House GOP looks to choke off EPA’s money supply

Republicans in the House of Representatives are looking to choke off some of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s initiatives, including on greenhouse gas emissions, through the budget process.

The House Appropriations Committee on July 8 released the fiscal year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies. The legislation includes policy provisions to stop “unnecessary, job-killing regulations by federal agencies such as the EPA,” said a statement from the GOP majority on the committee.

“This bill will ensure the proper management of the nation’s vast natural resources, invest in programs for the well-being of our local communities, and help prevent and fight the wildland fires that cause millions of dollars in damages every year, all while keeping a close eye on the spending of each and every tax dollar,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. “In addition, this legislation contains important provisions to rein in the harmful regulatory overreach of federal bureaucracies that will unnecessarily cause job loss and that will weaken our recovering economy.”

Notable is that the home state for Rogers, Kentucky, is a major producer of coal and is also heavily reliant on coal-fired power.

Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., said: “The Interior and Environment bill provides the agencies within its jurisdiction with the resources necessary to carry out their mission in times that are fiscally challenging. This bill also protects Americans from the onslaught of job-killing regulations coming from the EPA, and makes difficult decisions to carefully balance national priorities.”

The bill funds the EPA at $7.5bn, a reduction of $717m – or 9% – below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Administrative funding for the agency is cut by $24m, including a 50% reduction to the Office of the Administrator, the Office of Congressional Affairs, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. In addition, staffing levels at the EPA are held to 15,000, the lowest level since 1989. These reductions will help the agency streamline operations, and focus its activities on core duties, rather than unnecessary regulatory expansion, the Republican statement said.

“The legislation also includes provisions to stop various harmful, costly, and potentially job-killing regulations by the EPA,” it added. “For example, the bill prohibits the EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations for new and existing power plants, changes to the definition of ‘navigable waters’ under the Clean Water Act, and changes to the definition of ‘fill material.’”

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM), which oversees coal mining, is funded at $149m in the bill – essentially equal to the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. The bill will fund grants to states at $68m, and directs OSM to discontinue joint federal and state efforts to increase fees on private businesses. The bill also rejects a White House proposal to impose new fees on the mining industry. The legislation also includes a provision to stop potentially economically damaging changes to the “stream buffer rule,” which would have a big impact on coal mining, particularly in Appalachia.

Scott Slesinger, legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a July 9 statement about the budget measures: “Once again, House Republicans are pushing an ideological agenda to gut the Environmental Protection Agency. They also would allow power plants to continue dumping unlimited carbon pollution into the air and to severely weaken protections needed to keep our communities’ drinking water safe and curb pollution of our oceans and waterways. Worse, by tacking these policy reversals onto spending bills to appease their radical base, House Republicans are once again rushing toward another government shutdown that will, undoubtedly, harm America’s families, communities and economy.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.