Rep. Simpson defends House EPA, Interior spending bill

The cuts reflect a House GOP decision to bring its spending bills under sequestration caps to accommodate an above-sequestration level budget for the Pentagon.

Democrats have criticized the plan, saying it lowers the guillotine on EPA programs.

The bill calls for lowering EPA’s budget by $2.8 billion, a 34 percent decrease compared with this fiscal year. The cut is twice as large as the one House GOP lawmakers approved last year.

The legislation also blocks the EPA from implementing carbon emissions regulations for new and existing power plants, which are the cornerstones of the climate agenda President Obama announced last month.

Simpson, who had previously said he would make the spending bill a “battleground” for Obama’s climate plan, said the cuts were not ideological.

The fiscal situation has changed much since Simpson took over the subcommittee, he said, noting he had $32 billion to work with three years ago.

He also said the subcommittee’s first priority was to restore funding to the Forest Service — to the tune of a $559 million bump — so it would be better prepared to fight forest fires.

Deadly fires have raged through the West this summer, with one Arizona blaze last month killing 19 elite firefighters. Such incidents have sparked concerns in both the House and the Senate.

“Our first priority is protecting human health, life, property,” Simpson said.

Still, he said he understood the cuts to the EPA would be unpopular in some circles, including for people in his district.

“The people that deal with the EPA in terms of needing permits and that kind of stuff, those permits are going to be delayed and stuff because they’re not going to have the personnel to do all this. So yeah, this is a significant cut,” Simpson said.