EPA gets funding boost in Obama's budget

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President Obama is again asking Congress to increase spending for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and provide dedicated funding for new climate change regulations.

In his 2017 budget, released Tuesday, Obama proposed spending $8.3 billion on the EPA, roughly $200 million more than Congress appropriated in 2016.

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“In the next fiscal year we’re going to build on those promises and make more progress,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyHow Congress got to yes on toxic chemical reform Overnight Energy: Labor rift opens over green mega-donor GOP: EPA is violating court hold on climate rule MORE told reporters on Tuesday.

Overall, the budget requests about $300 million less than what Obama asked for last year. The smaller total, however, doesn’t assure Republican support.

A spending deal reached last December provided the agency with $8.1 billion in fiscal 2016, keeping funding flat and limiting the agency's spending to 2010 levels.  

Several of the provisions in the new budget proposal are also likely to run into opposition from Republicans who have sought to cut EPA funding since taking control of the House in 2011.

The budget dedicates $235 million to EPA climate regulations, according to a fact sheet put out by the administration. The Clean Power Plan, designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, is a central part of Obama's climate agenda but the source of scorn among Republicans. Given GOP opposition, the budget's climate change funding, as well as a $25 million grant program for states to implement the power plan, will likely be tough sells among appropriators.

Obama requested a similar figure last year, and Republicans made a point of blocking the proposal in the year-end spending deal.

“This is a critical step to translate the historic progress made last year into real concrete progress on the ground,” McCarthy said of the climate change funding.

The EPA also hopes to spend $1.65 billion over 10 years to retrofit or replace diesel fuel vehicles, including school buses, in the United States. That proposal is part of a major transportation infrastructure push at the heart of Obama’s budget, but its funding stream — a $10 per barrel tax on oil — has already been roundly rejected by Republicans.

The budget also requests more than $2 billion for clean drinking water programs to invest in infrastructure improvements around the country. Funding for drinking water systems has become a major policy issue for lawmakers since the extent of the Flint, Mich., water crisis — a severe lead contamination driven by corroded water pipes in the city — came to light late last year.    

Republicans are likely to use the appropriations process to try to block Obama climate rules and slice EPA funding even further. The GOP looked to cut EPA funding by $718 million last year and included policy riders blocking major EPA rules, including the Clean Power Plan and a rule setting federal oversight of waterways.

—This post was updated at 2:35 p.m.