Simpson’s I&E Report
An Interior and Environment Appropriations Update from Chairman Simpson
February 8, 2012
A Message from Chairman Simpson:
Welcome to the first edition of the I&E Report, an email update on interior and environment appropriations issues. I hope that these updates help inform you about the work I am doing as Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee through hearings, interactions with both Idahoans and federal agencies under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, and the FY13 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.
February 13, 2012—The White House is expected to release the president’s budget request for FY2013. Once released, the budget can be found online at www.whitehouse.gov/omb.
February 16, 2012—Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is scheduled to testify before the subcommittee on the Department’s budget request. For more information click here.
February 17, 2012—U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell is scheduled to testify before the subcommittee on the Forest Service’s budget request. For more information click here.
A Look Back:
During his first year as Chairman of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, Chairman Simpson crafted two appropriations bills, conducted critical oversight over agencies under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, and made important strides in changing the fiscal direction in which our nation is headed. Here are some highlights:
FY2011 Continuing Resolution
Simpson crafted the Interior and Environment portion of the FY2011 Continuing Resolution, a bill which reduced overall government spending by nearly $40 billion over FY2010 levels. The Interior portion of the bill included a $2.62 billion reduction, decreased the EPA’s budget by 16%, and shifted the focus of funding to operations and management of existing national parks and federal lands, rather than new programs and land acquisitions.
The FY2011 Continuing Resolution included language reinstating the Fish and Wildlife Service’s original determination to delist wolves in states with approved management plans in place. This language returned management of wolf populations in Idaho and Montana, as well as portions of Oregon, Washington, and Utah, to the states.
The Continuing Resolution also prohibited the Department of Interior from using funds to implement its controversial “Wild Lands” policy.
FY2012 House Interior and Environment Appropriations Act
H.R. 2584, the House version of the Interior bill, would have funded agencies under the bill at $27.5 billion, an additional 7% cut from FY11 levels. To do so, the bill prioritized funding for agencies’ core missions and programs that have demonstrated value to the taxpayer.
In preparation for writing the FY2012 budget for the Department of Interior, the Forest Service, the EPA, and related agencies, Simpson’s subcommittee held 22 oversight hearings, more than any other appropriations subcommittee.
The House-passed version of the bill included a number of provisions intended to address EPA actions that have created uncertainty in our economy and threaten future economic growth, including:
FY2012 Omnibus Appropriations Act
- 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 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;
- A provision preventing EPA from implementing costly, counterproductive requirements for cooling water intakes at nuclear and other energy plants that would raise energy prices;
- A provision preventing EPA from expanding federal stormwater discharge program to existing commercial or residential properties without meeting congressional requirements;
- A provision maintaining EPA’s current regulations exempting forest practices—including forest roads—from point source permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act;
- A provision preventing EPA from implementing regulations to identify coal ash as a hazardous waste.
Simpson was instrumental in protecting western interests in the final appropriations conference report for FY2012, which was signed into law on December 23, 2011.
The bill reduces funding overall for the agencies under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction and specifically cuts funding for the EPA by nearly 6% below the president’s request. Overall, funding for the EPA has been reduced by nearly $2 billion, or 18.4%, during calendar year 2011 under Simpson’s watch. These cuts include:
- Cutting the EPA Administrator’s immediate office budget by one-third;
- Reducing funding for EPA’s regulatory programs;
- Restraining spending on EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations by cutting $4.6 million from the President’s request.
In addition to reducing spending, the bill makes important reforms to address growing costs to taxpayers due to frivolous lawsuits. Such lawsuits are one of the biggest unbudgeted costs for land management agencies. As litigation costs siphon funding away from critical priority programs, agencies are forced to divert taxpayer dollars intended for carrying out legitimate land management responsibilities. To bring these costs under control, ensure greater accountability of taxpayer dollars, and increase transparency, Simpson included provisions in the conference report to:
- Extend for two years authorities to renew grazing permits while prioritizing work on the most sensitive environments;
- Require that environmental groups exhaust BLM’s administrative review process before litigating on grazing issues, saving the BLM significant taxpayer money currently wasted on litigation that could be resolved through the administrative process;
- Allow the Forest Service to use an administrative “objection” process rather than post-decisional appeals, saving the agency time and money and reducing litigation;
- Direct the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and the Forest Service to make publicly available detailed access to Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) fee information.
Other provisions in the bill include:
- A prohibition on funding for carrying out the Department of Interior’s “Wild Lands” initiative;
- Full funding for wildlife suppression and level funding for hazardous fuels reduction, as well as language directing the Forest Service to allocate hazardous fuels reduction funding based on highest priorities for reducing fire risk;
- Language prohibiting the EPA from requiring permits for storm water runoff from forest roads.
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