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February 09, 2012

Stop the Sweetheart Deal to Big Oil

Oil2Just in time for Valentine's Day, House Republicans are rushing ahead with a "transportation" bill only Big Oil could love.

Once upon a time the Bridge to Nowhere came to represent the most wasteful spending and earmarks in transportation.  While earmarks targeting federal dollars for specific projects are gone, the House republicans have bested the bridge to nowhere with a so-called transportation bill that is good for Big Oil.

The bill mixes terrible transportation policy with Big Oil’s wish list: opening fragile and protected areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic coast to drilling, as well as pushing through the tar sands pipeline President Obama has already rejected. 

Big Oil gets the right to drill and bad transportation policy ensures Americans get less public transit, less biking and walking infrastructure, and fewer safe routes to school for our kids. In short, the bill is a five-year recipe for driving more and using more oil.

The opposition amassing to the House's "American Energy and Infrastructure Act" (H.R. 7) is growing and comes from all directions. 

Last week Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) had this say about just one portion of the bill:

"I've been in transportation 10 years in the Florida House and close to 20 here, and it was truly the worst bill I've ever seen. The piece that we (Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) passed at 3 o'clock this morning out of the transportation committee is the worst bill I have seen in the 30 years I've been elected."

Opposition crosses party lines, with Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a longtime ally of House Speaker John Boehner, opposing the measure in its current form and saying, "It's his bill." House Republicans in urban areas don’t want to see critical transit funding cut. 

The New York Times does a nice job of summing up "A Terrible Transportation Bill." In short, by the time three House committees had done their work, HR 7:

  • Pushes money to highways while gutting investment in transportation options.
  • Jeopardizes future funding for public transportation by ending dedicating funding for transit out of the Highway Trust Fund where transit receives a portion of gas tax revenues (transit funding has been part of the Highway Trust Fund since President Reagan was in the White House);
  • Eliminates dedicated funding for options like walking, biking, and programs like Safe Routes to Schools that helps kids bike and walk to school safely, and takes an ax to Amtrak funding; and
  • Allows states to ram through projects without environmental review or public input.

Sierra Club joined more than 600 groups from across the country to oppose the provision that ended dedicated funding for transit. Last Spring nearly 70,000 Americans sent a simple message to the House and Senate: 

"America needs a transportation system that ends our dependence on oil, cuts pollution, and provides clean, efficient, and affordable transportation options while putting the country back to work."

Join us in taking action to help kill this bill. Call your Representative today. Just dial:  877-573-7693. The message is simple: Oppose HR 7 and get back to work on a transportation bill that will help end our dependence on oil, cut pollution, and provide clean, efficient, and affordable transportation options while putting the country back to work.  If you can’t call, send an email!

-- Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign

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