Van Hollen: 2012 spending bill undercuts government's clean air, water mission

House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) last week criticized Republicans for pushing for further cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the 2012 spending bill, saying those cuts seriously undermine what he said is the government's role in providing clean air and water.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Americans across the political spectrum want clean air and clean water, and they are depending on their government to provide it to them," Van Hollen said. "While some in other party might think this is good politics, it is terrible policy for the American people," he said of the spending cuts.

The spending bill was approved by both the House and Senate in mid-December, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) hailed it as a "victory for compromise, a victory for American taxpayers, and a victory for the appropriations process." But Van Hollen said the various cuts made to the EPA were included to "feed the extreme right's ideological fervor."

As examples, he noted that the bill cuts funding to the EPA administrator's office by 33 percent, and cuts Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds by $101 million.

Throughout the year, both parties have taken a hatchet to the administrative offices of various agencies as they've scrambled to find funds. On the clean water funds, House Republicans noted that the $101 million cut was offset by $6 billion in stimulus funding that this EPA account received.

In their summary of the bill earlier this month, House Republicans said EPA can absorb some cuts because it has been funded at unprecedented levels in recent years.

"Funding for EPA has been unparalleled over the past several years, leading to unnecessary spending and contributing to the agency’s regulatory overreach, which has a detrimental effect on American businesses and the recovering economy," according to a statement on the House Appropriations Committee website.

Under the 2012 spending bill, H.R. 2055, the total EPA budget is $8.4 billion — $233 million less than fiscal year 2011 levels. The GOP notes that EPA funding was cut $1.8 billion in calendar year 2011.

Among other things, the 2012 bill cuts clean air and climate research by $14 million (6 percent), and cuts the regulatory development office by $12 million (9.5 percent).

More in Energy & Environment

Poison pills in spending bills threaten our air, water and wildlife

Read more »