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Climate change funding curb fought

September 15, 1999
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT)


By Environmental News Network staff

The Environmental Defense Fund believes that this summer's intense heat and drought should be a wake-up call to legislators about the dangers of global warming.
The Environmental Defense Fund believes that this summer's intense heat and drought should be a wake-up call to legislators about the dangers of global warming.
The Environmental Defense Fund sent a letter recently to all members of the U.S. Senate appropriations committees asking them to strike anti-environmental climate change riders from the budget appropriations bills.

EDF denounced the riders as an unfortunate strategy that would obstruct voluntary actions to reduce greenhouse gases, undermine international negotiations on the Kyoto climate treaty and slow research in progress about the effects of global climate change. The rider language was added by Rep. Joseph Knollenberg, R-Mich.

"These riders, and the accompanying report language in several bills, deliberately seek to prevent the administration from engaging in a number of voluntary activities to protect Americans from the impacts of climate change," states the letter.

The riders in question are attached to the House versions of the Agriculture, Energy and Water, Foreign Operations, Interior, VA/HUD/Independent Agencies and Commerce/Justice/State appropriations bills. All the bills have been passed by the House and are ready to go to conference, including the VA/HUD appropriations bill, which was just passed on last week.

This language is not included in the Senate versions of the appropriations bills, many of which have not yet been passed. The EDF sent their letter to the Senate members of the conferencing committees in hopes of encouraging the senators to strike the rider language from the House version of the bills during conference. The House and Senate will rectify their versions of the bills over the next month.

Virtually the same in all the bills, the rider language is as follows:

"That none of the funds appropriated by this Act shall be used to propose or issue rules, regulations, decrees, or orders for the purpose of implementation, or in preparation for implementation, of the Kyoto Protocol which was adopted on December 11, 1997, in Kyoto, Japan, at the Third Conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which has not been submitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification pursuant to article II, section 2, clause 2, of the United States Constitution and which has not entered into force pursuant to article 25 of the Protocol."
Paul Welday, chief of staff for Knollenberg, said that they prefer not to call the language a rider. Rather, he says, it is "part of the legislation" that was included in the original base of the bill that was adopted by the appropriations sub committee and remained in the bill through approval by the House. "It is truly an expression of the will of Congress," he said.

As the rider states, the Kyoto protocol has not been ratified by the Senate, which is required by the Constitution. The Clinton administration has not presented the protocol to the Senate because it knows that it would be "dead on arrival", said Welday.

The language, he said, is directed at the administration and the EPA in particular because they have been implementing some provisions of the protocol and thereby going around the constitutional process.

Knollenberg and his supporters feel there are several problems with the treaty, beginning with the claim that the scientific basis for global warming is questionable. The same people that said 20 years ago that the Earth was cooling down are the same ones that said the Earth is now heating up, said Welday. "The science is immature at best."

Another bone of contention is that the treaty excludes developing countries from having to abide by the protocol. Countries such as Mexico, India and China are also responsible for the emissions that are being blamed for global warming, said Welday, and therefore the terms of the treaty unfairly punish the United States and other developed western nations.

With regard to the Knollenberg line on the science of global warming, "Major scientific opinion says they are dead wrong," said Thompson of the EDF. In the view of the EDF, Knollenberg and his compatriots are highly ideological and simply choose not to believe the science. "They have heavily politicized a scientific issue," she said. "They just want to shut down the process."

It also is not the case that the administration is carrying out the provisions of the protocol before it has been ratified, said Thompson. It appears that Knollenberg and his colleagues define any efforts to reduce emissions, and by extension global warming, as implementation of the Kyoto treaty.

Backdoor Legislating: A Status Report on the Environment and the 106th Congress, a study recently completed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, underscores the anti-environmental nature of the Knollenberg-sponsored rider and draws attention to another possible explanation for the representative's position on the protocol and global warming in general:

"This rider ignores the United State's existing commitments to reduce emissions under the Senate-ratified Rio Treaty (1992) and limits the federal government's ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, allowing for higher emission levels of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants. The provision could even affect voluntary programs to reduce energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions. This rider directly benefits the automotive and electric utility industries that gave Rep. Knollenberg more than $100,000 in the last election cycle, according to numbers compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics."
"These riders pack the biggest wallop on the Foreign Operations and Commerce/Justice/State bills," said Elizabeth Thompson, legislative director for the EDF. The Foreign Operations bill funds the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Commerce/Justice/State bill appropriates monies for the State Department. "These are the agencies that do a lot on climate change issues in the international sphere," she said.

According to the EDF, the riders would affect current efforts to protect the public from the impacts of climate change, and also would:

  • Prohibit the administration from engaging in international negotiations on climate change. These negotiations are critical to finding a cost-effective international solution to this truly global problem, a solution that also must include key developing nations. EDF believes that these riders are unconstitutional, as well as bad for the environment. The EDF is calling the riders unconstitutional because, if included on the bills, they will hinder the executive branch's constitutional role of developing and implementing foreign policy, with advice and consent from the Senate.

  • Block voluntary programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including Energy Star and Green Lights, both of which enjoy wide support in both the environmental community and U.S. industry, precisely at a time when these programs are beginning to show significant results in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Skew scientific forums and the scientific process, in part by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to provide "balanced" viewpoints on climate change in panels or presentations, no matter how unscientific the position.
"This is a backdoor method of making law on climate change," said Thompson. "The intense heat experienced by much of the U.S. this summer should serve as a wake-up call to the dangers of global warming. We urge Congress to prevent these riders from ever becoming law."

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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Environmental Defense Fund
Natural Resources Defense Council
EPA Global Warming Site
Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change
THOMAS U.S. Congress on the Internet
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