GOP chairman seeks ‘sufficient’ funding for EPA watchdog office

GOP chairman seeks ‘sufficient’ funding for EPA watchdog office
© Greg Nash

The Republican chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to ensure that the agency’s internal watchdog office has the funding it needs.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Senate adds members to pro-NATO group Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act MORE (R-Wyo.) sent a letter this week to Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee subpanel with authority over the EPA’s budget, advocating for better funding for the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

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The OIG has taken on numerous high-profile investigations or audits involving EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Fewer than half of school districts test for lead | Dems slam proposed changes to Endangered Species Act | FEMA avoids climate change when discussing plan for future storms Greens sue EPA over ‘super-polluting’ truck rule Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court MORE’s ethics and spending scandals, which threatens to strain the office’s budget.

While Barrasso did not endorse a specific funding level, he said he supports “sufficient funding” for the OIG.

Barrasso also cited a letter Inspector General Arthur Elkins wrote in February objecting to the Trump administration’s budget, which proposed $46 million for fiscal 2019, a significant cut. Elkins asked for $62 million.

A $46 million budget for the OIG would “substantially inhibit the OIG from performing the duties of the office,” Elkins said in the letter to Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWho watches the ‘watchdog?’ It's time for accountability for the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump suggests China is easing pressure on North Korea because of trade fight | Mulvaney taps top aide as No. 2 at consumer bureau | House Republican to offer bill to curtail Trump's trade powers MORE, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“Please note that since Mr. Elkins' letter, the OIG has not only expanded a number of ongoing reviews, but has also initiated additional reviews concerning a wide range of allegations related to the Office of the Administrator,” Barrasso wrote to Murkowski.

Despite Elkins’s plea, the House Appropriations Committee last week passed a spending bill for the EPA and Interior Department that would provide just $50 million for the EPA’s OIG.

Lawmakers rejected a proposal from Democrats to boost the OIG’s funding level.

Murkowski’s subcommittee approved its version of the EPA and Interior spending bill Tuesday, but it did not release the text of the legislation publicly.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is planning to vote on the bill Thursday, and will likely release it to the public after the vote.