Based on a recent study of Congressional votes in 2011, there is no hope at all. 2011 is recorded as the most anti-environment Congressional year to date. And if the last 72 hours are any indication, this bill is sure to solidify this year’s place in history.
Last week, Republicans tacked several environmentally disastrous provisions onto a bill that would extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance for two months. If workers would receive help from the government, Republicans wanted to ensure that Big Oil and Big Coal got something out of the deal, too.
So, a bill that was originally meant to help working class Americans survive the current recession, would also decrease regulations on boilers and force the President to decide whether or not to approve the XL pipeline in the next 60 days. If all goes as planned, the Republicans will have their pipeline approved as workers lose their tax cut and benefits.
To be fair, the Senate Democrats shortened the tax cut to the two-month limit because they cannot agree with Republicans on how the tax cut should be funded.
And now, in an impressive show of ineffective representative democracy, the House of Representatives refuses to sign the bill! Now that most of the Senate has gone home for the holidays, they want to alter the bill and extend the tax cut for a full year. An oil pipeline and dirty air are not enough; they want to demonize Democrats, as well. All of this fussing because the parties cannot agree how to fund the tax cut.
Ultimately, the point of this political exercise is to ram through the XL project without the completion of proper reviews and studies. Some were done in the past, but it was discovered that they were performed by TransCanada’s own contractors. But that conversation is not taking place on the House floor because it is hidden in the annals of a lengthy bill covered in irrelevant riders.
The XL pipeline project deserves its own examination – it should not be a footnote on a tax bill used to bully the President and State Department. Likewise, the provision that reduces the EPA’s ability to protect the air we breathe should have its turn in the spotlight, instead of being overshadowed by the XL project. Clearly, Congress is prioritizing issues without concern for the environment. It votes secretly on environmental issues by disguising them as payroll tax cuts.
The Green movement tends to focus on the financial corruption that supports polluters. However, the payroll tax cut debate highlights the political mechanisms in place that enable the polluters. Our laws are too vulnerable to manipulation, leaving we, the people, defenseless.
The latest Congressional showdown demonstrates that the nature of our political process is an obstacle to fighting climate change. We need to do more than change our leaders every two to four years.