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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 BarrassoJudge halts Biden pause on new public lands oil leasing GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' Biden land management pick faces GOP scrutiny over decades-old tree spiking case MORE (R-Wyo.) sent a letter this week to Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHundreds in West Virginia protest Manchin's opposition to voting rights legislation How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Senate confirms Garland's successor to appeals court 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 PruittOklahoma AG resigns following news of divorce, alleged affair Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues Scientific integrity, or more hot air? 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 MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' 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.