$32.1 Billion Interior, EPA Funding Bill Set for House Vote


House leadership later today is scheduled to take up contentious legislation to fund the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department. Here’s what you need to know about the bill.

What Would It Do?

The $32.1 billion spending package would cut EPA funding by about $164 million from current levels. The agency would get nearly $8 billion in fiscal 2017.

The Appropriations Committee approved the bill (H.R. 5538) in mid-June, giving the go-ahead on funding prohibitions for the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Rule and financial assurance regulations for the mining industry. Only one committee Democrat, Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), supported the bill.

Top Republicans praise the bill for cracking down on onerous EPA regulations, while also boosting clean water and firefighting funding.

“The EPA’s overreach continues to cause economic harm, and this bill denies funding for more job-killing regulations while providing necessary resources to effective programs that actually improve the environment and protect our natural resources,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), the House’s leading Republican environmental appropriator, during the June markup.

Democrats Oppose Cuts, Riders:

Democrats and conservation groups continue to cry foul over the bill, which includes dozens of measures designed to halt big priorities for the EPA, including prohibitions on:  

  • Implementation of the 2015 Clean Water Rule to clarify the federal government’s jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (that rule is currently subject to a nationwide stay issued by a federal appeals court).
  • Implementation of the EPA’s suite of carbon dioxide regulations on the utility sector, including its Clean Power Plan rule for existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan has been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • The development and implementation of regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.
  • Any rule to alter the regulatory definition of “fill material” under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

“The most significant and devastating cuts are again targeted at the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the chief Democrat appropriator for the environment, said at the committee markup. “The air every American breathes and the water every American family drinks are all at risk by the funding cuts and policy attacks in this bill.”

Challenging Outlook in Senate, White House:

If the House passes the Interior-EPA bill, it would still need to get through the Senate. The bill also faces a challenge from the White House, which announced yesterday that advisers would recommend a veto if the bill reached President Barack Obama’s desk.

Many observers say the appropriations process is geared toward horse-trading over an omnibus bill later this year. So far this year, Congress hasn’t sent a single appropriations bill to the president.