President Undermined Party on EPA Appropriations, House Democrat Says

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By David Schultz and Ari Natter

Dec. 4 — President Barack Obama's proposals to reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency hurt his party's negotiating power in the ongoing appropriations process, a senior House Democrat told Bloomberg BNA.

Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee that handles the budget for the EPA and the Department of the Interior, said Dec. 3 that “there is no conceivable way” Republicans would agree to a higher level of funding than the president requested in his fiscal 2015 budget proposal.

“I wanted to put more money in EPA, but gosh, when the administration asks for 3.8 percent less, it's tough to say they need it,” said Moran, who is retiring at the end of this term. “The administration frankly has not been terribly helpful on the EPA budget. We really need the administration with us if we are going to make any gains.”

Little Room to Maneuver

A Democratic aide on the full House appropriations committee echoed Moran's comments, telling Bloomberg BNA that that the president's request for a reduction in the EPA's budget left the minority little room to maneuver.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Another minority member of the appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), told Bloomberg BNA in an email that she would not “second-guess the budget requests from the administration.”

However, she said she agreed with Moran that Congress should allocate more, not less, resources to the EPA and that cutting any further could hinder the agency's ability to enforce environmental laws.

Staffers with the two other Democrats on the subcommittee, Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Jos E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), declined to comment.

Riders May Return

Appropriations committee staffers in the House and Senate said omnibus spending bills would be introduced in their respective chambers as early as Dec. 8. They declined to discuss what the spending levels would be in those bills or what types of policy riders might be attached to them.

However, the House Democratic aide said many of the riders currently being proposed for the EPA and Interior spending bill were also attached to an earlier bill that the subcommittee approved July 15 but which never made it to the House floor.

The riders on the July 15 bill included measures that would have prevented the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage grouse as an endangered species, blocked the EPA from spending money to implement greenhouse gas emission standards and prevented the agency from redefining which bodies of water it can regulate under the Clean Water Act.

Fluid Situation

Last week, 91 House Republicans sent a letter to the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee asking them to ensure that this Clean Water Act rider is included in any spending bills or continuing resolutions the House considers before its session ends later this month.

Doug Norlen, a senior official with the environmental group Friends of the Earth, told Bloomberg BNA that House Republicans are also seeking a rider that would override Obama administration guidance barring the Export-Import Bank from financing overseas coal-fired power projects.

Moran said some of these measures could make it into a final spending bill, but is “confident most of the riders won't be in there.”

To contact the reporters on this story: David Schultz and Ari Natter in Washington at dschultz@bna.com and anatter@bna.com

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