Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Republican spending measure would block EPA climate rules

From: The Hill's E2-Wire

A fiscal 2012 spending bill unveiled Wednesday by House Republican appropriators includes a policy rider that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and refineries for one year.

It is the latest effort by the House GOP to delay the agency’s climate regulations, which Republicans and some Democrats argue will impose huge costs on the economy.

“The bill reins in out-of-control regulation and provides the certainty that our economy needs to make a strong recovery,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Interior, Environment and Related Agencies panel.

The spending bill, which will come up for a vote Thursday in Simpson’s subcommittee, includes a slew of other policy riders that reflect House Republicans’ energy and environmental priorities.

The bill would speed up air pollution permits for Shell Oil and other companies seeking to drill in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast. It contains provisions that mirror a GOP-led bill the House approved last month on the matter.

It sets new deadlines for EPA action on offshore air permit applications, prevents challenges to EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board and eases air pollution standards for offshore projects.

Another provision targeting EPA would prevent the agency from regulating a coal combustion byproduct called coal ash as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The provision reflects the goals of a bipartisan group of coal-state lawmakers who want to prevent EPA from issuing tough rules regulating disposal of coal ash.

Other policy riders include provisions preventing federal regulators from moving forward with regulations intended to protect streams from mountaintop-removal coal mining; language blocking a change in the definition of “navigable waterways” under the Clean Water Act; and a provision exempting some agriculture activities from greenhouse-gas reporting requirements.

Overall, the legislation continues the GOP push to sharply cut the budget of the EPA, an agency Republicans accuse of crafting rules that place excessive burdens on power companies and other industries.

It provides $7.1 billion for the EPA, well below the agency’s current-year funding of $8.7 billion and $1.8 billion less than the White House is seeking for fiscal 2012.

The House GOP proposal includes fresh cuts to wastewater and drinking-water infrastructure funding, grants for state environmental programs and cleanup programs for the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

The bill includes $27.5 billion in total spending. That’s $2.1 billion below last year’s levels and $3.8 billion below Obama’s fiscal 2012 request for the agencies, which in addition to EPA include the Interior Department, the U.S. Forest Service and others.

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