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%.
"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% 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.