House scales back mining protections, other enviro rules in spending bill

The final frenzy of votes on the House GOP’s federal spending bill approved early Saturday included passage of amendments to scale-back environmental regulation of mountaintop removal coal mining projects and stymie the overhaul of a major federal climate research program.

The votes added to underlying legislation that already takes aim at the White House’s environmental and energy agenda, and green groups immediately called on Senate lawmakers to thwart the bill.

ADVERTISEMENT
The underlying package – which funds the government through September – cuts billions of dollars from EPA’s budget, blocks funding for implementing greenhouse gas rules, sharply slashes green energy R&D programs, and thwarts a new Interior Department wilderness policy.


The bill is part of a broader GOP effort to slow or block what many Republicans allege are overzealous and “job-killing” environmental rules.

Voting in the early morning hours included passage of Rep. Morgan Griffith’s (R-Va.) amendment that blocks funding for EPA’s effort to toughen water quality protections for Appalachian coal mining projects, and approval a separate amendment by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) that would hinder EPA’s ability to block Clean Water Act permits for mountaintop removal projects.

Late Friday, the House approved Rep. Bill Johnson’s (R-Ohio) amendment that prohibits the Interior Department from using fiscal year 2011 money to develop rules governing protection of streams from mountaintop removal mining waste.

Lawmakers approved Rep. Ralph Hall’s (R-Texas) measure that prohibits the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from using the bill’s funds to proceed with creation of a new “Climate Service.” Hall is chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Also approved early Saturday morning: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s (R-Mo.) amendment that blocks U.S. funding for the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In addition, the House approved McKinley’s amendment that prevents EPA from using funds for regulating a waste product of coal-fired power plants under the hazardous waste title of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which is one of the options that EPA is mulling in planned regulations of so-called coal ash.

Other votes early Saturday included approval of Rep. Kristi Noem’s (R-S.D.) amendment that blocks EPA funding for toughening air pollution standards for coarse particulate matter. The various environmental votes broke down largely along party lines, although there was limited crossover in both directions.

On Thursday lawmakers had also approved Rep. John Carter’s (R-Texas) amendment that blocks EPA from using the bill's funds to implement rules to curb mercury and other emissions from cement kilns.

Environmental groups slammed the spending package Saturday.

“The spending bill that passed early this morning is a shameful statement on the state of corporate-bought-and-paid-for politics in the House of Representatives. Instead of slashing the excessive subsidies and offensive handouts to dirty energy industries, they have defunded the very programs that keep Americans safe and healthy,” said Martin Hayden, vice president of policy and legislation for Earthjustice, in a statement.

Green groups are already looking to the Senate.

“President Obama has already made clear he would veto legislation that undermines critical priorities, which the House Continuing Resolution so clearly does. We call on the Senate to reject this breathtaking assault on the environment and public health,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski in a statement.

Several members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee issued statements Saturday attacking the House bill. Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called it an "irresponsible attack on the nation’s landmark environmental and public health laws."

This post was updated at 10:15 a.m.