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House lawmakers vote to give modest budget cuts to EPA, Interior

House lawmakers vote to give modest budget cuts to EPA, Interior
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House lawmakers voted Tuesday night to give modest budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interior Department.

The bipartisan bill voted out of committee by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies provides the Interior Department with $13 billion and the EPA with $8 billion for fiscal 2019. It gives $35.2 billion in total to fund Interior, EPA and other similar agencies.

Agencies and programs in the bill weathered far fewer cuts to its budget than originally suggested by the White House budget proposed in February — with the overall budget level landing at $7 billion more than requested. The budget for the Interior Department was more than $1 billion higher than the White House’s proposed $11.7 billion budget.

The EPA's budget would be cut by a proposed $100 million. The bill also includes a number of riders that would affect wildlife conservation.

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Chairman Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (R-Calif.) said the reductions to EPA largely focused on cuts to “search and regulatory programs.” The bill cuts many of the agency’s regulatory programs by $228 million below the current enacted level.

Environmental and wildlife conservationists opposed the bill due to a number of riders that would strip protections for species and the environment, including one that would take away federal protections on wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and strip Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming. Another aims to repeal EPA’s Clean Water Rule.

“When at first you don’t succeed at endangering America’s air, water, land and wildlife, try, try again by hiding anti-environmental riders deep in a must-pass federal appropriations bill,” Martin Hayden, vice president of Policy and Legislation for Earthjustice said in a statement Tuesday. “These giveaways for wealthy corporate polluters couldn’t pass as standalone bills which is why House leaders bury them in spending bills, hoping Americans aren’t paying attention while Congress gives away the store.”

Nevertheless, environmentalists were relieved to see funding remain for key programs, which were whittled down in the White House proposal.

The subcommittee’s bill stopped short of severely cutting back on Interior’s Land Water Conservation Fund, which moves some funding from offshore oil drilling royalties into land conservation and public land access efforts. The department’s proposed budget for fiscal 2019 suggested cutting the program by roughly 90 percent.

“The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee’s funding bill released today rejected the Trump Administration’s harmful and dangerous proposal to decimate America’s most important conservation and recreation program, the LWC,” Tom Cors, director of government relations for lands at The Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. “The Subcommittee bill wisely recognizes the vital importance of LWCF, which the Administration proposed effectively to wipe out.”

At the markup of the bill Tuesday, ranking member Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumHouse completes first half of 2019 spending bills House lawmakers vote to give modest budget cuts to EPA, Interior How the embassy move widens the partisan divide over Israel MORE (D-Minn.) objected to the inclusion of the riders she said “would undermine clean air and clean water standards, put the health and safety of American families at risk and roll back protections for endangered species.”

“I do not understand why the majority continues to impose riders on these bills in the appropriations process rather than bring them to the floor and vote on them with full transparency,” she said.

Additionally, she took aim at EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’ Overnight Energy: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation MORE specifically, chastising members for not including direct messaging in the bill that reprimanded Pruitt for spending taxpayer money Congress did not allot to him to build his $43,000 soundproof booth.

“The EPA has yet to provide the committee with the statutory-required Anti Deficiency Act report regarding this violation. This is not an isolated case of the financial abuse of EPA leadership,” McCollum said.

She called again for Pruitt to resign.