US Senate Republicans are looking to slash EPA funding and block some of the agency’s environmental regulations that aim to curb greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution from manufacturers and other industries.
In a spending bill released yesterday, the EPA and Interior Department programs would receive $32 billion for fiscal year 2017 — $1 billion shy of what President Obama requested in his budget.
The Senate move follows the US House’s $32 spending bill for the federal environmental programs, released late last month. The full House Appropriations Committee is slated to vote on the budget today, followed by the full Senate Appropriations Committees on Thursday.
The House and the Senate legislation would slash $64 million from last year’s levels and block funding for implementation of some of the Obama Administration’s controversial regulations including the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States Rule. The funding cuts would make it more difficult for the EPA to enforce these rules — and it’s also a political statement by GOP lawmakers who oppose them.
As reported in the Washington Examiner, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of a Senate appropriations panel on the environment, which introduced the spending plan, said “this bill makes cuts in areas where the EPA has clearly overstepped its bounds…Several program areas that have issued controversial rules that are currently blocked in court are reduced because I believe it is more important to provide resources to programs that yield tangible results in improving the environment instead of funding more lawyers and bureaucrats to draft rules of questionable legality and dubious environmental benefit.”
The Waters of the US Rule expands the reach of the Clean Water Act to include streams and wetlands, placing additional private lands under federal protection. The coal industry and others have said the rule will add unnecessary regulations and expenses to their businesses.
The Clean Power Plan requires existing coal-burning power plants to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
Industry associations including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) haven’t taken a position on the congressional spending plans for environmental programs. But NAM has attacked the Waters of the United States Rule and the Clean Power Plan in the past, saying they could be “costly and burdensome” for manufacturers. NAM is also one of the groups suing to overturn the Clean Power Plan.
The Environmental Defense Fund’s lobbing arm, EDFAction, calls the House bill “dangerously irresponsible.”
It “blocks common-sense environmental safeguards,” Jeremy Symons, EDFAction senior advisor said. “It would prolong the era of unlimited carbon pollution from power plants. The bill would also block agencies from setting overdue standards to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, and would delay EPA’s life-saving ozone standards.”
For businesses to simply support reduced EPA spending because it means fewer environmental regulations — and less money for enforcement actions — is shortsighted, Symons told Environmental Leader. “Everyone loses if EPA funding is slashed, including the municipalities and businesses that depend on the agency for clean water grants and clean air permits.”
Regardless of if the spending plan passes, the EPA will still be tasked with enforcing environmental laws. But less funding will undoubtedly make it more difficult.
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