GOP appropriators look to block EPA rules

House appropriators want to use a funding bill to block several controversial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, Republicans on the committee announced Tuesday. 

The Appropriations Committee's 2016 interior and environment funding bill would block the EPA's proposed greenhouse gas emissions rules for new and existing power plants, as well as its ability to define which waterways it is allowed to regulate. 

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The bill also blocks several other potential EPA regulatory changes, including rewriting its definition of material that can be dumped into waterways and regulations on lead in ammunition and fishing tackle.

The bill cuts funding for the EPA by $718 million, or 9 percent, and caps staffing levels at the agency to 15,000, the lowest level since 1989.

EPA provisions in the 2016 spending bill are very similar to those Republicans proposed last year, when they looked to cut funding for the agency by 9 percent, cap staffing levels and block a handful of potential agency rules. 

"The bill takes meaningful steps to shield our economy and defend American jobs from the executive overreach of EPA regulators," Interior Subcommittee chairman Rep. Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (R-Calif.) said in a statement. His subcommittee will consider the bill at a hearing on Wednesday.

The budget deal approved by Congress in December funded the EPA at $8.1 billion during 2015 — a $60 million cut from 2014 — and kept staffing at around 1989 levels. That deal did not block major EPA rule-making. 

President Obama has called for a $500 million increase in EPA funding next year. 

Conservation groups hit the appropriations bill quickly on Tuesday. 

"This is a draconian proposal," Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy campaigner Lukas Ross said in a statement. "Agencies like the EPA are a crucial line of defense between polluters and our air and water. Congress should give these agencies the support they deserve instead of treating them as props in political theatre.”

Overall, the GOP's proposed interior and environment appropriations bill spends $30.17 billion next fiscal year, $246 million less than current levels and $3 billion less than what Obama requested. 

The bill bumps up funding for wildfire prevention, Native American programs and the Office of Surface Mining. It passes on small cuts to the U.S. Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and includes a provision blocking Endangered Species Act rule-making on the greater sage grouse.