By Rep. Susan A. Davis
Earth Day, April 22, takes on added significance this year as we are seeing environmental protections established by President Barack Obama being rolled back.
Using an obscure and seldom-used law, the Congressional Review Act (CRA), congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have been overturning a number of environmental protections. These protections relate to clean air and clean water, protection of wildlife, and reducing pollution.
Enacted in 1996, the CRA allows Congress to overturn an agency rule within 60 days of its enactment by the executive branch. Once a majority of the House and the Senate approve a CRA resolution, it goes to the president for his signature.
The CRA was recently used to overturn a number of key environmental protections.
In order to end aggressive predator control practices, the Obama administration issued a rule to limit the killing of predatory animals unless it is based on sound science. The Obama rule prohibited the taking of mother bears and their cubs and luring brown bears with bait to kill them. This protection would also ban the killing of wolves and their pups at den sites and aerial shootings in national wildlife refuges.
Clean water rules weren’t safe either. President Obama put forth a protection to reduce adverse impacts of coal mining on groundwater and surface water, as well as fish and wildlife.
This rule provided a proper balance between protecting our water and allowing the coal industry to provide coal as an energy source.
The fight against climate change took a hit too. For decades, oil and gas companies have wasted methane — venting and flaring the natural gas during the production process because it is cheaper than collecting it for use or sale.
Methane is a useful natural resource when it is collected and sold but it is also a powerful greenhouse gas, even more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane waste increases rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
President Obama issued a rule to require oil and gas producers to implement measures to reduce the release of natural gas into the atmosphere, which would also have had a positive impact on the effort to combat climate change.
The majority used the CRA to overturn all of these common sense protections. Naturally, I resisted efforts to roll back these rules.
While these actions have an impact nationally, San Diego continues to the lead the way in areas of protecting the environment.
After running second for years, San Diego was finally named the top region for solar energy installations. This is based on a report by the Environment California Research & Policy Center, which ranks major cities on the solar power they have installed.
San Diego has always been known as a leader in solar energy, but now we are the leader in solar energy across the nation.
Solar energy has been a major job creator in our region, accounting for thousands of jobs. As we work to reduce the effects of climate change, solar will be a key component of the goal toward cleaner energy and cleaner air.
Those in Congress who believe in sound environmental protections will continue to resist efforts to undo them and will push for more protections, as well as promote cleaner forms of energy.
On Earth Day, thousands of Americans will gather across the country — a la the Women’s March in January — for a March for Science. San Diego will do its part with a rally and march Downtown.
While we are experiencing frustrating setbacks now, I believe they are temporary. People are fired up like never before. They are marching, they are calling their elected representatives, and they are organizing.
This bodes well for our future, the future of sound science, and our efforts to protect the Earth — the planet we call home.
—U.S. Rep. Susan A. Davis represents Congressional District 53, which includes the San Diego communities of Old Town, Kensington, Mission Hills, University Heights, Hillcrest Bankers Hill, North Park, South Park, Talmadge, and Normal Heights, as well as La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and parts of El Cajon and Chula Vista.