Thursday, July 07, 2011

House Proposes Major Cuts In FY12 Interior & Environment Funding

Jun 6: In the midst of intense and highly partisan debate over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2012 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill which will be considered the subcommittee today (July 7). The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, U.S. EPA, the Forest Service, and various independent and related agencies. In total, the bill includes $27.5 billion in spending -- a reduction of $2.1 billion below last year's level and $3.8 billion below the President's budget request. [Note: major cuts in these agency programs were recently passed as part of the FY11 budget in the Continuing Resolution. FY12 cuts will reduce this funding further].
    Overall, the funding level is $106 million below fiscal year 2009 spending levels. The legislation also includes a total cut to climate change programs of $83 million – or 22% – from last year, and decreases land acquisition funding by $239 million – or 79%.

    According to a Committee release, in addition, "the legislation unveiled today also includes several provisions aimed at reining in out-of-control federal bureaucracies and overly burdensome regulations that harm American businesses and hinder economic recovery." The proposal is particularly harsh on EPA funding which amounts to $1.5 billion of the total $2.1 billion in cuts over last year's level; and $1.8 billion of the total $3.8 billion that the President requested.

    The Committee said, "The EPA has been funded at unparalleled high levels over the past several years, leading to wasteful and unnecessary spending within the agency, as well as contributing to the agency's regulatory over-reach, which has a detrimental effect on American businesses and the recovering economy." EPA is funded at $7.1 billion in the proposed legislation, 18% below last year's level, 20% below the President's request. In total, the funding level is below FY 2006 level by $468 million. The bill also caps EPA's personnel at the 2010 level (the lowest since 1992), and rescinds certain unobligated grant and contract funding.

    According to a Committee summary, some of the EPA cuts include:

  • $967 million cut in the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. These funds received $6 billion in the "stimulus" legislation, and this cut brings these accounts to the fiscal year 2008 level
  • $102 million cut in grants for state implementation of environmental programs
  • $46 million cut in requested funding to regulate greenhouse gases
  • $422 million cut in EPA operations/administration
  • $76 million cut in EPA regulatory programs
  • $49 million cut in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
  • $4 million cut in the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Initiative
  • $8 million cut in the Puget Sound Restoration Initiative

    House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said, "Americans are sick to death of excessive government spending and regulation that is pushing us further and further away from economic recovery. This bill pinpoints and cuts extraneous, duplicative and unnecessary spending, prioritizes funding for programs with the most benefit to American families and businesses, and helps put a stop to free-wheeling government over-regulation." Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) said, "At a time when we borrow 40 cents for every dollar we spend, our government can't afford to continue on its recent spending binge with its head in the sand when it comes to our fiscal challenges. In this bill we face those challenges head on, setting priorities and distinguishing between what is necessary and what would just be nice to do -- something American families do every day. The bill reins in out-of-control regulation and provides the certainty that our economy needs to make a strong recovery." 

    The bill also includes funding at $9.9 billion for the Department of the Interior (DOI), which is $720 million (7%) below last year's level and $1.2 billion below the President's request. Within the DOI funding cuts from FY11 levels are: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), -$63 million; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), -$315 million; National Park Service (NPS), -$129  million; U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), -$30 million; Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE), -$72 million; and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), -$64 million.

    Additionally, the proposal includes the following cuts over FY11: U.S. Forest Service, -$164 million; Indian Health Service, -$392 million; Smithsonian Institution, -$8; National Gallery of Art, - $33 million; and National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, -$20 million for each endowment. 

    Finally, the legislation includes special provisions (i.e. special-interest riders), most directed at EPA including:

  • A provision clarifying current permitting activities for the Outer Continental Shelf, and setting parameters for EPA approval of exploration permits. A similar legislative provision passed the full House in June
  • A provision prohibiting the Office of Surface Mining from moving forward with proposed updates to the "stream buffer rule"
  • A provision instituting a one-year prohibition on the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources
  • A provision prohibiting the EPA from changing the definition of "navigable waterways" under the Clean Water Act
  • A provision providing exemptions from greenhouse gas reporting for certain agricultural activities
  • A provision prohibiting funds for defining coal ash as hazardous waste
  • A provision prohibiting funds for the EPA from expanding storm water discharge requirements
  • Includes the House-passed "Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011," approved by the House in March, which clarifies Congressional intent on the dual regulation of pesticides near navigable waterways
        House Appropriations Committee Ranking Democratic Member Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) commented on the Republican proposal and said, "The Republican leadership proposed an exceedingly low subcommittee allocation that has now resulted in a bill that would be devastating for the environment and for the preservation of America's natural heritage, including the lowest level of spending in the Land and Water Conservation Fund in more than 40 years.

    "Overall, the allocation for this bill is 7 percent below the amount enacted in the current year -- an irresponsible level that will have a negative impact on our natural resource agencies and on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After the EPA took a substantial cut of 16 percent in the current fiscal year, the Republican Majority is now proposing a further reduction in the agency's budget of 18 percent.  This bill would substantially diminish the capacity of EPA to carry out its responsibilities -- which may actually be the goal of some of my colleagues on the other side. But the repercussions will be felt across the nation, including an ever-growing backlog of water treatment infrastructure projects and a decline in air and water quality.

    "As was pointed out in a recent Washington Post article, the vast majority of the EPA's funds pass through to states and localities that are already squeezed by budget cuts. These infrastructure projects create jobs in communities all across the country and provide one of the most basic services taxpayers expect: clean water. The Bush Administration's EPA Administrator estimated that there was a $688 billion nationwide backlog of clean water infrastructure projects, and that total is even larger today. That backlog will not disappear if we just ignore it but, as we have seen in so many cases this year, the Republican leadership has decided to push this problem farther down the road.

    "In addition to the clearly insufficient levels of funding across the board in this legislation, we were surprised that the Majority also included a wish list of special-interest riders to the bill that will handcuff the EPA and the Department of the Interior. One of these riders is language that would effectively block any funding for new listing activities under the Endangered Species Act. These types of riders are largely ideological, have no impact on deficit reduction and most will be rejected by the Senate and the President."
    Access the Republican release and summary of the legislation and links to the full text and summary tables (click here). Access the Democratic release and summary of the legislation (click here). [*All]