Senate passes environmentally friendly highway bill

Mar 14, 2012

Fending off environmental attacks and securing a temporary guarantee for conservation, the U.S. Senate passed an “environmentally friendly” highways bill, according to The Wilderness Society.

“With the number of amendments that came up to open up lands and waters to oil drilling or force the Keystone XL pipeline to be built, the Senate showed it is committed to keeping the transportation bill free of new favors to Big Oil,” said David Moulton, senior legislative director for The Wilderness Society. “Senators also showed their support for proven conservation by passing a 2-year funding guarantee for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an amendment that would guarantee $1.4 billion for LWCF, as well as direct money to the Gulf Coast to continue cleanup from the BP oil spill.

“The vote reaffirmed how effective and popular the Land and Water Conservation Fund is,” said Alan Rowsome, director of conservation funding.  “From hunters and anglers to hikers and campers, LWCF funds provide the backbone for the lands Americans love.  This amendment guarantees two years of strong, consistent conservation funding, setting the stage for future opportunities.”

A raft of amendments aimed at expanding drilling and mandating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline failed during the debate, as well as an amendment to outlaw government support of clean energy technology.  A last ditch amendment from Sen. Roberts that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling as well, but was defeated.

The bill also includes provisions that weaken the National Environmental Protection Act, hurrying through environmental impact reviews for transportation projects and decreasing public participation.  While these provisions detract from the overall bill, the final product could have been much worse, according to Moulton.

“They threw every pro-drilling amendment they could at this bill, but none of them stuck,” said Moulton. “After seeing the House’s Transportation bill fall apart, it is no wonder the Senate didn’t want to add discredited provisions that didn’t raise the money needed to fix our roads.”