House Republicans take aim at EPA climate rules

House appropriators on Tuesday approved a $30 billion spending bill designed to block a host of looming Environmental Protection Agency regulations viewed by the GOP as exceeding the agency’s authority.

Republicans on the Appropriations Committee pushed through the Interior and environment funding bill, sending it to the House floor over the objections of Democrats who described it as full of “veto bait” and handouts to big business.

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The panel advanced the measure — the seventh, and potentially last for the year, of the 12 annual appropriations bills Congress is supposed to pass — by a 29–19 vote. Even if approved by the House, the bill is unlikely to become law. The Senate has yet to act on a single appropriations bill, and President Obama would likely refuse to sign it.

Still, the bill has become another battleground for the GOP’s escalating assault on Obama’s regulatory agenda. It contains myriad provisions designed to dial back or altogether block a wide range of EPA regulations.

Among the bill’s targets are controversial regulations at the center of Obama’s climate change initiative, as well as obscure rules proposed by an agency that for many Republicans has become the poster child for executive branch overreach.

Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) accused the administration of being “hell bent on adding layer after layer of harmful red tape.”

“No other agency has done more to inflict this type of pain than the EPA,” Rogers said at the start of a markup session that ran nearly four hours.

The bill takes aim at the EPA’s twin draft regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — both last month’s proposal to reduce carbon pollution from existing plants, as well as a rule offered earlier this year for future plants.

It targets the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule designed to clarify the agency’s jurisdiction over streams and other smaller bodies of water. Republicans have derided the measure as a "land grab" that could result in the agency expanding its jurisdiction to ponds, trenches or even dry riverbeds.

Additional language would block the EPA’s proposal to tighten restrictions on what fill materials companies may dump into waterways and Interior Department efforts to list certain animals on the Endangered Species List.

Rep. Jim Moran (Va.), top Democrat on the panel’s’ Interior and environment subcommittee, counted those measures among two dozen “poison pills” that would serve only as “veto bait” for Obama were the bill to land on his desk.

“This bill was designed to protect nature, if not for nature’s sake, then for our sake,” he said.

The bill's spending comes in more than $400 million below the president’s budget request and contains a $717 million, or 9 percent, decrease in EPA funding.

Democrats on the panel, including Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), ranking member on the full committee, said the cuts would endanger communities at the behest of big business.

The EPA, meanwhile, defended its regulations against the attacks from House Republicans, maintaining that the agency has acted within its statutory authority.

“As Congress has directed us, and as the courts have reaffirmed for us, our mission is to protect Americans from significant risks to human health and the environment,” agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia said.

“Overestimating the costs, and deliberately undervaluing the benefits ignores the facts: For over four decades, EPA has cut air pollution by 70 percent and the economy has more than tripled.”

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