July 10, 2023

Group finds ‘poison pills’ in GOP budget targeting climate action, more

Bill Moree

The U.S. Capitol building, in 2022.

Federal spending bills drafted by Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives include what the Clean Budget Coalition describes as 17 different poison pills in the form of policy riders related to climate change, water quality and clean energy.

The Clean Budget Coalition is a group of nearly 260 advocacy organizations that focuses on stopping riders they say could harm their communities. These include riders targeting both environmental and social justice measures.

The advocacy organizations include the Environmental Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, League of Conservation Voters, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others.

“The climate poison pills Republican budget leaders proposed are unsound, and they show that GOP leadership is not serious about working with Democrats to pass a budget and prevent a government shutdown,” Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for political affairs at Environmental Defense Fund, said in a press release. “Their proposed budget, because of these poison pills and cuts to critical clean energy programs, would harm public health and raise energy costs for families and businesses. This is not a starting point for any reasonable negotiations.”

The “poison pills” include a rider that would block the federal government from purchasing electric vehicles or batteries for EVs or from building charging stations or related infrastructure as well as a rider that would stop implementation of an executive order calling for federal agencies to achieve net-zero emissions at their facilities by 2045 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2032. 

Republicans have also introduced measures to block funding for the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries reach emissions and climate-resilience goals and to block funding that helps developing countries transition to clean energy sources.

Another rider would block funding to finalize or enforce a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate disclosure rule. This rule would require corporations to disclose information such as climate-related risks in filings like registration statements, periodic reports and audited financial statements. The companies would also need to disclose greenhouse gas emissions under the proposed rule.

One rider that could have direct implications for New Mexico is the Justice40 rider, which would prohibit funding related to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Justice40 initiative. This initiative is intended to increase investments in disadvantaged communities. Those investments could be in clean energy, energy efficiency, affordable and sustainable housing, workforce development, clean transportation options, water infrastructure and remediation of legacy pollution. 

Following President Joe Biden’s Justice40 initiative, the City of Albuquerque implemented measures aimed at delivering 40 percent of overall benefits from federal funding to disadvantaged communities.

The Clean Budget Coalition also identified a rider that would stop the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission from using federal funds to end the sale or use of gas-powered stoves, cooktops, ranges or ovens even if evidence shows that the product could harm people’s health. A recent study found that gas-powered stoves release toxic benzene into the air.

The coalition also found a rider that would block a revised definition of Waters of the United States.

David Shadburn, the senior government affairs advocate at the League of Conservation Voters, said in a press release that House Republicans “continue using the same tired playbook” and are “hijacking must-pass bills” by including measures “neither the public nor Congress support but benefit their polluter donors.”

“These must-pass spending bills are already loaded down with harmful poison pill riders that need to be removed – the last thing Congress should do is add more,” Shadburn said.

The 17 riders related to environment, clean energy and climate change are among 113 poison pill policy riders that the Clean Budget Coalition has identified.

There are 14 riders targeting reproductive rights including abortion, contraception and women’s health, two riders that would prohibit funding for drag queens and two riders that would ban displaying pride flags at certain facilities. The Clean Budget Coalition has also identified five riders aimed at prohibiting gender-affirming healthcare and six riders attempting to ban critical race theory.

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-New Mexico, told NM Political Report in a statement that “House Republicans are making a mockery of the appropriations process by imposing a series of poison pill environmental riders that they know are too unpopular to pass on their own.”

She said those “shameful riders” could have devastating impacts for New Mexicans.

Stansbury said the riders would cut crucial clean energy programs, resulting in higher energy costs for families and businesses while also harming public health. 

“Their brazen willingness to prioritize corporate greed over the needs of the American people is reprehensible,” Stansbury said. “Our communities have fundamental rights to breathe clean air, drink pure water, and determine their own destinies. I won’t stop fighting to make that future a reality.”