The House Interior and the Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which is chaired by Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, today marked up its appropriations act for fiscal year 2012. The Act provides a responsible level of funding for the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and related agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, by saving $2.1 billion from the current fiscal year’s level and focusing on proven, core programs.
“We are living at a time when the federal government borrows over 40 cents for each dollar that it spends. We are also living at a time of record deficits and debts,” Chairman Simpson said during the subcommittee markup. “This committee is taking meaningful steps to help put our country’s fiscal house in order. While reductions in discretionary spending alone will not erase the deficit, the bill before us this morning is a step forward in that direction.”
The FY12 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act funds agencies under the bill at $27.5 billion, a 12% cut from the President’s budget request. The EPA will see an additional $1.5 billion in cuts from the current level. Between this bill and the FY11 Continuing Resolution passed in April, EPA funding has been reduced by 31 percent during the current calendar year.
“Some naysayers will no doubt try to portray Republicans as not supporting clean water, clean air, and a clean environment, but such assertions are simply untrue,” said Simpson. “The reality is that the EPA has received unprecedented and unsustainable increases in recent years. In an environment of historic budget deficits and reduced spending, it should come as no surprise that the agency that saw the greatest increases will inevitably see the greatest cuts.”
The bill also shifts funding away from unproven programs and government growth and focuses it on agencies’ core missions and programs that have demonstrated value to taxpayers. The Chairman’s mark drastically reduces funding for new land acquisitions but provides adequate funding for priorities like National Park Service operations and resource management. The bill cuts funding for expensive and uncoordinated climate change programs by 22% but enables the government to meet its trust responsibilities to Native American communities.
The bill also contains a number of provisions intended to provide the regulatory certainty needed for economic growth, including:
- A provision instituting a one-year prohibition on the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources;
- A provision prohibiting the EPA from changing the definition of “navigable waterways” under the Clean Water Act;
- A provision enabling the BLM and Forest Service to reduce grazing permit backlogs while focusing on the most environmentally sensitive areas;
- A provision clarifying that aquatic pesticides, which are currently regulated under FIFRA, are not subject to duplicative regulation under the Clean Water Act;
- A provision requiring agencies to make information regarding payments for legal fees to litigants who sue the federal government available to the public;
- A provision providing exemptions from greenhouse gas reporting for certain agricultural activities;
- A provision putting an effective hiring freeze on EPA employees, rejecting the President’s proposal to hire additional regulators.