Spending bill blocks WOTUS rule, limits species listings
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WASHINGTON, June 9, 2015 - House Republicans turned up their attack on President Obama's regulatory agenda, releasing a new spending bill that would block the new Clean Water Act as well as proposed greenhouse gas regulations on power plants.
Those provisions, plus another that would continue to delay any listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, are included in the bill to fund EPA, Forest Service and Department of Interior for fiscal 2016.
A similar Clean Water Act provision was included in the Energy and Water appropriations bill that passed the House earlier. The provisions would bar the administration from using its new definitions for what tributaries and wetlands are regulated as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).
Republicans are attacking the WOTUS rule both through policy riders on appropriations bills as well as standalone measures that would repeal the rule and force the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to propose new and narrower WOTUS definitions.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said the Interior-Environment bill “stops the abuse of power by overzealous bureaucratic agencies in Washington - including the EPA - that seek to impose unnecessary regulations that kill jobs and hinder growth.”
Republicans are headed into a showdown with the White House over both the policy riders and the spending levels in this bill and others. Although the WOTUS provision and others may have some bipartisan support, Democrats in the Senate are threatening to filibuster all of the fiscal 2016 bills unless Republicans agree to increase spending.
The Interior-Environment spending bill, which a House Appropriations subcommittee will vote on Wednesday, would provide $30.17 billion in base funding for the affected agencies, a cut of $246 million below this year and $3 billion less than Obama requested.
The bill, however, would fully fund at $452 million Payments in Lieu of Taxes to local communities that have federal land.
“Using funding levels as their weapon of choice, the House Republican leadership is launching a frontal assault against our bedrock environmental protections,” said Friends of the Earth spokesman Lukas Ross.
EPA's proposal to reduce carbon emissions from utilities is expected to be finalized this summer. The plan is designed to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030.
In addition to prohibiting the sage grouse listing, the bill would bar the Fish and Wildlife Service from spending more than $10.3 million of its $1.2 billion budget on endangered species listing determinations unless more money is needed to process petitions, develop regulations, review an existing listing or to lower a species' status on the list from endangered to threatened.
The bill would provide $64 million for sage-grouse conservation, which is $49 million more than was allotted for that purpose in 2015. The bulk of the assistance, $52 million, will go to the Bureau of Land Management for the implementation of sage-grouse conservation plans.
BLM would also use $8 million for the monitoring and implementation of those plans and the Fish and Wildlife Service will contribute the remaining $4 million to sage-grouse conservation efforts.
(Whitney Forman-Cook contributed to this report.)