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 BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Wyo.) sent a letter this week to Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote 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 PruittEPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' Overnight Energy: Trump administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections 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 MulvaneyTrump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition Trump administration asks Supreme Court to take up challenge to consumer bureau NOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet 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.