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 BarrassoWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Senators to meet with Zelensky after impeachment trial GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' MORE (R-Wyo.) sent a letter this week to Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic 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: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Architect of controversial EPA policies to return as chief of staff: report EPA asked to justify proposal to limit power of its science advisers 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 MulvaneyWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Tucker Carlson calls out Mick Mulvaney on immigration remarks: 'Dishonest and stupid' Trump furious after officials allowed Americans with coronavirus to fly home with other passengers: report 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.