House appropriators continued their battle this afternoon over a 2012 spending proposal for U.S. EPA and the Interior Department that slashes funding and packs provisions to block Obama administration regulatory priorities.
Working through more than 30 amendments, Republicans have rebuffed efforts by the outmanned Democrats to scuttle provisions that the GOP says will stem out-of-control regulation and spending.
Among the surviving riders is a proposal that would block U.S. EPA regulation of greenhouse gases in fiscal 2012.
The language would temporarily amend the Clean Air Act to prevent EPA from crafting or implementing carbon dioxide restrictions for stationary sources, such as power plants and oil refineries, and to suspend the legal basis for those rules. It would also prevent citizen lawsuits related to climate.
Amendments by Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and. Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) fell in party-line votes.
Moran's amendment would have cut 25 of the bill's policy riders, including the prohibition on greenhouse gas rules. The Interior and Environment subcommittee's ranking Democrat told the panel that policy riders had no place on a spending bill.
"Whole legislative bills have been included in this appropriations bill," he said, calling the bill a "cookie jar" for special interests.
Serrano's amendment would have jettisoned only the greenhouse gas language. He noted that the House has already passed a bill, H.R. 910, that would permanently bar EPA from regulating emissions linked to climate change.
"There's no need to attach this already-passed provision to an appropriations bill when we are supposed to be addressing funding issues," he said.
The House-passed bill to clip EPA on climate has stalled in the Senate, and Republicans hope that by attaching a temporary stay on EPA rules to spending legislation they can improve its chances of becoming law.
But Serrano argued the effects of man-made climate change are already visible in changing weather patterns and rising temperatures.
"We can keep denying that something is going on," he said. "But something is going on in this country and this world."
Moran said EPA regulations were nowhere near tough enough to meet to Obama administration's goal of reducing U.S. emissions 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. The administration stated that goal ahead of U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, two years ago.
"EPA's actions are insufficient, but they are far more preferable then doing nothing," Moran said.
Endangered Species Act
Also defeated in a 23-26 vote was an amendment by the full appropriations committee's top Democrat, Norm Dicks of Washington, that would have scrapped the bill's prohibition on the Fish and Wildlife Service's listing of any new plants or animals under the Endangered Species Act.
Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said the rider was intended to provide an incentive for environmentalists and other pro-conservation stakeholders to agree to a reauthorization of the law.
"The only way I can think of to do it is to force the issue," he said. "This is a shot across the bow."
Simpson said he did not oppose new listings but was concerned that listing species -- and keeping them listed -- had become a way to permanently withdraw land and water from use.
"The ESA has become so contentious, so political and so litigious that it has become a policy failure," he said.
Simpson said that out of more than 2,000 species listed since the act became law in 1973, only 21 have been delisted because they were determined to have recovered.
"By any calculation, that's a pretty poor track record," he said.
Dicks countered that by effectively disarming the ESA, the appropriations bill would ensure that lawmakers and interest groups that oppose new listings would have little incentive to negotiate a deal.
Appropriators also wrestled over Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's move to impose a long-term ban on mining near the Grand Canyon.
Republicans prevailed in keeping language in the spending bill that would prevent the administration from imposing a ban on new hardrock mining claims around the Grand Canyon National Park without the blessing of Congress.
The debate comes just weeks after Salazar angered Republicans by announcing his intention to withdraw 1 million acres from new claims for 20 years pending the completion of a formal review on the issue (E&E Daily, July 7).
Moran argued that a South Korean company planned to mine for uranium under a deal that required no royalty payments and could pollute the Colorado River. He said his amendment presented the committee with the "simple choice" of siding either with "a great American landmark, the jewel of our national park system," or with "the foreign-owned uranium mining companies who will pay nothing -- zero -- to mine uranium from our national park."
Republicans countered that the mining ban would prevent job creation and contravene an historic agreement. Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake said the mining has been done safely outside the park.
"The gulf between rhetoric and reality on this amendment is as wide as the Grand Canyon," Flake said. "It's American jobs that will be gained here, and we in Arizona know that."
Moran's bid to strike the provision was defeated, 23-26.
Fla. water pollution
GOP appropriators also succeeded in adding a provision, sponsored by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), that would block EPA from spending money to enforce pollution limits on Florida lakes, rivers and streams.
"The impact of this issue is astronomical," Diaz-Balart said. "It will destroy the economy. It will cost billions and billions of dollars to the counties, to residents of the state Florida."
The panel voted 26-19 to add the provision.