As Congress moves to wrap up its year, a lot of important, must-pass legislation is moving quickly through the chambers. That creates the opportunity for politicians to sneak their pet projects into massive bills that most members don’t want to hold up or oppose. This year, that’s meant bad news for the environment — first in the federal budget (aka the Cromnibus bill) and now in the Defense Authorization Act of 2015.
The defense bill — which Congress passed last week and President Obama will soon sign — is full of this kind of pork. Over at DeSmogBlog, Steve Horn digs into how a seemingly non-defense-related plan to expedite fracking on public lands ended up squirreled away inside the 1,616-page legislation.
Buried on page 1,156 of the bill as Section 3021 and subtitled “Bureau of Land Management Permit Processing,” the bill’s passage has won praise from both the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) …
Streamlined permitting means faster turn-around times for the industry’s application process to drill on public lands, bringing with it all of the air, groundwater and climate change issues that encompass the shale production process.
All that needed to happen to clear the way for this faster permitting was a small tweak to how some already-passed legislation was worded. Congress had already enacted a “pilot” program for permitting fracking on public land in the Bakken Shale region; with a few quick word changes in the Defense Authorization Act, that “pilot” program was expanded to all areas that the Bureau of Land Management oversees nationwide.
(Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan (D) submitted a bill last week to ban fracking from all federal lands, but in a Congress soon to be controlled by frack-happy Republicans, it doesn’t stand a chance.)
The defense bill contains other unpleasant anti-environmental provisions too. For instance: Michael McAuliff writes at The Huffington Post that Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake (R) and John McCain (R) succeeded in adding approval for a foreign-owned copper mine in their state that would not only be on public land but also stands to destroy a Native American burial ground.