Republican V.P. Pick Paul Ryan: A Great Lakes Lawmaker Not Terribly Interested in Water Quality

The newly announced Republican running mate of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has a voting record that tilts heavily toward favoring development and reducing federal investment over environmental conservation and improving water quality.


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During his first 10 years in the U.S. Congress, Ryan voted on eight bills that directly dealt with water issues.

By Aubrey Blanche
Circle of Blue

On Saturday, Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) became the Republican vice presidential candidate for the November 2012 election, which has turned his voting record into a matter of meticulous review. But Ryan’s ideas about the economy and job creation are not the only issues under careful evaluation.

During his first 10 years in the U.S. Congress, Ryan voted on eight bills that directly dealt with water issues.

Most of the bills focused on funding for river protection, which he opposed. For example, in 2001, Ryan supported an amendment to the 2001 House Interior Appropriations bill that would have delayed implementing the Columbia Basin Ecosystem Plan to ensure that its provisions would not harm small businesses in the area. The basin is located largely in Washington state and extends across the border into Canada. The bill failed by a vote of 206-221.

Then, in 2003, Ryan voted against an amendment that would have eliminated Clean Water Act exemptions for the oil and gas industry, but that bill also failed by a vote of 188-210.

Ryan’s Rise
In 2009, Ryan’s two priorities — balancing the federal budget through major program cuts and encouraging business — began to push against serious environmental conservation and clean water projects. It was during this session of Congress that Ryan began increasing his involvement in political issues, which is likely due to his rising seniority in the party and within the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the Environment Appropriations bill for the 2010 budget, Ryan voted against a 17 percent increase in funding — $US 420 million — for research on how to combat global climate change. He also opposed providing $US 3.9 billion in clean water grants to rural communities.

Last year, Ryan supported the Clean Water Cooperative Act of 2011, a proposal to eliminate the basic standards for state water quality that are set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The proposal, which passed the House by a vote of 240-182, would have made it more difficult for the EPA to limit water pollution.

Water Positive
Ryan’s record also includes two supporting votes from 2010 on relatively small regional water proposals:

  • HR 3650 established the National Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Program to develop a plan of action to reduce harmful algae blooms.
  • HR 3671 authorized $US 6.25 million for a program to monitor the quality of the Upper Mississippi River Basin.

Both bills passed the House by votes of 251-103 and 289-121, respectively.

Last year, Ryan also voted in favor of the Flood Insurance Reform Act, which increased insurance rates. The act, which passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 406-22, was designed to save the government money and to discourage development of flood plains, but the change also protected sensitive flood-zone habitats.

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