromide, a chemical that has serious health effects and contributes to ozone depletion;
allow grazing on 25 million acres of public lands without environmental review;
worsen pollution and speed global warming by preventing the Department of Transportation from improving fuel-economy standards;
limit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ability to enact new programs to curb global-warming pollution;
limit the environmental review process and facilitate building a new toll road through pristine wildlands in California's Orange County.
Go on to the next article, " Okefenokee Spared from Mine"
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