CD074: The March Bills

This episode highlights the bills that passed the House of Representatives in March, including a bill that allows toxic mountaintop removal waste to be dumped in streams, a bill that skips environmental reviews for new nuclear power plants, a bill that wasn’t meant to become law but could screw over every government employee if it did, a bill that prevents the government from managing water rights, multiple bills to chip away at ObamaCare, and more.

Bills Presented in This Episode

Every one of these bills passed the House of Representatives in March, 2014 and is now awaiting action in the Senate.


HR 311: “Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act” FUELS Act

Sponsored by Rep. Eric “Rick” Crawford of Arkansas

Relaxes the EPA rule that requires farms install spill prevention equipment if they store oil on their properties.

This bill became law as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, although with different numbers. The previous law said that a farm would need to install spill prevention equipment if they stored more than 1,320 gallons of oil on their property and would have to have that equipment inspected and certified by an engineer if they stored more than 10,000 gallons of oil. The new law says that the farm must get oil spill prevention equipment if they store more than 6,000 gallons of oil on their property and must have that equipment inspected and certified by an engineer if they have over 20,000 gallons of oil.

H.R. 311 would have allowed farms to store up to 42,000 gallons of oil before they would have to have oil spill prevention equipment installed and certified by and engineer.

The author of H.R. 311 was Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas; he has taken over $278,000 from the crop production and basic processing industry.

H.R. 938: United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014
Sponsored by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida

Would add Israel to a list of countries that gets approved faster for weapons shipments from the United States.
Title II: Takes a $2 million a year grant program for renewable energy research and development and shifts its money towards natural gas.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s top contributor is the “Pro-Israel” lobby, which has given her over $893,000.

The bill passed 410-1.

Additional Information:

Analysis: Israeli natural gas fields hold big promise for Noble Energy, Reuters, February 10, 2014.

HR 1459: Ensuring Public Involvement in the Creation of National Monuments Act
Sponsored by Rob Bishop of Utah

  • Changes the rules for creating a National Monument.
  • Requires environmental reviews of proposed National Monuments.
  • The President can only create one National Monument per state per term; any additional National Monument declarations must be created by Congress.

Rep. Rob Bishop’s campaign’s top contributing industry for the upcoming election is the oil and gas industry, which has given him $22,000. In total, the oil and gas industry has given Rep. Rob Bishop over $150,000. Another industry that benefits from this bill is real estate, Rep. Rob Bishop’s fourth most generous contributing industry, which has given him over $100,000.

This bill had the closest vote of the month, passing 222-201.

HR 1814: Equitable Access to Health and Care Act (EACH Act)
Sponsored by Aaron Schock of Illinois

On Monday, June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can pick and choose what is included in their employee’s health coverage, so long as they say that that coverage is against the owners’ religion. This ruling means that H.R. 1814 would have far wider implications than originally intended if it were to become law.

HR 1814 let’s people get out of buying health insurance entirely if they say their “sincerely held religious beliefs” say they can’t get medical care. If someone went to the doctor that year voluntarily, the exemption would be nullified. There’s no penalty for lying.

After the Supreme Court decision, if H.R. 1814 were to become law, corporations might be able to get out of providing for their employees by claiming that doing so is against their religion. The bill passed overwhelmingly in March, without a recorded vote, but it’s future now looks bleak in the Senate.

H.R. 2641: Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act (RAPID Act)
Sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania

  • Prohibits more than one environmental impact statement and one environmental assessment per project.
  • Allows the company applying for a permit to conduct that environmental review.
  • Lets the Federal government, at the company’s request, accept an environmental analysis that was prepared under State laws; the State laws have to be “substantially equivalent to NEPA” – not entirely, meaning that the Federal government can accept environmental studies that are not as stringent as NEPA.
  • The Federal government can use the environmental analysis of a completely different but similar project in “geographical proximity” that was prepared within the last five years. “Geographical proximity” is not defined.
  • All project reviews must be done at the same time.
  • If other agencies are supposed to be involved in the environmental study process. they will have 30 days to respond to the lead agency or forever hold their peace. The other agencies won’t be allowed to participate or even submit comments if they didn’t respond in those first 30 days.
  • Once a project schedule has been created, the lead agency is not allowed to respond to or include any NEPA document, comment, or new information that was submitted outside the time allotted for environmental analysis in the schedule.
  • Sets time limits for environmental impact statements and public comment periods.
  • If the lead agency doesn’t meet these deadlines, the permit is deemed approved. The permit can not be reversed by any agency or the courts.
  • Bars judicial review of Federal permits, with a few narrow exceptions

Representatives Quoted in This Segment (in order of appearance):

Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas

HR 2824: Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America
Sponsored by Bill Johnson of Ohio

Forces the States to comply with a rule that allows the waste from mountaintop removal for coal mining operations to be dumped into rivers and streams. The rule was implemented in the last days of the Bush Administration and was recently thrown out by the courts because it didn’t comply with the Endangered Species Act.

Bill Johnson, the author of this gift to the coal industry, has taken over $200,000 from the mining industry.

The bill passed 229-192.

Representatives Quoted in This Segment (in order of appearance):

HR 3189: Water Rights Protection Act
Sponsored by Rep. Scott Tipton of Colorado

This bill prohibits the Federal government from requiring companies operating on public land to turn over their water rights as a part of their lease renewals.

The bill was written to settle a dispute over a Forest Service directive that would have required ski resorts operating on public land to turn over their water rights to the government in order to keep operating on public land. The Forest Service had already retracted that directive at the time this bill passed. The bill however, would prohibit the entire Department of Agriculture and the entire Department of the Interior from requiring the relinquishment of water rights as part of a permit to operate on public land, meaning the bill would effect far more than just ski resorts.

The bill passed 238-174. No Republicans voted against it.

Witnesses quoted from the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Power’s hearing from October 10, 2013 (in order of appearance):

Representatives Quoted in This Segment (in order of appearance):

HR 3826: Electricity Security and Affordability Act
Sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky

  • The EPA will be not be allowed to enact any standard on fossil fuel powered electric utilities that regulates emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and a few other gases unless at least 6 utilities have already been meeting the standard for over a year; no results of demonstration projects can be included.
  • Prohibits some specific proposed EPA rules from ever going into effect.
  • Rules enacted by the EPA to set emission standards on fossil fuel utilities can’t go into effect until Congress passes a Federal law to set the enactment date.

Ed Whitfield’s second highest contributor over the course of his career has been electric utilities; he’s taken over $614,000 from them. Electric utilities are his top contributor for the upcoming 2014 election; he’s taken over $157,000 and counting for this election alone. Ed Whitfield has also taken almost half a million over the course of his career from the oil and gas industry, over $100,000 of that for this upcoming election.

The bill passed 229-183.

HR 4015: SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014
Sponsored by Michael Burgess of Texas

This bill repeals the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) method of paying doctors who treat Medicare patients. The SGR rate ties the doctors’ payments to the growth of the economy, which has short changed the doctors as medical costs have risen and the economy has remained flat.

In it’s place, HR 4015 establishes what they call a “merit-based incentive payment system” that would come into effect on January 1, 2018. It creates a complicated system of scoring doctors based on their performance.

Section 10, however, waives the tax penalty for not buying health insurance until 2019. This provision will kill the bill in the Senate.

The bill passed 238-181. No Republicans voted against it.

HR 4118: SIMPLE Fairness Act
Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas

Delays the tax penalty assessed if you fail to buy health insurance for one year.

The Congressional Budget Office determined that the result will be that one million fewer Americans sign up for health insurance over the next few years, with half of those being poor people eligible for Federal subsidies. The government would save a few billion over the next ten years, therefore, by not giving health insurance to poor people.

Rep. Lynn Jenkins top five contributing industries include both health professionals and insurance. She’s taken over $300,000 from both.

Representatives Quoted in This Segment (in order of appearance):

HR 4138: ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014
Sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina

  • Allows the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the Congress as a whole to to “bring civil action” against another part of the government if Congress doesn’t think that part of the government is “faithfully executing the law”
  • Allows either part of Congress to sue over the actions of the Executive branch, any department or agency or “any other officer or employee” of the United States for formal or informal policies, practices or procedures.
  • Before Congress can file these civil suits, Congress needs to pass a resolution.
  • After the lawsuit is filed in a district court, the rules are that the lawsuit will be heard by a three-judge court and their decision can only be appealed directly to the Supreme Court.

This bill was presented as a solution to the “problem” of an Executive Branch that refuses to enforce the law. This bill, however, is so broadly and carelessly written that it appears to allow Congress to sue any part of the government, individual employees included, if Congress determines they have not “faithfully executed the law.”

Stars of the "President Obama Sucks" montage

Stars of the “President Obama Sucks” montage

The only clear winners if this bill became law are the lawyers who would get to argue these civil cases. The author of the bill, Rep. Trey Gowdy, is a lawyer. Trey Gowdy’s most generous contributing industry are lawyers and law firms, which have given him over $188,000 during his two terms in Congress.

The bill passed 233-181, with the support of every, single Republican. It stands no chance in the Senate.

Representatives Quoted in This Segment (in order of appearance):

Ignored Subpoena

Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania informed the House of Representatives that he is not going to comply with a subpoena. It’s not clear exactly what the subpoena was for but he has been under Federal investigation for various improprieties since 2007.

Additional Information:

Pennsylvania Rep. Chaka Fattah vows to fight federal subpoena, Washington Times, March 13, 2014.

Music Presented in This Episode

March of the Pigs by A Thousand Suns (found on Music Alley by mevio)

Intro and Exit Music: Tired of Being Lied To by David Ippolito (found on Music Alley by mevio)