Groups Criticize EPA Funding Bill Ahead of Floor Vote

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 Brian Dabbs

July 11 — Conservation groups, environmental lobbyists and workers rights advocates pushed lawmakers in recent days to strip dozens of controversial riders from legislation (H.R. 5538) that would fund the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department.

Those calls surfaced as the House Rules Committee prepared to convene late July 11 to approve additional amendments for floor consideration. House Republican leaders announced plans to consider and possibly vote on the bill July 12.

House members sent the committee nearly 170 amendments before the submission window closed July 7.

Divisive Bill

House Democrats continue to cry foul over the fiscal year 2017 bill, which is weighed down by dozens of measures designed to halt critical priorities for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The legislation would prohibit funding for the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Rule and Superfund financial assurance regulations.

Only one committee Democrat, Sanford Bishop (Ga.), jumped on board the bill during Appropriations Committee markup.

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

The $32.1 billion bill falls $1 billion short of the Obama administration’s budget request. The legislation would cut EPA funding by about $164 million. That agency would get nearly $8 billion.

The White House issued a statement of administration policy July 11 saying senior advisors would recommend President Barack Obama veto the bill.

‘Vote No on H.R. 5538.'

The League of Conservation Voters threatened retaliation against lawmakers that endorse the legislation on the floor.

“This partisan spending bill is an assault on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the wild places we hold dear,” said Gene Karpinski, the LCV's president, in a July 11 letter to House members. “This spending bill ought to be about dollars and cents, and yet it contains more than 30 anti-environmental policy riders. By blocking commonsense limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the bill denies the reality that we have a moral obligation to our children and grandchildren to act on climate change.”

The legislation would slash funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 30 percent, said Karpinski, who said the organization will consider votes on the bill in developing its 2016 scorecard of congressional votes for causes that are important to the organization.

Likely Veto

Former House member and Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), now with Waxman Strategies, echoed that criticism of the legislative riders during a July 11 conference call.

“The Congress is not the regular order of business by considering legislation from the policy committees, and therefore the appropriations bill becomes a vehicle,” he said. “It's a way to see if you can attach your special interest provision on a bill that must eventually be passed.”

Farm Worker Pesticide Protections?

The United Farm Workers assailed the legislation for including language that would bar funding for EPA to implement its 2015 pesticide worker protection rule (RIN:2070-AJ22).

That rule created the first-ever age limit of 18 for pesticide handling, with exceptions for farm owner family members. The rule increases the frequency of required pesticide training and forces farmers to keep records of pesticides they use for at least two years.

“Farm workers labor in one of the nation’s most dangerous industries and suffer the highest rates of chemical injuries and skin disorders,” said the farm workers' organization in a July 8 statement. “Republicans are again doing what they can to make farm workers vulnerable again through an appropriations vote that would cut the funds to enforce.”

Flag Flap Repeat?

Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) proposed amendments to the Rules Committee to ban the Confederate flag at federal cemeteries and parks.

Last year, Republican leadership nixed a vote on the Interior Department and EPA funding bill to shield their members from taking a stance on the flag amendments.

Democrats at the time denounced an amendment that would have allowed Confederate flags to be displayed on grave sites in federal cemeteries.

Thus far this year, Congress has yet to complete work on a single appropriations bill.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Dabbs in Washington at bdabbs@bna.com

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

For More Information

The League of Conservation Voters' letter is available: http://src.bna.com/gGq

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.