Panel votes to cut EPA funding, block regulations

A House subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday that would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) funding by 9 percent while stopping the agency from finishing carbon pollution regulations for power plants.

Republicans said the measure, which also funds the Interior Department and increases money to fight wildfires on federal land, made important fiscal decisions while preventing costly regulations.

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“This year, there is a great deal of concern over the number of regulatory actions being pursued by the EPA in the absence of legislation and without clear congressional direction,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over both agencies’ funding.

“For this reason, the bill includes a number of provisions to address some of these concerns, and to stop unnecessary damaging regulatory overreach by the agency,” he said.

The legislation would specifically stop the EPA from moving forward on last month’s proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030. It would also stop a proposal from earlier this year to limit carbon from new power plants, as well as a rule to redefine the government’s jurisdiction over water bodies for the Clean Water Act.

Those policy riders and others, along with the EPA funding cuts, were unacceptable to the subcommittee’s Democrats.

“Of the 11 FY15 bills that have been released, this is perhaps the worst,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), the top Democrat in the full Appropriations Committee, drawing laughter in the hearing room.

“I am strongly opposed to a number of legislative riders, which amount to an industry wish list of giveaways,” she said. 

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, said the policy riders belong in authorization bills, not appropriations.

“These kinds of authorizations on an appropriations bill ... do not belong in this bill,” Moran said. “And their effect, of course, is to undermine important environmental laws, threaten public health and safety and deny the impact that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions have on our plant.”

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, welcomed the riders.

“The Congress must exercise its prerogative to prevent this kind of bureaucratic overreach that would be crippling for the U.S. economy,” he said.

Rogers also sought to make it clear that the committee why the committee is trying to cut EPA’s congressional affairs, budget and administrator’s offices’ funding by half. He wants to punish those offices for what he sees as a refusal to provide information to the panel.

“To my knowledge there’s been no agency that’s been more unresponsive to the inquiries of the Congress about how their spending our dollars than EPA,” he said. “They just simply will not respond to inquiries.”

Moran, who is retiring at the end of the year, allowed the bill to pass by voice vote. But he promised that the Democrats would introduce amendments and take other measures to fight the legislation when it reaches the full Appropriations Committee.