EPA Regs Assailed During House Appropriations Markup

The House Appropriations Committee today approved a funding measure that aims to dismantle the Obama administration’s environmental priorities.

Given the filibuster Senate Democrats have promised to enforce on spending bills that will get the president’s veto pen, the vast majority of the proposals will likely never become law. Still, these provisions matter, as policy riders on appropriations legislation can often become last minute bargaining chips in year-end budget battles.

By a party-line vote of 30-21, the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill moved through the committee, complete with riders that would shut down regulations on greenhouse gas emissions and clean water.

The bill appropriates $30.17 billion in base funding for the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, and other related agencies – $3 billion below the president’s request, and $246 million below levels enacted in fiscal year 2015, according to a fact sheet from the Appropriations committee.

Republicans heralded the bill’s passage as a victory in their pursuit to stop “job-crushing bureaucratic red tape and regulations at federal agencies,” as the committee said in a statement.

Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said: “The bill also preserves the role of the federal government – making sure that the government is doing its job well, while ensuring that it is not harmful or intrusive into the lives of the American people or our economy.”

Democrats on the committee accused Republicans of inappropriately tacking on legislation that had failed elsewhere. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said that the glut of policy riders was the most the subcommittee had ever seen, and that many provisions were added because they had previously failed to make their way into law as standalone bills. “When we start taking on work from the authorizing committee, we return to gridlock,” she said.

“These provisions… only serve to undermine our nation’s bedrock environmental laws, endanger public health and safety, and deny the impact that climate change is having on our planet,” she added. McCollum is the ranking member on the Interior and Environment subcommittee.

Among the 24 poison pills identified by McCollum, five are making their first appearance in the House’s Interior and Environment spending bill. They include provisions to:

  • Prohibit EPA from making changes to the definition of navigable water, which would send the agency back to the drawing board to re-write its recently finalized Clean Water Rule
  • Prevent the implementation of the administration’s Clean Power Plan, which limits greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants
  • Prevent implementation of oil and gas inspection fees and grazing fees
  • Prohibit EPA from enforcing a rule concerning lead paint
  • Prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from enforcing rules related to the illegal trade of ivory.

Democrats offered up several amendments to strike these and other provisions from the bill, but none passed.

Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) countered that the administration’s “appetite for new regulations” left Republicans with little choice than to “override overzealous regulations,” through the appropriations process.

McCollum offered an amendment to repeal the full list of riders entirely. It failed by a vote of 19-32.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the full committee ranking member, said in an interview she hoped when the Senate and House conferenced to reconcile funding differences later this year, that most of the GOP-backed riders would be defeated.

“Last time when we got together with the Senate we had about a thousand riders and we managed to whittle them down,” she said. “I hope we’ll be able to get rid of these as well.”

The full Senate Committee on Appropriations will consider its own Interior and Environment spending bill Thursday. The Senate’s version makes similar cuts to agency budgets, and includes similarly-worded policy riders related to ozone rules, the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water rule, and endangered species.

Morning Consult