White House Confident It Can Defeat Any Environmental Riders in Spending Bills

Energy and Climate Report provides current, thorough coverage of clean energy, efficiency, and climate change legislation, regulation, policy, legal developments, and trends in the U.S. and...

By Anthony Adragna

Nov. 25 — President Barack Obama's administration expects legislators to attempt to undermine certain environmental efforts in a spending package that would fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal year 2015, but the White House told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 25 it is confident it could defeat anti-environmental riders.

“We know that there will be attempts to impede or scale back our actions on climate change,” a White House official said in an e-mailed statement. “We’re confident we can prevail.”

Republicans have vowed to use the appropriations process to block certain Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental initiatives once they reclaim control of the Senate in January, but Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office indicated there might not be many opportunities for riders in the current spending package.

“I don’t imagine there will be a robust amendment process” for the continuing resolution or omnibus spending package in December, Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail.

McConnell will be Senate majority leader during the 114th Congress.

The offices of multiple other Republicans didn't respond to requests for comments on what riders they might pursue in the funding debate.

The structure of the spending package remains unclear. Democrats in both chambers favor passing a 12 bill omnibus package that would fund the government through October before the current continuing resolution runs out Dec. 11, while Republicans are considering another short-term continuing resolution as a way to respond to Obama's executive order on immigration.

Last year, the White House successfully beat back dozens of riders, including Republican measures that would have rolled back the administration's carbon pollution standards for power plants, curtailed its ability to establish vehicle emissions standards and undercut energy efficiency regulations. White House officials said while limited riders made it into the final fiscal year 2014 appropriations package (Pub. L. No. 113-76), the administration retained the ability to move forward with its Climate Action Plan.

Among the provisions ultimately included in the fiscal 2014 omnibus legislation was language that appeared to limit the ability of the federal government to prohibit financing of coal-fired power plants overseas. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) sought its inclusion in the final package. That rider also was included in a stopgap funding measure signed into law in September (Pub. L. No. 113-164).

Rider Strategy Unclear

Environmental advocates said it is unclear how Republicans will approach the current spending measure. Many have expressed concern it will be harder to defeat all riders once McConnell becomes Senate majority leader and takes control of the chamber.

It is “not clear what they’re trying now and what will wait until next year,” David Goldston, director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an e-mail.

McConnell has called the appropriations process his “best tool” for forcing the Obama administration to compromise on regulations, and he has said he will use the process to block carbon pollution regulations from the EPA.

In spite of those threats, the White House said again it plans to move forward with Obama's environmental priorities.

“The president and his administration are committed to finalizing and implementing the [EPA's] Clean Power Plan, deploying more clean energy, boosting energy efficiency, and protecting the health of the American people, the health of the economy, and the health of the environment,” the White House official said Nov. 25.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at aadragna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com