House panel passes bill that cuts EPA's budget 9 per cent and blocks environmental rules

WASHINGTON – A House panel passed a spending measure on Wednesday that cuts the budget at the Environmental Protection Agency by 9 per cent and blocks the Obama administration from advancing new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Republicans used their majority to pass the bill by voice vote. Now, the $30.2 billion measure funding the Interior Department, EPA and other agencies moves to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Overall, the bill cuts spending by $246 million from current levels and $3 billion below what President Barack Obama had sought. The EPA takes one of the biggest hits. It’s targeted for a $718 million cut from current levels.

Democrats expressed alarms about the spending levels as well as nearly two dozen provisions that prevent the federal government from taking specific regulatory actions. For example, the bill would prevent the issuance of a final rule that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. If enacted, the rule could shut down some coal-fired plants and curb coal production nationally.

“Congress must exercise its prerogative to prevent this kind of bureaucratic overreach,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican.

Republicans also targeted regulatory efforts at the Interior Department, which is considering extending federal protections under the Endangered Species Act to the greater sage-grouse. The bill maintains a one-year delay on a final decision.

“So long as sage-grouse are not under imminent threat of extinction, co-operative conservation must be given a chance to work,” said Republican Rep. Ken Calvert of California.

Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey of New York said the bill demonstrated the GOP’s solidarity with the coal industry and those who deny that climate change is happening.

“Once again, the majority has waged war on the Endangered Species Act,” Lowey said.