By Miriam Raftery
June 27, 2009 (Washington D.C.)–H.R. 2996, landmark legislation that aims to protect air, clean up waterways and restore our public lands, has passed the House of Representatives by a 254-173 vote. Among San Diego’s Congressional representatives, Bob Filner and Susan Davis voted in favor of the measure, while Brian Bilbray, Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa voted against it.
The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act emphasizes reducing pollution in air and water, cleaning up dangerous toxic waste sites, boosting production of renewable fuels and encouraging energy efficiency. The bill also eliminates six programs and cuts funding for another 37 in an effort to maintain fiscal responsibility.
“This nation’s legacy lies in its magnificent natural resources,” said Rep. Filner (D-Chula Vista). “With this bill, we can make real progress to clean up our water sources, spur the use and production of clean, efficient energy and help restore the splendor of our lakes, forests and parks.” The bill provides aid to over 1,500 communities to improve their drinking water and wastewater systems. It also provides funding to clean up toxic waste sites and gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tools to study the impact of toxins and pollution on children.
“Our environment has a direct impact on the health and safety of our kids and our families,” said Filner. “By passing this legislation, we can make sure our kids are drinking clean water and breathing clean air. There is no higher priority than protecting their health.”
To support national security objectives and economic recovery efforts, the legislation also reduces reliance on foreign oil and cuts the pollution caused by greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging consumer energy efficiency and the production of clean, renewable American energy. To help Americans save money and make wise environmental decisions, the bill allocates $50 million for the EPA’s successful Energy Star Program – which already saves consumers $14 billion a year in energy costs. The bill also dedicates funds towards the development of renewable clean energy sources on Federal lands and water.
“With this bill, we are making great strides towards meeting our goal of producing 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 and boosting research in new renewable energy sources,” said Rep. Filner. “The future of our country and our planet depends on the investments we make today, and I am proud to say that with the passage of this legislation and the Clean Energy Act, we can all look forward to a brighter future.”
The bill includes a $4.7 billion increase over the prior year, a 17% hike, but is projected to return $14.5 billion in revenues to the federal treasurer. Rep.Michael Simpson (R-Idaho) said he was “pleased by the needed attention this legislation provides our Native American brothers and sisters. There are many unmet needs within Indian country--in education, health care, law enforcement, drug abuse prevention, and other areas--and this bill does a great deal to address these issues.” Simpson objected to increased spending in some areas within the bill. But on one key area, the Republican minority argued that Congress did not allocate enough funding.
“Based upon recent fire patterns and the monumental increase in demand for fire suppression dollars, I feel strongly that the wildfire contingency reserve fund should be funded at the President's request level of $357 million,” Simpson testified. Republicans offered an amendment which increased the fire contingency reserve fund from $250 million to $357 million. The amendment was accepted, however most Republicans voted against the measure in the end. With the exception of Filner, San Diego’s other Congressional representatives did not issue statements or explanations for their votes on this measure.