Spending bill keeps EPA funding flat in 2016

Spending bill keeps EPA funding flat in 2016
© Greg Nash

Congressional leaders have agreed to keep Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding flat in 2016 and Republicans have yielded in their fight to block agency rulemaking through the spending process.

Under the omnibus budget deal released early Wednesday morning, the EPA is funded at $8.1 billion in 2016, a level lower than it was in 2010 but on par with 2015. The bill keeps agency staffing levels at their lowest level since 1989. 

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This spring House Republicans proposed cutting EPA funding by $718 million next year, but a bill authorizing the cut never made it to the House floor.

At the time, Republicans also looked to use the spending bill to block a slate of new EPA rules — including the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plans and another redefining which waterways the federal government can regulate — but those provisions were also left out of the final spending deal. 

The omnibus deal does direct regulators to work with states on a new coal mining rule, and it beefs up congressional oversight of mine permitting. It also asks the Obama administration to report to Congress on its climate-change spending. 

The bill also blocks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from putting the greater sage grouse on the Endangered Species list. Conservationists have been concerned about the dwindling range of the bird, but industry groups and Republicans worry an endangered status would hurt energy development in the Western U.S. 

Funding for the Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Parks Service and wildfire operations will go up in 2016 under the omnibus deal. In total, Interior and EPA funding will hit $32.2 billion in 2016, up from last year but still $1.1 billion below what Obama requested in his budget.