What the Heck Is a "Rider"?
We hope you will ask your members of Congress to oppose riders that could weaken clean air protections.
In the world of Congress, a rider isn't a person who takes a train or bicycle. It's actually a term for a type of amendment to legislation. And while the name sounds harmless, riders are actually a huge problem.
Here's why. Imagine you're a member of the House of Representatives and you want to delay stronger limits on dangerous ozone pollution to benefit polluters in your district.
In theory, you would write a bill and convince your colleagues to pass it. In practice, though, very few bills ever become law. Maybe your idea doesn't have sufficient support; maybe there just isn't time to vote on it; and maybe the president would veto your bill even if it did pass (as President Obama has already promised to do with bills that would weaken protections from ozone pollution!).
Here's another option: hitch a ride.
Every year, there are a few bills that Congress absolutely has to pass to keep things running. This always includes a bill to fund the federal government—if they don't pass one in time, the whole country has to deal with the consequences of a government shutdown, from closed parks to delayed medical research, like we experienced in 2013.
If you, as a member of Congress, can't get your bill passed on its own, you might try to attach it as an amendment to one of these must-pass bills—aka, as a rider.
This sneaky approach causes big problems. It makes funding the federal government even more difficult for Congress, and it puts critical health protections at risk for the whole nation.
In recent months, we've seen scores of riders added to proposed funding bills. Many of them would endanger our health by cutting protections for the air we breathe. (Others would make it easier for kids to get addicted to tobacco products.)
The list of proposed riders that would weaken clean air protections is long enough to make your eyes glaze over:
- Delay updated protections against ozone pollution
- Block the Clean Power Plan, which will cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change
- Prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from protecting the public from methane pollution from the oil and gas industry
- Make it easier to burn biomass for electricity , which emits dangerous pollution
- Keep some scientific experts from serving on the independent science advisory board that helps EPA make decisions on air pollution limits
- Stop incentives for states to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency
- Make it harder for citizens to go to court to enforce pollution protections.
So what now? Well, funding for the federal government runs out September 30, so Congress has until then to come to an agreement that avoids a shutdown.
Here's the good news: many members of Congress have said in the past they won't support riders, including the riders that would weaken clean air protections.
But with so many potential air pollution riders in the mix, in addition to riders on a number of other issues, we all need to join this fight. The health of everyone who breathes (yes… that's everyone!) could be impacted if riders that weaken clean air protections get passed into law.
Related Topic: Healthy Air