UPDATED, 2:09 p.m., with statement from environmental groups.
Rep. Mike Simpson's subcommittee has finished its work on the interior and environment budget, and the big loser should come as no surprise at all.
It's the Environmental Protection Agency.
Simpson has been an outspoken EPA critic — and no fan of the Obama administration's efforts to increase EPA funding. And so, the overall interior and environment budget of $28 billion represents a $1.2 billion cut from 2011-12. However, the EPA takes a $1.4 billion cut, and the budget imposes a hiring freeze on the agency.
Said Simpson today: “There are those who will no doubt try to portray Republicans as not supporting clean water, clean air, and a clean environment, but such assertions are simply untrue. The reality is that the EPA has received unprecedented and unsustainable increases in recent years. In an environment of historic budget deficits and reduced spending, it should come as no surprise that the agency that saw the greatest increases over the last few years will inevitably see the greatest cuts.”
Several environmental groups — the Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Trout Unlimited — took the committee to task. Of particular concern to them is language restricting the EPA's ability to use the Clean Water Act to protect streams and wetlands, one of several congressional efforts to weaken the law.
"Once again, the House Interior Appropriations bill includes a rider barring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from finalizing and implementing science-based Clean Water Act guidance.," the groups said in a joint statement.
"The attacks on the Clean Water Act are unprecedented in recent memory. Not one, but a growing number of threats are converging on the water resources and fish and wildlife that matter most to sportsmen. Members of Congress should focus more on restoring protections for our waters than racing each other to tear them down and should work with EPA and the Corps to enable the agencies to effectively implement the Clean Water Act."
As Simpson runs for an eighth term this fall, opposed by state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, you can expect this budget, and the EPA, to come up a lot on the campaign trail.
Here's the Simpson news release, in full:
The House Interior and the Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which is chaired by Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, today marked up its appropriations act for fiscal year 2013. The act provides a responsible level of funding for the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and related agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, by saving $1.2 billion from the current fiscal year’s level and focusing on proven, core programs.
“The Interior and Environment bill addresses the fundamental challenges facing the agencies within its jurisdiction while doing so within a fiscally responsible level of funding,” said Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson. “The bill reins in funding and out-of-control regulation at the EPA and reduces overall spending for the third year in a row. We've made some difficult decisions in this bill — decisions that will help reduce our budget deficit while funding many important agencies and programs at sustainable and appropriate levels.”
The FY13 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act funds agencies under the bill at $28 billion, a $1.7 billion cut from the president’s budget request. The EPA will see an additional $1.4 billion in cuts from the current level, which constitutes a cut of 17 percent.
“There are those who will no doubt try to portray Republicans as not supporting clean water, clean air, and a clean environment, but such assertions are simply untrue,” said Simpson. “The reality is that the EPA has received unprecedented and unsustainable increases in recent years. In an environment of historic budget deficits and reduced spending, it should come as no surprise that the agency that saw the greatest increases over the last few years will inevitably see the greatest cuts.”
The bill also shifts funding away from unproven programs and government growth and focuses it on agencies’ core missions and programs that have demonstrated value to taxpayers, including National Park Service operations and resource management. The bill cuts funding for expensive and uncoordinated climate change programs by 29 percent but enables the government to meet its trust responsibilities to Native American communities.
The bill includes $3.2 billion for wildfire fighting and prevention programs, a $6 million increase over the current year, including full funding of the 10-year average wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service. The bill also includes a one-year authorization for mandatory funding of the Payments-in-lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) program.
The bill also contains a number of provisions intended to provide the regulatory certainty needed for economic growth, including:
• A provision prohibiting the EPA from requiring permits for stormwater runoff from forest roads through FY2013;
• A provision prohibiting the EPA from changing the definition of “navigable waterways” under the Clean Water Act;
• Making permanent a provision enabling the BLM and Forest Service to renew expired grazing permits while focusing environmental review on the most environmentally sensitive areas;
• A provision allowing the trailing of livestock to grazing allotments on public lands without unnecessary environmental review;
• A provision allowing the 20-year grazing permits for the Forest Service and BLM;
• A provision requiring agencies to make information regarding payments for legal fees to litigants who sue the federal government available to the public;
• A provision putting an effective hiring freeze on EPA employees, rejecting the president’s proposal to hire additional regulators.