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Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill Overreaches and Overspends


, Jul 22 -

Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill Overreaches and Overspends
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment today approved annual funding legislation for the next fiscal year. The bill, which funds federal agencies under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction, totals $32.2 billion which is equal to last year’s level. However, the total level of funding in the bill has increased dramatically over the last three years, with an overall 17% increase in spending last year alone. When funding approved in the “stimulus” bill and other emergency legislation for these programs is taken into account, the spending in these government programs has increased more than 82% since fiscal year 2007.
 
House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis raised several concerns with the Interior bill in the subcommittee meeting, including its high level of spending in the midst of historic national deficits and debt.
 
“An 82% percent funding increase in three years for Interior programs, even in good economic times, would be questionable. But when our country is fighting against a mountain of debt, and when families across the country are making painful sacrifices because of job loss or financial difficulty, this kind of exponential increase is grossly irresponsible. We should be cutting back unnecessary funding, making smart investments that will create jobs, and getting our economy back on track – not just riding the tide of overindulgent spending,” Lewis said.
 
Lewis and Republican members of the subcommittee also expressed grave concerns over the attempted overreaching by federal agencies – such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – through new and expansive regulations. These regulations have the force of law, are not approved by Congress, and can have costly and damaging effects on individuals, businesses, and communities across the country.
 
“Billions in taxpayer dollars are being spent on the EPA’s pursuit of a variety and mix of regulations that are frustrating local officials across the country. This arbitrary rule-making is stifling growth and making it difficult for farmers and small businesses to survive,” Lewis said.
 
To address their concerns with the legislation, Republican members of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee offered several amendments today, including:
 
1.)    Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA) offered an amendment to cut approximately $322 million or 1% from the overall cost of the bill. This relatively small reduction would demonstrate a commitment to reducing unnecessary government spending and begin the process of scaling back the massive increases in these programs over the past three years.
 
The amendment was defeated by subcommittee Democrats on a 5-9 vote.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Moran (D-VA), Rep. Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), Rep. Chandler (D-KY), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), and Chairman Obey (D-WI) all voted to oppose that amendment.
 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Calvert (R-CA), Rep. LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Cole (R-OK), and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA), all voted in favor of the amendment.
 
2.)    Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID) offered an amendment to allow the renewal of grazing permits administered by the Forest Service or the Interior Department for one year. The amendment also requires a report on the permitting process, including recommendations, to ensure that permits are reviewed in a timely manner, and strikes bill language allowing voluntary buyouts of grazing permits.
 
The amendment was accepted by the Subcommittee on a voice vote.
 
3.)    Rep. Calvert (R-CA) offered an amendment to continue existing law by preventing unnecessary impediments to Homeland Security border security efforts by the Department of the Interior. The amendment also requires a report on conflicts between the departments related to differing laws and enforcement standards in border areas. This language was included in the Interior Appropriations conference report last year.
 
The amendment was accepted on a voice vote.
 
4.)    Rep. LaTourette (R-OH) offered an amendment to delay for two years any regulatory action under the Clean Air Act related to “stationary source” permitting requirements for facilities such as coal-powered electricity plants. This amendment is virtually identical to pending authorization legislation sponsored by Rep. Rahall (D-WV) and Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV).
 
The amendment was defeated by subcommittee Democrats on a tie, 7-7 vote.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Moran (D-VA), Rep. Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), and Chairman Obey (D-WI) all voted to oppose that amendment.
 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Calvert (R-CA), Rep. LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Cole (R-OK), Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA), Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), and Rep. Chandler (D-KY), all voted in favor of the amendment.
 
5.)    Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID) offered an amendment to prohibit the EPA from changing the definition of navigable waters under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Recent media reports have indicated that the EPA is considering a change that would include smaller bodies of water – such as ponds, creeks, and the concrete LA River – in the definition, resulting in a large expansion of the regulation and increased costs to farmers and landowners.
 
The amendment was defeated by subcommittee Democrats on a 5-7 vote.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Moran (D-VA), Rep. Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), Rep. Chandler (D-KY), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), and Chairman Obey (D-WI) all voted to oppose that amendment.
 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Calvert (R-CA), Rep. LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Cole (R-OK), and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA), all voted in favor of the amendment.
 
 
6.)    Rep. Cole (R-OK) offered an amendment to update language in the ‘Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.” The amendment changes the language in the bill from “any recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction,” to “any federally recognized Indian tribe.” This clarification will enable all federally recognized Native American tribes to be on an equal playing field when it comes to land-into-trust applications.
 
The amendment was accepted by the subcommittee on a voice vote.
 
7.)    Rep. Calvert (R-CA) offered an amendment to prevent the transfer or release of any Guantanamo detainee, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, into the United States or its territories.
 
The amendment was defeated by subcommittee Democrats on a 5-9 vote.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Moran (D-VA), Rep. Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), Rep. Chandler (D-KY), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), and Chairman Obey (D-WI) all voted to oppose that amendment.
 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Calvert (R-CA), Rep. LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Cole (R-OK), and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA), all voted in favor of the amendment.
 
8.)    Rep. LaTourette (R-OH) offered an amendment requiring the EPA to update its outdated policies that fail to prevent local communities from being burdened with unnecessarily high costs associated with EPA regulations on “Combined Sewer Overflow” systems. The amendment requires that the EPA consult with state and local governments and other interested parties and consider the financial condition of local communities when making decisions related to “Federal Water Pollution Control Act” regulations.
 
The amendment was defeated by subcommittee Democrats on a 5-9 vote.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Moran (D-VA), Rep. Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), Rep. Chandler (D-KY), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), and Chairman Obey (D-WI) all voted to oppose that amendment.
 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Calvert (R-CA), Rep. LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Cole (R-OK), and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA), all voted in favor of the amendment.
 
9.)    Rep. Cole (R-OK) offered an to amendment to exempt “biomass combustion emissions” from the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions and the permitting requirements for greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. This is consistent with the Administration’s policy on federal agency emissions. Biomass combustion emissions come from activities as such as the burning of hazardous materials, including brush and other debris removed for wildfire prevention purposes. Ironically, this bill provides funds for the Forest Service to promote biomass-to-energy, even as the EPA is regulating against it. 
 
The amendment was defeated by subcommittee Democrats on a 5-9 vote.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Moran (D-VA), Rep. Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), Rep. Chandler (D-KY), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), and Chairman Obey (D-WI) all voted to oppose that amendment.
 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Calvert (R-CA), Rep. LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Cole (R-OK), and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA), all voted in favor of the amendment.
 
10.)   Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID) offered an amendment to continue existing law preventing the EPA from mandating greenhouse gas emissions reports from “manure management systems” and other gas emissions from livestock. If implemented by the EPA, these regulations would have catastrophic cost effects on livestock farmers and ranchers. Language preventing these mandates was included in the Interior Appropriations conference report last year. This amendment is consistent with the Administration’s policies for federal agencies.
 
The amendment was defeated by subcommittee Democrats on a 5-9 vote.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Moran (D-VA), Rep. Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), Rep. Chandler (D-KY), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), and Chairman Obey (D-WI) all voted to oppose that amendment.
 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Calvert (R-CA), Rep. LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Cole (R-OK), and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA), all voted in favor of the amendment.
 
11.)   Rep. Calvert (R-CA) and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA) offered an amendment that would force the Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct a thorough economic impact analysis before creating or implementing regulations related to the habitat restoration of the “Santa Ana Sucker” fish, so that the Service does not place unnecessary cost or regulatory burdens on farmers and individuals.
 
The amendment was withdrawn.
 
12.)   Rep. LaTourette (R-OH) offered an amendment to prevent the EPA from creating or implementing regulations that would require new air quality standards for ground level ozone. The amendment language would continue the rules established just three years ago that have yet to implemented or evaluated.
 
The amendment was defeated by subcommittee Democrats on a 5-8 vote.
 
Subcommittee Chairman Moran (D-VA), Rep. Dicks (D-WA), Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), Rep. Chandler (D-KY), Rep. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Olver (D-MA), Rep. Pastor (D-AZ), and Chairman Obey (D-WI) all voted to oppose that amendment.
 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID), Rep. Calvert (R-CA), Rep. LaTourette (R-OH), Rep. Cole (R-OK), and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA), all voted in favor of the amendment.
 
13.)   Rep. LaTourette (R-OH) offered an amendment to stop the EPA from overreaching and implementing new rules and regulations related to the labeling of safe and common pesticides.  A new EPA regulation could force changes on trademarked names of long established product brand names.
 
The amendment was withdrawn.
 
14.)   Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID) offered an amendment to include language in the legislation that expresses the Committee’s concern over regulatory efforts by the EPA that would require most dairies in the United States to create and implement expensive, unnecessary, and burdensome “oil spill prevention” plans. Because milk is considered an oil product by the EPA, there have been attempts by EPA to implement these regulations on the dairy industry. The amendment would require the EPA to exempt dairies from these regulations, and submit a report on the status of these exemptions. 
 
The amendment was accepted by the subcommittee on a voice vote.
 
 
15.)   Subcommittee Ranking Member Simpson (R-ID) offered an amendment to provide adequate funding for “fixed costs” for the Department of Interior and the Forest Service. The additional funding is offset with cuts in other areas, including land-acquisition (which has benefited from huge increases in recent years), greenhouse gas regulation, and uncoordinated and ill-justified new climate change policy. The underlying legislation does not include funding necessary to fully cover pay, health care increases, rent, utilities, and other fixed costs for these agencies. Without the amendment, these agencies will have to absorb these costs – totaling approximately $146 million – from other areas in their budgets, without direction from Congress. 
 
The amendment was withdrawn.