House approps committee prepared to pass bill cutting EPA spending

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



Washington, June 27, 2012 -The House Appropriations Committee is expected tomorrow to finish marking up and adopt a fiscal 2013 measure that budgets $28 billion for EPA and the Interior Department. The total marks a drop of nearly $1.2 billion from fiscal 2012 levels and nearly $1.7 billion less than that requested by the Obama administration.

After rejecting a number of amendments from Democrats, and approving a few from Republicans this morning, all along party lines, the panel recessed when the full House went in session around mid-day. Committee members agreed to return and finish the spending bill in the morning.

Further markup is not expected to alter the bill's intent to cut EPA spending by $1.4 billion, setting the agency's budget at $7 billion in fiscal 2013, a 17% reduction and an amount below what EPA was budgeted in 1998. The measure would drop the EPA administrator's budget by 30%, with 50% coming off the agency's congressional affairs office budget.

The appropriations measure raises Interior Department spending by about one percent, but would slash funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service, which maintains and enforces the Endangered Species Act, and the U.S. Geological Survey by 21% and 9.5% respectively. FWS funding would drop $317 million, to $1.2 billion, while USGS would experience a $101-million drop, down to $967 million.

The Interior Department's Land and Water Conservation Fund would be cut by 80%, down to $66 million.

The bill also contains a number of policy “riders” that, among other requirements, would restrict EPA from setting air emissions standards for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, among other pollutants, that come from livestock operations. The bill would also bar the agency from requiring greenhouse gas emissions reporting for manure management systems.

Other riders would prevent the EPA from finalizing proposed regulatory guidance that would widen Clean Water Act protection to small streams and wetlands; increase the terms for grazing permits on federal lands from 10 years to 20; and direct FWS to render a final rule within 60 days on adding the gray wolf to the Endangered Species List.

Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., reiterated long-standing complaints that EPA has overreached its regulatory authority, accusing the agency of “strangling” the U.S. economy and costing jobs. He charged the White House with offering “sops to radical environmental groups and cited what he called “rampant, wasteful and over-inflated spending” by EPA. Rogers says the appropriations measure “achieves savings in a time of increasing deficits.”

Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash., the committee's ranking member, said that “despite the hyperbole” by committee Republicans, “EPA programs and regulations did not cause this recession” and “handcuffing environmental regulations will not get us out.”

An amendment from Rep. James Moran, D-Va., the ranking member of the Interior-EPA subcommittee, to strip funding prohibition from the bill was defeated along partisan lines, 19-28.

In the committee report submitted with the appropriations bill, sponsors say that in calendar year 2009, EPA received more than $25 billion in combined stimulus funding and regular appropriations. The report also says that between 2009 and 2010, EPA's budget increased by $2.65 billion, a 35% increase in that calendar year. “Even with targeted reductions to the agency's budget in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, EPA's proposed budget for 2013, if enacted, would be its fifth highest budget ever,” the report states.

Still, Democrats argue that the measure is draconian and could hinder a fragile, but recovering, economy. And they say the cuts would hurt the environment.

“The deep funding cuts to important conservation and environmental protection programs would, if enacted, cause serious harm to our environment,” said Moran. He said the number of GOP-supported riders and funding limitations “that I believe do not belong in the bill and whose effect would be to undermine important environmental law.”

But, he said, citing appropriations negotiations that resulted in a bipartisan bill, “Today is just the first step in a long process to complete the appropriations bill. It is my hope that by the end of that process we can again have a bill that, like last year, I can support.”

#30

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