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Omnibus Bill Includes Riders to Ramp Up Logging, Weaken Wildlife Protections

For Immediate Release, March 22, 2018

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, bhartl@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2018) — The $1.3 trillion spending bill unveiled in Congress on Wednesday includes harmful provisions to ramp up logging on public lands, weaken protections for endangered species and fund portions of an environmental destructive border wall.

The bill, however, does not include most of the anti-environment riders proposed by Republicans, including ending protections for wolves in the Great Lakes states, allowing a toxic mine in the Superior National Forest and undermining the National Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which would have allowed damaging road building in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. It also contains significant funding for conservation and spares the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge from destructive border wall fences.

“We’re very grateful to Democrats for keeping many of the worst riders out of this bill. Unfortunately, there are still some pretty nasty provisions in there for the environment,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Republican members of Congress who hold the entire government hostage to insist on damaging environmental riders are why people are fed up with this dysfunctional Congress.”

The omnibus contains an expansion of the so-called Healthy Forestry Restoration Act of 2003 and will now allow logging projects under the guise of “hazard fuel reduction” of 3,000 acres without any meaningful review under the National Environmental Policy Act or the ability for citizen to object to damaging projects.

The omnibus also includes the so-called Cottonwood legislation introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) that would weaken Endangered Species Act protections on all national forests. The provision allows the Forest Service to continue to approve destructive logging, mining and grazing actions regardless of the consequence to endangered species — even if a species is added to the endangered species list because of those activities.

“National forests and endangered animals will suffer for decades to come, and wildlife may even go extinct, due to the terrible handouts snuck into this bill by Tester and Daines,” said Hartl. “It’s sad that the price of keeping our government open for a few more months includes these provisions that are bad for people and wildlife.”

Also included in the proposed spending bill are harmful riders that would:

Prevent the federal government from protecting people and wildlife from lead ammunition and fishing tackle;
Limit Endangered Species Act protections for sage grouse;
Restrict the EPA from regulating fill materials in wetlands.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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Senate Democrats’ Jobs & Infrastructure Plan For America’s Workers Provides Real Investments, Protects Communities and Our Health

WASHINGTON, DC (March 07, 2018) – In response to a new infrastructure proposal introduced by Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Raul Garcia, Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel, issued the following statement:
 
“Finally, a plan that recognizes what the American people have known all along – that we can have real infrastructure investment without gutting environmental safeguards that protect the air we breathe, water we drink, and communities we call home. This plan looks at our national infrastructure and our environment as something worth investing into while the President’s plan simply wants to sell them off to wealthy corporations.
 
Unlike President Trump’s scam infrastructure plan, the Democrats’ plan is both practical and actionable. It protects the environment and our health, it is inclusive to local communities and it provides real investment in building safe, clean and resilient infrastructure. While the President’s plan guts health and safety protections, it is all smoke and mirrors when it comes to actual investment. The Jobs and Infrastructure Plan for America’s Workers is the real thing.”
 

 

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28 Groups Unite Against Trump Plan

WASHINGTON, DC (February 12, 2018) – Today, President Trump introduced a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure plan that would exempt thousands of infrastructure projects from or otherwise weaken critical environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and more than a dozen other protections.

The 28 organizations named below issued the following statement in response:  

“President Trump’s proposal is an unprecedented giveaway to the wealthy and powerful that would allow his administration and its special interest allies to unilaterally sidestep bedrock conservation, public health, and worker safety laws that keep our families and communities out of harm’s way.

“Across the country, Americans remain overwhelmingly opposed to any plan that would sidestep critical environmental and conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. They know we don’t need to hand over our communities to special interests. They know we don’t need to sacrifice our clean air, clean water, wildlife, and iconic lands and waters.

“President Trump’s dangerous proposal would hand out massive subsidies for wealthy developers to build roads and bridges without any regard to the impacts of hurricanes, fires, or rising seas. Taxpayers have repeatedly built and rebuilt many of the buildings and roads destroyed by disasters like Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma. To continue rebuilding over and over again without taking common-sense, proactive measures to address climate change isn’t just short-sighted – it’s expensive and dangerous.

“America badly needs an infrastructure upgrade. Horrifying events like the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which exposed over 100,000 Americans to high levels of lead in their drinking water, are proof enough of that. But President Trump’s proposal does nothing to address real issues like Flint. Instead, by rubberstamping permits for corporations to build oil pipelines, dams, and toxic waste dumps, gutting environmental and labor laws, and severely limiting the public’s ability to hold government accountable will only make our communities – and our nation – a more dangerous place.”

Here is the alphabetical list of the 27 signers of the joint statement:

32BJ SEIU, American Rivers, Animal Welfare Institute, Alaska Wilderness League, Bold Alliance, Brooklyn Movement Center, Care2, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Community Change Action, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Green Latinos, Hip Hop Caucus, Hispanic Federation, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Patriot Not Partisan, Progressive Congress Action Fund, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Save EPA, Sierra Club, State Innovation Exchange, Western Watersheds Project, The Wilderness Society

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STATEMENT: Sierra Club Disappointed in Decision Favoring Trump Border Wall

San Diego, CA (February 27, 2018) – Today, Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled on the side of the Trump administration in their effort to waive environmental laws to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall in California. The decision will expedite border wall construction in delicate habitat and on public lands.  

In response, Sierra Club Managing Attorney Gloria Smith released the following statement:
“The effects of these waivers and the destruction of a border wall will be long-lasting and detrimental for border communities.
“Waiving these bedrock and bipartisan laws has resulted in flooding in places like Nogales where people lost their lives. The waivers have driven destruction in Native American burial sites. They have killed thousands of species and fragmented habitat. Most concerningly, there is zero accountability or consequence for these outcomes.
“The biggest problem with waiving laws is not judicial or philosophical, it is concrete. The laws that are swept aside are not merely red tape. They are critical protections that were put in place for a reason– to protect people, their communities, and the environment that we depend upon.”

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Contact: 
Courtney Bourgoin
(248) 214 6682
courtney.bourgoin@sierraclub.org

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Trump’s Infrastructure Scam Would Gut Environmental Protections, Sell Off Public Lands, Fail to Fix America’s Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, DC (January 29, 2017) – As reported by the Washington Post, the White House has drafted a proposal to gut environmental protections in an effort to make it easier for corporations to build dangerous pipelines and other environmentally destructive projects, forming the cornerstone of what the White House is calling an infrastructure plan. In addition:

Earlier leaked plans indicate that the Trump administration is seeking to sell public lands off to the fossil fuel industry and other special interests in order to finance its limited spending program.
Taken together, Trump’s proposed federal budget and this plan would actually cut existing funds and kill existing infrastructure jobs — $1.69 in cuts for every $1 in proposed spending.
The plan would be a huge handout to Wall Street banks, whose privatization of roads, bridges, water systems and other public assets will require charging Americans big tolls and fees.
The plan would give the Secretary of the Interior the ability to unilaterally authorize the construction of pipelines in our National Parks and public lands, rather than Congress.

In Response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

“This is not a serious proposal to make the investments America’s infrastructure needs, this is a scam designed to gut clean air, water, and wildlife protections, transform public highways and bridges into privately owned toll roads, and sell off America’s public lands. “We need a plan to create good paying, family-sustaining jobs nationwide by making America a clean energy superpower and investing in public transportation, not a scam to enrich Wall Street. At its core, this proposal is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to give another massive handout to polluters at the expense of our air, water, and health.

“What’s essential is addressing the trillion-dollar elephant in the room: the fact that state and local governments remain starved of badly needed funding, effectively stalling projects before they even get off the ground. Instead, the Trump administration is attempting to exploit the situation to gut bedrock environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many more. Trump and his allies already decided what to do with the money that could fund this project when they handed it to the wealthiest people and corporations in the country.

“Americans know that improving our infrastructure doesn’t have to come at the cost of clean air and clean water. Without bedrock environmental safeguards like the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal government could rubber stamp permits for corporations to build dangerous pipelines and toxic waste dumps.

“When the administration and its Republican allies in Congress use terms like ‘streamlining’ and ‘permitting reform,’ what they are really saying is that they want to eliminate clean air and water safeguards and cut public participation when important decisions are made. We can’t let that happen.”
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Contact:
Adam Beitman
202-670-5585
adam.beitman@sierraclub.org

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Statement on US Forest Service Decision to Downgrade Study on Risks to the BWCA

Ely, MN (January 27, 2017) – Today the U.S. Forest Service significantly downgraded the study of risks posed by sulfide-ore copper mining to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Officials had formerly planned a comprehensive, in-depth scientific and economic Environmental Impact Statement of the Boundary Waters watershed under scenarios with copper mining and no copper mining. The former plan showed respect for Minnesotan’s strong interest in careful decision-making when it comes to the Boundary Waters and its vital role in driving Minnesota’s economy and defining America’s public lands and outdoor heritage. Now, the Forest Service has reduced that process to a simple Environmental Assessment that includes less opportunity for public input and little room for rigorous scientific analysis.

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters issued the following statement:

“There’s no room for shortcuts when it comes to the Boundary Waters,” said Campaign Manager Doug Niemela. “We are very concerned about the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to downgrade the study on the risks to the Boundary Waters from an Environmental Impact Statement to an Environmental Assessment. All Americans, no matter how they feel about this issue, deserve the most thorough and rigorous analysis possible to determine the risks of sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters.

While the U.S. Forest Service has acknowledged that protecting the Wilderness through a land withdrawal has no environmental downsides, the other alternatives being considered – such as converting the Superior National Forest in the headwaters of the Boundary Waters to a sulfide-ore copper mining district – would have catastrophic consequences for one of this nation’s crown jewels.”

 

Contact:
Alex Falconer
Public Affairs and Legislative Director
Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
M: (612) 419-3423
alex@savetheboundarywaters.org

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House GOP Hearing to Focus on Weakening Law Protecting Environment, Public Participation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 28, 2017

Contact:
Paulo Lopes, (202) 849-8398, plopes@biologicaldiversity.org

WASHINGTON (November 28, 2017) — The House Committee on Natural Resources, led by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), will use a hearing Wednesday to justify weakening the National Environmental Policy Act. The Act, often called “NEPA,” is one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws that guarantees public participation in federal agency decision-making and requires that agencies review the environmental impacts of their actions before making a decision. Congressional Republicans this year have introduced more than 45 bills that would weaken NEPA.

“Laws like NEPA help ensure that we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. It’s disgraceful that these Republicans want to weaken it,” said Paulo Lopes, public lands policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Polluters and special interests certainly benefit from these kinds of sweetheart deals but people, wildlife and are environment will certainly lose out.”

NEPA requires that federal agencies take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of their proposed projects either through the completion of a concise “environmental assessment” or a more in-depth “environmental impact statement” for more complex projects. This process is the primary mechanism to ensure public participation in agency decision-making. NEPA has a history of working well. For instance, more than 192,000 projects, worth about $300 billion, successfully went through the NEPA process as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“NEPA provides lifesaving ‘look before you leap’ protections for all of us,” said Lopes. “In the Trump era, where conflict of interest is rampant and industry is firmly in the driver’s seat, NEPA is more vital than ever.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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