House bill slashes EPA budget by 34 percent

House Republicans on Monday unveiled plans to slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 34 percent in 2014 and block federal rules to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

The proposed $2.8 billion cut is twice as deep as the 17 percent reduction proposed last year by the House GOP and reflects a decision to cut domestic programs below sequestration levels in the coming year while adding money for the military.

The reduction was unveiled as part of a $24.3 billion Interior and Environment spending bill coming before a House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday. 

In total, the bill cuts $5.5 billion, or 19 percent, from agencies under its purview. The EPA is cut deeper in order to reduce the effects on other budgets, such as that of the National Park Service.

Appropriators promised to keep parks open next year but cultural attractions will suffer under the bill. The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities is cut by 49 percent and the Smithsonian Institution and National Gallery of Art each get a 19 percent cut. 

The bill contains a host of policy riders that cut off funding for controversial environmental projects. Many of these have appeared in past years.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who hails from coal country, said “by holding back overly zealous and unnecessary environmental regulations, this bill can have a positive effect on our economy and will help encourage job growth.”

A summary provided by the committee lists “language related to the ‘stream buffer rule’; changes to the definition of ‘navigable waters’ under the Clean Water Act; ‘new source’ performance standards; ‘silviculture’ regulations; changes to the definition of “fill material;” and new financial assurance requirements for hard rock mining.”

The bill would block upcoming EPA rules that require refiners to sharply cut the sulfur content of gasoline. The oil industry strongly opposes the "Tier 3" rules, alleging they will impose major costs.

On global warming, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who heads the Appropriations subpanel that released the bill, has vowed the legislation will be a “battleground” over Obama’s climate regulations.

Obama, in late June, rolled out a wide-ranging climate change plan that relies on executive-level action. 

It includes controversial EPA rules that would impose first-time carbon emissions standards on the nation’s new and existing power plants. The House spending bill would block the EPA from working on those regulations.

Simpson is facing a primary challenger backed by the conservative Club for Growth and is under pressure to show his budget-cutting chops. 

A central reason Simpson is facing a primary challenge is his support for a deficit grand bargain that would cut entitlements and raise additional tax revenue to take pressure off of agency budgets.

"We are going to continue to see these kinds of dramatic reductions as long as we keep trying to reduce the debt by cutting discretionary spending alone, rather than also tackling mandatory spending, which is the real driver of our debt,” Simpson said in a statement Monday.

He highlighted his efforts to ensure the government has money to fight the devastating wildfires burning in the West. The bill increases fire fighting and prevention funds by 16 percent. He also highlighted funding for American Indians, but the bill cuts the Indian Health Service by $227 million below 2013 levels. 

The bill would block the Interior Department from completing rules that toughen environmental restrictions on the dumping of wastes from mountaintop removal coal mining projects in Appalachian states.

It also defunds the Dwight Eisenhower Memorial, the design of which has been criticized by the Eisenhower family.

This post was updated at 11:50 a.m. and 12:10 p.m.