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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 BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (R-Wyo.) sent a letter this week to Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump administration denies permit for controversial Pebble Mine Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right 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 PruittMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Democratic lawmaker calls for DOJ investigation of entire Trump administration 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 MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency 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.