The US House Appropriations Committee has passed budget plans for the coming fiscal year that include cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and blocking several major water initiatives.
The Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill would cut the EPA budget by $164 million and restricts staffing to the lowest levels since 1989. President Obama had proposed an EPA budget $291 million above this figure, along with an increase in staffing.
The EPA, along with the the US Army Corps of Engineers, introduced last year a new rule to define what waters are covered by the Clean Water Act, the major legislation providing federal protection of waters in the country. This rule, the ‘Waters of the United States’ rule, is facing on-going legal challenges. The Appropriations Bill specifically prohibits use of funds to ‘develop, adopt, implement, administer, or enforce’ a new definition through the rule.
Meanwhile the US Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has been developing a new rule to protect streams from coal mining activities. The Appropriations Bill also specifically prohibits use of funds to progress the new stream buffer rule.
Action by the Obama administration to progress clean power drew strong criticism from the budget committee of House of Representatives in its budget report released in March because of impacts on the US coal industry. ‘The budget recommends withholding any funding to implement this program as well as other unnecessary, costly regulatory regimes, such as the soon-to-be-proposed ozone standards, the proposed “Waters of the United States” rule, the stream buffer rule, and the “coal ash” rule relating to disposal of coal residuals,’ the committee stated.
The block on further EPA work on the definition of waters is one of a number of measures included in the bill ‘to stop the EPA’s anti-growth agenda that includes various harmful, costly, and potentially job-killing regulations’, the House committee stated when it introduced the bill.
‘The EPA’s overreach continues to cause economic harm, and this bill denies funding for more job-killing regulators while providing necessary resources to effective programmes that actually improve the environment and protect our natural resources,’ said Ken Calvert, Interior Subcommittee Chairman.
The OSMRE stands similarly accused. The committee cited reports that the stream buffer rule could lead to the loss of 44,000-77,000 American jobs. The bill would have the effect of ‘withholding funding for these executive overreaches’, the committee stated.
The bill was introduced to Congress on 21 June.
- USA, industry