WASHINGTON, July 12, 2017 - Democrats voiced strong objections to funding levels and legislative riders in the Interior/Environment spending bill, but saved amendments for next week, when the full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the fiscal 2018 bill.

At today’s subcommittee markup, the bill was cleared for consideration by the full committee despite expressions of disappointment from Democrats Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., ranking member of the full committee, and Betty McCollum, ranking member of the Interior, Environment and related agencies subcommittee.

McCollum noted that the bill’s $528 million cut in EPA’s budget from the current fiscal year represents 64 percent of the $824 million reduction in the entire spending bill.

“I urge my Republican colleagues to reconsider and ask themselves if we can do better,” McCollum said. She noted that EPA has been subject to “systematic” cuts over the past seven years. “Since FY 2010, EPA has been reduced by $2.2 billion and has 2,000 fewer staff.”

Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif. (pictured above), accentuated the positive, noting that the bill – which funds the Interior Department and the Forest Service, as well as EPA, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and the Smithsonian – includes about $31.5 billion, $4.3 billion above President Trump’s budget request.

“We have made a sincere effort to prioritize critical needs within our subcommittee allocation and in reviewing nearly 5,200 member requests,” he said.

Calvert also noted that the bill maintains Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding at $300 million. Great Lakes lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had stressed the importance of that program when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appeared before the subcommittee last month.

At $397 million, the bill’s overall funding level for geographic programs – including initiatives in the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound – is 7 percent less than the current fiscal year. The Trump budget proposal, however, gave them nothing.

The riders were mentioned briefly. Full committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., said the committee had “identified opportunities to rein in the federal bureaucracy and to stop many harmful and unnecessary regulations that destroy economic opportunity and kill jobs.”

Lowey was more specific, noting that the bill authorizes EPA to withdraw the “waters of the U.S.” rule, a provision already included in the energy and water spending bill. Arguably, the rider carries more weight in that bill because it funds both EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, which have announced they intend to propose withdrawal of the rule. (The proposal has yet to appear in the Federal Register.)

And similar to the energy and water bill, which authorizes EPA and the Corps to bypass the notice-and-comment procedures that would be required by the Administrative Procedure Act when they withdraw the WOTUS rule, the Interior and Environment bill also allows EPA to ignore APA requirements. The House Appropriations Committee approved the energy and water bill today.

The Interior/Environment spending bill that breezed through the subcommittee includes some agriculture-specific provisions. It would prohibit EPA from issuing any regulation requiring Clean Air Act permits for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from biological processes associated with livestock production.

The bill also would prohibit EPA from implementing any provision requiring mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.

The bill also would remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the Western Great Lakes, and would block environmental groups from challenging those delistings in court.

A committee spokesperson said that the full committee will mark the bill up next week, but she did not know which day. It won’t be Monday, however.


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