Rep. Erik Paulsen’s environmental record, as I’ve written before, leaves a lot to be desired. But just how bad is it?
The short answer: it’s pretty bad. Take, for instance, a single appropriations bill from 2016, H.R. 5538. The bill itself was a mixed bag. It decreased funding for the EPA, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, but increased funding for the National Parks Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Bureaux of Indian Affairs and Indian Education.
H.R. 5538 passed the House in July of last year. The Senate took no action on it. But a close reading of the bill’s amendments is useful for understanding where Erik Paulsen stands on important environmental issues.
One amendment allowed the inclusion of three proposed Arctic Ocean lease sales in the 2017-2022 offshore drilling lease plan. The amendment would open the Arctic up to the fossil fuel industry for oil and gas exploration and — through the sale of 10 billion barrels of oil — dramatically accelerate climate change. An oil spill in the Arctic — an ever-present danger where oil extraction is concerned — would be difficult or impossible to contain. And Native American communities — the communities that would be most affected by an oil spill in the region — have expressed grave concerns about just such a possibility. Despite all this, Paulsen voted in favor of the amendment.
Another significant amendment would have offered additional protections for the gray wolf, the greater sage-grouse, and the lesser prairie-chicken — all species protected by the Endangered Species Act. Paulsen — apparently eager to get Minnesota’s gray wolves moved from the “threatened” to the “endangered” list — voted against the amendment.
Paulsen’s irresponsible vote on the amendment is especially troubling given the precarious position of gray wolves. As Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), the amendment’s sponsor, said, “The scientific experts have shown, and courts have confirmed, that the best available science does not justify the removal of all ESA protections for gray wolves at this time.” In the Rocky Mountains, where such protections had been removed, Beyer explained, the gray wolves are “continually persecuted by hunters and ranchers despite the positive impacts they have had on the ecosystem and the minimal toll they take on livestock.”
The third amendment to H.R. 5538 that defines Paulsen’s record on the environment is House Amendment 1307. Introduced by California’s Democratic Representative Scott Peters, the amendment would have required federal rulemakers to include the social cost of carbon — the added health, economic, environmental, and public safety costs due to fossil fuel use — into their rulemaking process. As Peters explained: “If we continue on our current path, by 2050, between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of existing coastal property will likely be below sea level nationwide. … Greenhouse gas-driven changes in temperature by burning fossil fuels will necessitate construction of new power [plants that are estimated to] cost residential and commercial ratepayers as much as $12 billion per year. That is $12 billion that could be spent by families to put their kids through school or to buy a home. It could be spent by businesses to hire more employees or give annual bonuses.”
Including the social cost of carbon in the rulemaking process would be a big step toward combating climate change. But Rep. Paulsen, predictably, opposed the amendment.
These amendments are case studies within a single bill, but they’re consistent with Erik Paulsen’s overall environmental record. Votes like these are why he earned a lifetime rating of just 16 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, and an abysmal zero percent rating from Clean Water Action.
Paulsen isn’t going to fight to protect us from climate change. He’s not going to fight to protect our nation’s endangered species or the coastal communities of the Arctic. In fact, there’s only one group he seems interested in fighting for: the fossil fuel industry.
Featured image via YouTube.