Committee approves $31.4B Interior, EPA spending bill

Committee approves $31.4B Interior, EPA spending bill
© Greg Nash

A House panel has approved a bill to cut the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) funding by $528 million but reject several deep cuts sought by President Trump.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 on Tuesday to send to the House floor its $31.4 billion funding bill for the EPA, the Interior Department and other programs.

Republicans supported the bill and hailed it as a measure that “prioritizes critical programs that protect our air land and water within a tight budget while also reining in burdensome regulations,” said committee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney FrelinghuysenOvernight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot White House requests B for disaster relief Ryan: More hurricane aid likely coming in October MORE (R-N.J.).

ADVERTISEMENT

Beyond the proposed EPA cut, the bill would slash the Interior Department’s funding by 7 percent and pass on cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

It includes funding to speed up a buyout program at the EPA and several policy provisions, including one instructing the EPA to repeal an Obama-era water jurisdiction regulation.

On the whole, the funding bill is worth $824 million less than current levels but $4.3 billion more than Trump’s budget request.

Democrats broadly opposed the bill, saying it cuts the EPA’s budget too much, especially in light of past funding reductions, and contains too many policy riders.

“This level is simply too low, it’s a step backward, and a cut of this magnitude endangers our nation’s natural and cultural resources,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.).

“The cuts in this bill will further undermine the EPA’s ability to keep our families and our communities healthy and to protect our environment for future generations.”

The committee rejected several Democratic amendments to the bill, including measures to strip out policy riders related to water regulations and the Endangered Species Act and a proposal to block drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Lawmakers also voted down an amendment blocking the EPA from closing regional offices, a worry raised by lawmakers in the Midwest earlier this year but one the EPA has said is unfounded.

Republicans defended the spending cuts for the EPA, saying the bill allows the agency to pursue its “core” missions.

“This funding level ensure the agency is able to fulfill its core duties while streamlining the agency and reshaping its workforce,” Frelinghuysen said.

“Several provisions are included that will stop the bureaucratic overreach and prioritize economic growth.”

The spending bill now goes to the full House for consideration.