Democratic appropriations bills would increase environmental funding by $6B
An appropriations bill unveiled Monday by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would increase funds for the Interior Department and other environmental agencies by $6 billion compared to 2021 levels.
The 2022 bill would include discretionary funding of $44.6 billion as well as $2.4 billion for the Wildfire Suppression Operations Reserve Fund.
The bill’s provisions also include advanced appropriations for the Indian Health Service for the first time. The appropriations include $7.6 billion for the Indian Health Service, $1.38 billion more than the level enacted in fiscal 2021.
It would also increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $1.3 billion compared to fiscal 2021, for a total of $10.54 billion. This increase, according to committee leadership, would enable the agency to hire nearly 1,000 staffers shed over the last decade.
The appropriations bill would also increase funding for environmental justice, a major stated priority of EPA Administrator Michael Regan, from $12 million to more than $200 million.
After an unprecedented wildfire season in the Western and Northwestern U.S., the bill would also provide $3.845 billion for wildfire suppression, $2.45 billion of which would go to the Wildfire Suppression Operations Reserve Fund.
This figure marks a $100 million increase from the fiscal 2021 funding.
“For too long, programs protecting public lands, public health, and the environment and supporting tribal communities have been operating on fumes,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chairman of the panel’s Department of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a statement.
“I’m proud to announce that this bill makes unprecedented investments to address climate chaos, respond to and prevent climate-driven wildfires, protect natural places and wildlife, restore the rightful place of science, and rebuild capacity at federal agencies,” he added.
Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the committee, blasted the appropriations bills in a statement of his own, accusing the majority of pushing “undefined ‘environmental justice efforts” and “global climate slush funds.”