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Get Ready: The GOP Has Declared War on the Environment

Republicans are trying to take down the EPA and with it environmental regulation that seeks to protect our air, water, food and health.

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The bill also strips the EPA of funding to enforce regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, and, in an amendment, bans it from regulating greenhouse gases for good measure. The greenhouse gas issue has been a sticking point for Republicans and even some Democrats for some time. Without successful passage of a climate bill by Congress in the last Congress, the EPA retains its legal requirement of regulating greenhouse gas emissions. During the last Congress, with Democratic majorities in both houses, both parties knew if they did not want the EPA regulating greenhouse gas emissions, they had to compromise on a climate bill (likely a cap and trade system) replacing the EPA's greenhouse gas regulatory authority. But without a Democratic majority in the house, the Republicans are now free to remove the EPA's regulatory authority over greenhouse gas and replace it with nothing. However, this idea might meet trouble in the Senate.

The House is now holding the government hostage as it pushes for passage of its budget bill. If the Senate, still in the hands of Democrats, cannot come to a compromise with House Republicans by March 4, the government will shut down. This happened in the mid-1990s during a standoff between Congressional Republicans and President Bill Clinton, and Clinton came out ahead. This time around, Republicans are hoping that Senate Democrats who refuse to accept the budget bill, which cuts spending for low-income heating subsidies, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and much more, in addition to its assault on the EPA, will be blamed by the public if the government shuts down.

But even if Senate Democrats find a way to send this bill to the president without the provisions that defund and strip authority from the EPA (with or without a government shutdown), this is clearly just the beginning of the Republican war on the EPA. We can expect two years of such attacks on the EPA, and even if they are blocked by the Senate, they will keep the EPA focused on responding to attacks, subpoenas, and oversight hearings instead of doing more to protect the environment. Furthermore, the negative press generated about the EPA might turn public opinion against environmental regulation. And, of course, there's the likelihood that some of the Republicans ideas will be included in final bills passed by Congress as part of a compromise. Buckle up -- it's going to be a long two years.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. .

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