1. [SEN] Wilderness Preservation/Stop New Roads Through Wilderness: During consideration of the Emergency Supplemental spending bill to provide financial assistance to victims of devastating spring floods in North Dakota and California (S. 672), Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) attached a rider to allow states to pave roads through national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas, using a 130-year old law known as R.S. 2477. This rider would have opened the door to thousands of roads across parks and wildlife refuges including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and newly created Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument in Utah. Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-AR) offered an amendment to remove the Stevens rider from the bill. Sen. Stevens offered a motion to table (kill) the Bumpers amendment. Motion to table adopted 51-49 on May 7, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
2. [SEN] Nuclear Waste/Stop Dangerous Nuclear Waste Transportation Bill: S. 104, The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1998 would needlessly mandate the transportation of highly radioactive waste through 43 states. This would put millions of Americans at risk; preempt state and local laws and portions of key federal laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act; and set a radiation standard for a permanent repository that would result in one excess cancer death per 1100 exposed individuals. The Senate approved S. 104 by a 65-34 vote on April 4, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
3. [SEN] National Forests/Stop Building Subsidized Roads for Timber Industry: The U.S. Forest Service encourages logging in our national forests through a variety of mechanisms, including building roads so that the timber industry can gain access to national forests, and selling the trees for less than the cost of administering the timber sale program. There are currently more than 440,000 miles of roads crisscrossing our National Forests more than ten times the size of the entire Federal Interstate Highway System. New road-building causes soil erosion and stream sedimentation, degrades water quality, and fragments wildlife habitat. An amendment to cut $60 million from the road-building budget in the Interior Appropriations bill offered by Sen. Bryan (D-NV) failed by a 49-51 vote on July 10, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
4. [SEN] Mining Subsidies/Cut $468 Million Giveaway to Mining Industry: Sens. Gregg (R-NH) and Bumpers (D-AR) offered an amendment to S. 949, the Revenue Reconciliation Act, to repeal a tax loophole for mining that occurs on public and previously public lands which have been purchased by the mining industry for $2.50 to $5.00 per acre. The amendment would have raised an extra $468 million in revenues over five years. The amendment was defeated 36-63 on June 26, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
5. [SEN] Water Subsidies/Cut Wasteful Animas La Plata Water Project: The controversial Animas La Plata water project would critically deplete water flows in the Animas and San Juan Rivers and cause continuous water quality violations in downstream New Mexico. This massive unnecessary irrigation project would cost taxpayers at least $503 million. During consideration of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill Sens. Feingold (D-WI), Brownback (R-KS) and McCain (R-AZ) offered an amendment to halt construction of the project. The Senate voted to table the amendment by a 56-42 vote on July 15, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
6. [SEN] Tobacco Subsidies/Cut Tobacco Industry Giveaway: Tobacco is an agricultural product that kills when used as directed. The federal government currently spends at least $94 million annually for special programs and assistance to tobacco farmers. It should get out of this deadly business. Sen. Durbin (D-IL) offered an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill to cut $34 million in crop insurance from the tobacco program. The amendment was defeated 47-53 on July 23,1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
7. [SEN] Campaign Contributions/Amend Constitution to Limit Contributions and Spending: Sens. Hollings (D-SC) and Specter (R-PA) brought a proposed constitutional amendment (S.J. Res 18) to the Senate floor to authorize the Congress and the states to set mandatory limits on campaign spending and contributions. Congress set spending limits in 1974, but they were invalidated by the controversial Supreme Court decision, Buckley vs. Valeo, which extended First Amendment protection to unlimited spending in elections. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 38-61 on March 18, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
8. [SEN] Campaign Contributions/Ban Soft Money: Sens. McCain (R-AZ) and Feingold (D-WI) brought S. 1663 to the floor of the Senate to ban soft money contributions in federal elections. Soft money is unlimited and unregulated funds from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals given to political parties as a way to get around the legal limits on contributions to candidates. While the bill fell short of comprehensive reform, it would be an important first step. A motion to table the bill was defeated by a vote of 48-51 on February 24, 1998. Despite the fact that a majority of Senators supported the bill, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) did not bring it to a final vote due to a filibuster by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
1. [HSE] Endangered Species/Stop Endangered Species Act Flood Waiver: Following on the heels of a disastrous flood season in California, Reps. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Wally Herger (R-CA) introduced H.R. 478, the Flood Prevention and Family Protection Act of 1997, to exempt nearly all flood control activities from compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Despite the lack of credible evidence, Reps. Pombo and Herger blamed the ESA for delays in levee maintenance. This legislation would have exempted virtually any project relating to flood control, including levees, canals, dredging, draining wetlands, clearcutting riparian forests and even massive dam projects, from the requirement that these projects consider and minimize impacts to endangered and threatened species. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) offered an amendment that significantly narrowed H.R. 478 to exempt for one year flood control projects from the ESA in federally declared disaster areas or when there was a substantial threat to human life. The amendment was adopted 227-196 on May 7, 1997. H.R. 478 was pulled from the floor by its supporters before it came to a final vote. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
2. [HSE] Environmental Preservation/Stop Weakening of Land Use Protections: Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) introduced a bill, written with assistance from the National Association of Homebuilders, that would allow developers to sue cities and counties in federal courts over local land use disputes. This bill would circumvent local land use procedures and give developers a big stick to intimidate local governments who do not have the resources to fight expensive federal lawsuits. This bill would also greatly increase the burden on federal courts. H.R. 1534 was opposed by the National Governors Association, the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Attorneys General from 37 states, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conferences of Mayors and the U.S. Judicial Conference (on behalf of federal courts). Adopted 248-178 on October 22, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO.
3. [HSE] Public Lands/Stop Harmful Grazing Practices: Current federal policy for grazing on public lands is worse than a simple taxpayer handout to ranchers. More than two-thirds of our federally owned rangelands have been over-grazed, eroded, or otherwise degraded. Below-cost grazing fees cost taxpayers more than $50 million per year. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR) introduced H.R. 2493 which perpetuates below- cost grazing, fails to improve rangeland management to protect federal fish, wildlife and water resources, and increases program costs. The House passed H.R. 2493 by a vote of 242- 182 on October 30, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
4. [HSE] National Monuments/Oppose Hurdles to New Monuments: Rep. Jim Hansen (R-UT) introduced a bill (H.R. 1127) that would have changed the Antiquities Act to prohibit the President from unilaterally and rapidly designating a national monument larger than 50,000 acres without notifying the governor of the state in which the monument was located and allowing 30 days for the state to comment. In addition, the monument designation would expire after two years unless Congress expressly approved the designation. This legislation would eliminate the Presidents ability to provide immediate protection for threatened lands and resources and allow powerful members of Congress to thwart nationally significant lands protection efforts. Since 1906, presidents have used the Antiquities Act to create 105 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay and Denali. H.R. 1127 was the result of the Utah congressional delegations anger over the most recently designated national monument the 1.7 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. Adopted 229-197 on October 7, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
5. [HSE] Nuclear Waste/Stop Dangerous Nuclear Waste Transportation Bill: H.R. 1270, The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1998 would needlessly mandate the transportation of highly radioactive waste through 43 states. This would put millions of Americans at risk; preempt state and local laws and federal laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act; and set a radiation standard for a permanent repository that would result in one excess cancer death per 286 exposed individuals. The House approved H.R. 1270 by a 307-120 vote on October 30,1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
6. [HSE] Clean Air/Overturn Clean Air Health Protections: In July 1997, the EPA issued regulations under the Clean Air Act to protect public health from ozone (smog) and fine particulates (soot). EPA estimates that the new standards will prevent 15,000 premature deaths, 350,000 cases of aggravated asthma and tens of thousands of hospital admissions, doctor visits and work absences each year. H.R. 1984, introduced by Reps. Ron Klink (D- PA), Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rick Boucher (D-VA), is an effort to overturn the new standards for smog and soot and place a four year moratorium on EPA setting new standards. Co-sponsorship of H.R. 1984 is an anti-public interest action.
7. [HSE] Toxic Chemical Threats/Expand Citizens Right to Know: EPA estimates that there are 80,000 synthetic chemicals on the market today. Fewer than one percent of these are covered by the Community Right to Know Act, the publics best source of information on toxics. A study conducted by Congress Office of Technology Assessment estimated that due to the short list of chemicals and industries covered, the Right to Know Act fails to inform the public about 95 percent of toxic pollution. The Childrens Environmental Protection and Right to Know Act (H.R. 1636), introduced by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Jim Saxton (R-NJ), would fill in many of these gaps, requiring polluters to report on toxic chemical use in products, the workplace and our neighborhoods. The bill will also require polluters to report on some of the most toxic substances known to science such as lead, mercury and dioxins and require labels on products that contain chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive harm or nerve damage. Co-sponsorship of H.R. 1636 is a pro-public interest action.
8. [HSE] National Forests/Stop Building Subsidized Roads for Timber Industry: The U.S. Forest Service encourages logging in our national forests through a variety of mechanisms including building roads so that the timber industry can gain access to national forests, and selling the trees for less than the cost of administering the timber sale program. There are currently more than 440,000 miles of roads crisscrossing our National Forests more than ten times the size of the entire Federal Interstate Highway System. New road-building causes soil erosion and stream sedimentation, degrades water quality, and fragments wildlife habitat. The House was scheduled to vote on an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill offered by Reps. Porter (R-IL), Kennedy (D-MA), Kasich (R-OH), Furse (D-OR), Miller (R-FL), Minge (D-MN), and Cook (R-UT) to cut up to $92 million in timber road-building subsidies. A much weaker, industry-supported substitute amendment was offered by Rep. Dicks (D-WA) and was approved by a 211-209 vote on July 10,1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
9. [HSE] Public Lands/Increase Grazing Fees for Large Ranchers: Current federal policy for grazing on public lands is worse than a simple taxpayer handout to ranchers. More than two-thirds of our federally owned rangelands have been over-grazed, eroded, or otherwise degraded. Below-cost grazing fees cost taxpayers more than $50 million per year. The House passed H.R. 2493, introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR), which would perpetuate below-cost grazing, discourage permittee stewardship and increase program costs. An amendment offered by Rep. Klug (R-WI) that would have significantly raised the federal fees to those charged in the state was rejected by a vote of 205-219 on October 30, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
10. [HSE] Sugar Subsidies/Cut Sugar Industry Subsidy: Through a series of trade restrictions and price controls, the U.S. sugar industry reaps an extra $1.4 billion annually from U.S. consumers. U.S. sugar prices are double those on the world market. Increased production of sugarcane in the Florida Everglades, spurred by this consumer subsidy, has caused disruption of the water flow to the ecosystem and has dumped tons of pollutants, mostly phosphorous, into the Everglades. An amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill offered by Reps. Miller (R-FL) and Schumer(D-NY) to partially reform the sugar program was defeated 175-253 on July 24, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
11. [HSE] Water Subsidy/Cut wasteful Animas La Plata Water Project: The controversial Animas La Plata water project would critically deplete water flows in the Animas and San Juan Rivers and cause continuous water quality violations in downstream New Mexico. This massive unnecessary irrigation project would cost taxpayers at least $503 million. During consideration of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, Reps. Petri (R-WI) and DeFazio (D-OR) offered an amendment to prohibit funds for project construction. Rep. Fazio (D-CA) offered a substitute amendment which essentially allowed the project to go forward. Rep. Fazios amendment passed by a 223-201 vote on July 25, 1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
12. [HSE] Coal Subsidies/Cut Coal Subsidy: Coal is the most polluting of all fossil energy sources. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for approximately one-third of the carbon dioxide and mercury emissions in the U.S. Neither carbon dioxide nor mercury can be substantially reduced from coal-fired power plants at any feasible cost. Nonetheless, the Department of Energy has allocated more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars toward the so-called Clean Coal Technology Program (CCTP). This program is designed to encourage private companies to develop cleaner coal-burning technologies but has been mismanaged. A 1991 General Accounting Office study found that a large portion of the CCTP projects had either been terminated within a few years of being funded, experienced substantial cost increases, or funded technologies which were less effective than those already available. Reps. Klug (R-WI), Miller (R-FL) and Royce (R-CA) offered an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill to cut $292 million from the program. The amendment was defeated by a 173-243 vote on July 11, 1997. Although this amendment was defeated, Congressional committees did cut $100 million from the program. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
13. [HSE] Tobacco Subsidies/Cut Tobacco Industry Giveaway: Tobacco is an agricultural product that kills when used as directed. The federal government currently spends at least $94 million annually for special programs and assistance to tobacco farmers. It should get out of this deadly business. Reps. Lowey (D-NY) and DeGette (D-CO) offered an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill to cut $34 million in crop insurance from the tobacco program. The amendment was defeated by a 209-216 vote on July 24,1997. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: YES
14. [HSE] Voter Registration/Stop Motor Voter Rollback: Rep. Steve Horn (R-CA) brought H.R. 1428 to the House floor, which would have allowed registrars to challenge any voter registration applicant that they suspected was not a citizen, despite the fact that voters already sign sworn statements under penalty of perjury on their registration forms. It would have been enforced by the Social Security Administration and INS despite the fact that these agencies opposed the bill and do not maintain records on the citizenship of most Americans. The bill was brought up under suspension of the rules therefore requiring a two-thirds vote of the House for passage. The bill was rejected by a 210-200 (less than the two-thirds needed for passage) vote on February 12, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO
15. [HSE] National Forests/Stop Increased Logging: Rep. Bob Smith (R-OR) introduced a bill (H.R. 3530) to create a five-year national program allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to identify and pursue an unlimited number of forest health recovery areas and projects within our National Forest system. This bill was based on the forest health crisis myth that our forest are riddled with dead, dying and diseased trees. The proposed cure would be to destroy these forests by allowing unlimited clearcuts, invasions and logging of roadless areas and cutting of old growth forests. H.R. 3530 would have circumvented meaningful public review of forest management decisions and created a new off-budget slush fund that would give the Forest Service a strong incentive to increase their wasteful timber program. Rejected 181-201 on March 27, 1998. PUBLIC INTEREST VOTE: NO