EPA Spending Bill Among Measures To Be Considered by Conference Committee

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Amena H. Saiyid

The House and Senate plan to hold a joint conference committee Dec. 8 to begin consideration of the nine remaining spending bills for fiscal year 2012, including both chambers' Interior-Environment appropriations measures, which fund the Environmental Protection Agency.

The committee also will consider whether to retain policy language from the House version of the spending bill that would limit EPA's regulatory authority over air, water, and climate change programs, according to House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing.

The nine spending measures will be rolled into the fiscal year 2012 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that the conference will take up Dec. 8.

Proposed spending levels are expected to reflect the agreement that the White House, Senate, and House leadership reached July 31 on the debt ceiling as well as revised spending limits for FY 2012 and beyond.

If the House and Senate negotiators are able to agree on a conference version of the spending legislation, it would be subject to up-or-down votes on the House and Senate floors, and would not be subject to amendment.

Reconciling House, Senate Bills

Both the House and Senate appropriations committees have their own versions of the Interior-Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill.

The Senate bill contains no environmental or energy policy riders and would fund EPA at $8.62 billion, down $61 million from the $8.68 billion appropriated for FY 2011, which ended Sept. 30 (200 DEN A-11, 10/17/11).

The House bill (H.R. 2854), however, contains 39 policy riders, including measures that would restrict the ability of the Interior Department and EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous air pollutants, coal mining, and water quality.

H.R. 2854 contains $7.1 billion for EPA in fiscal 2012.

Neither chamber has passed its legislation.

The House was in the midst of debating H.R. 2854 when it was shelved following an agreement reached among the House, Senate, and White House leaders over the debt ceiling on July 31.

The Senate Appropriations Committee took no action on its bill.

Joint Committee Will Consider Policy Riders

Hing told BNA that “riders are being brought up by the conference committee for negotiation. Whether those riders are retained or rejected will become clear as the details of the bill are released early next week.”

Hing also said the House would use the Interior-EPA spending bill that it shelved as the starting point of discussions on EPA spending.

It remains unclear whether House Republicans will continue to insist on the riders that target EPA. An impasse on that issue could result in the Interior-Environment bill being dropped from the omnibus bill, sources told BNA. A continuing resolution then would be needed to fund programs covered by that bill, they added.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, told reporters Nov. 30 that it was “too speculative” to say whether she or other Republicans in the Senate would support the policy riders if the House leadership pushed for them.

Conferees Named

The following House Republicans were named to the conference: Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (Ky.) and Reps. C.W. Bill Young (Fla.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.), Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J.), Robert B. Aderholt (Ala.), Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.), Kay Granger (Texas), Mike Simpson (Idaho), John Culberson (Texas), Ander Crenshaw (Fla.), Denny Rehberg (Mont.) and John R. Carter (Texas).

The House Democrats named to the conference include Appropriations Ranking Member Norm Dicks (Wash.) and Reps. Peter Visclosky (Ind.), Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Jose Serrano (N.Y.), Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Jim Moran (Va.), David Price (N.C.), and Sanford Bishop (Ga.).

On the Senate side, the conferees include Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).