Raul Labrador on Environment
The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, or Natural Resources Committee, has jurisdiction over issues of:
112th Mid-Term Humane Scorecard: The Humane Society Legislative Fund has posted the final version of the 2011 Humane Scorecard, where you can track the performance of your federal lawmakers on key animal protection issues during last year. We rated legislators based on their voting behavior on measures such as agribusiness subsidies, lethal predator control, and the Endangered Species Act; their cosponsorship of priority bills on puppy mills, horse slaughter, animal fighting, and chimps in research; their support for funding the enforcement of animal welfare laws; and their leadership on animal protection. All of the priority bills whose cosponsorships we're counting enjoy strong bipartisan support; in the House, each of the four now has more than 150 cosponsors.
The Humane Scorecard is not a perfect measuring tool, but creating some reasonable yardstick and allowing citizens to hold lawmakers accountable is central to our work. When the Humane Scorecard comes out each year, it helps clarify how the animal protection movement is doing geographically, by party affiliation, and in other categories. It helps us chart our course for animals by seeing where we have been effective, and where we need to improve.
Congressional Summary:Amends the Clean Water Act to prohibit the EPA from requiring permits for a discharge of stormwater runoff resulting from silviculture activities.
Opponent's argument against bill: (Evergreen Magazine and Washington Forest Law Center): In Aug. 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that polluted stormwater generated by logging roads is subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. [The ruling meant] that rain runoff from forest roads constituted an industrial (not forestry) activity, which should be considered a "point source" discharge under the CWA. The lawsuit was brought because forest roads have been dumping sediment into rivers that support myriad species of salmon and resident trout, all of which are at risk from the pollution. The ruling will require State agencies to issue permits and ensure that road construction and maintenance practices limit or eliminate such discharges.
In March 2013, the US Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit: permits are not required for stormwater discharges from pipes, ditches and channels along logging roads. [This legislation supports the Supreme Court ruling, against the Ninth Circuit conclusion].
Proponent's argument for bill: (Press release by sponsors):
Sen. WYDEN (D-OR): "We need a healthy timber industry to provide timber jobs and to do the restoration work that ensures healthy forests. The way to do that is to stop litigating questions that have already been answered."
Sen. CRAPO (R-ID): "The jobs and economic activities relating to the forest products industry are critical to the Pacific Northwest. The Clean Water Act was not intended to regulate stormwater runoff on forest roads."
Rep. HERRERA BEUTLER (R-WA): "At the heart of our efforts are the moms and dads employed by healthy, working forests--and passing this law will help make sure they have jobs, and will help make our forests healthy."
Argument in opposition: (by Rep. Bishop, D-NY-1)
The enactment of H.R. 5078 would, unfortunately, lock in place the interpretive guidance of the Bush administration: traditional Clean Water Act protections over a significant percentage of waters has been called into question or have simply been lost. These are protections that existed for over 30 years prior to the issuance of the first Bush-era guidance in 2003 and are now all but lost, making it harder and more costly for individual States to protect their own waters should their upstream neighbors be unwilling or unable to fill in the gap in protecting water quality.
Pollution needs to go somewhere, and since pollution does not respect State boundaries when it travels downstream, it will have an adverse impact on the quality of life and the quality of the environment of those downstream States. Under H.R. 5078, the EPA would be prohibited from ensuring that polluters in Connecticut continue to reduce excessive amounts of nitrogen in the Sound, leaving my constituents in the State of New York without any recourse to stop them.
A BILL to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods.
Cato Institute recommendation on voting YES: President Obama quietly signed legislation requiring special labeling for commercial foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)--plants and animals with desirable genetic traits that were directly implanted in a laboratory. Most of the foods that humans & animals have consumed for millennia have been genetically modified, by cross-fertilization. Yet the new law targets only the highly precise gene manipulations done in laboratories. Anti-GMO activists oppose the new law because it preempts more rigorous regulation. And that's exactly the goal of this bill, to the frustration of the anti-GMO crowd.
JustLabelit.org recommendation on voting NO (because not restrictive enough): Senators Roberts (R-KS) and Stabenow (D-MI) introduced a compromise bill that would create a mandatory, national labeling standard for GMO foods. This bill falls short of what consumers expect--a simple at-a-glance disclosure on the package. As written, this compromise might not even apply to ingredients derived from GMO soybeans and GMO sugar beets. We in the consumer rights community have dubbed this the "Deny Americans the Right-to-Know" Act (DARK Act). We need to continue pressing for mandatory GMO labeling on the package.
Heritage Foundation recommendation on voting NO (because too restrictive): The House should allow [states, at their choice,] to impose [a more] restrictive labeling mandate, but prohibit the state from regulating out-of-state food manufacturers engaged in interstate commerce. Instituting a new, sweeping, federal mandate that isn't based on proven science shouldn't even be an option.
Legislative outcome: Passed by the Senate on July 7th, passed by the House on July 14th; signed by the President on July 29th