Wednesday, July 13, 2011

UPDATED: House Appropriations Committee Passes Fiscal Year 2012 Interior and Environment Spending Bill

The full House Appropriations Committee last night (July 12) passed its Fiscal Year 2012 Interior and Environment spending bill on a vote of 28-18, sending it on to the full House for consideration (expected the week of July 25).   You can read the Committee's press release on the bill's passage here.  The bill provides $27.5 billion in funding for the US EPA and Department of Interior – a reduction of $2.1 billion below last year’s (Fiscal Year 2011) level and $3.8 billion below the President’s 2012 budget request. Among the legislation's more significant cuts are:
  • Interior's land acquisition funding reduced by $239 million
  • EPA's municipal water and wastewater infrastructure project funding (know as Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds or "SRFs") reduced by $967 million (totals were $689 million for the Clean Water SRF and $829 million for the Drinking Water SRF)
  • Climate change programs cut by a total of $83 million
One of the more controversial riders attached to the bill would block EPA from using any funds "to carry out, implement, administer, or enforce"  changes to Clean Water Act jurisdiction put into place since the last guidance on the matter  (issued during the George W. Bush administration). 

Although certain to be challenged by President Obama and Senate Democrats, House Democrats and Republicans alike said following the bill's passage out of Committee that much of what had been passed may survive into a final bill, given the political realities of the current fiscal year.

EPA's proposed "Mississippi River Basin Initiative" would not be funded at all under the terms of this bill (the Administration's 2012 budget proposal included $6 million for the initiative).  With respect to that Mississippi River Basin Initiative, the House bill's report language notes "the Committee has not provided funding to initiate a new grant program in the Mississippi River Basin (but) is pleased to see that the (EPA) has proposed a more focused approach to targeting the funding in such a large watershed. However, the Agency’s proposal continues to lack definitive targets and goals and it is unclear what results could be expected from this new program similar to Section 319 nonpoint source grants." (report language not yet released but will accompanying the spending bill following the full Appropriation Committee’s mark-up).  The President’s 2012 Budget Proposal described the Mississippi River Basin Initiative as a program  “to address upstream pollution sources in the Mississippi River Basin."

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