House Republicans target EPA in environment spending bill

"The EPA's unrestrained effort to regulate greenhouse gases and the pursuit of an overly aggressive regulatory agenda are signs of an agency that has lost its bearing," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on Interior and Environment. "Wherever I go, the biggest complaint I hear about the federal government is about how the EPA is creating economic uncertainty and killing jobs."

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) stressed that increased funding for EPA, including through the 2009 stimulus bill, means cuts can now be considered.

"Some have complained that these cuts are too much, too fast," Rogers said. "It's important to remember that these agencies and programs have seen unprecedented massive increases in spending in recent years. This sort of excess has contributed to our astronomical debt."

Under the bill, EPA would receive $7.15 billion, down from $8.65 billion in the current fiscal year. Rogers and others noted that the additional funds EPA has received means the agency still has $3 billion in unused funds.

As expected, House Democrats rejected these arguments, and accused Republicans of attaching other "policy earmarks" to the bill that they said would weaken environmental protection. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said the bill cuts wildlife grants, cuts a key endangered species conservation fund by 95 percent, and cuts the land and water conservation fund by 78 percent.

"The bill is short on needed funds and long on environmental riders," he said. "It is a dump truck of provisions for special interests."

Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) agreed. "It seems that special interest riders have become the new earmarks," he said.

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