Senate Interior-EPA Spending Bill Provides More Funding Than House Version

Reposted from NGWA Newsletter:
Senate Interior-EPA Spending Bill Provides More Funding Than House Version
A key U.S. Senate Appropriations subpanel released on August 1 its legislation that would fund the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and the Forest Service for fiscal 2014 at levels much higher than its House of Representatives counterpart and with far fewer policy restrictions.
The Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee's bill for fiscal 2014 would provide nearly $31 billion for the programs it covers, compared with $24.3 billion under the House version, according to Environment & Energy Publishing.
The bill currently before the House Appropriations Committee would provide only $5.5 billion for the EPA in the fiscal year beginning in October, while the Senate version would allocate $8.5 billion. The House figure represents a $2.8 billion cut compared with current post-sequestration levels. The Senate would provide the agency with more than it received last year and $328 million more than President Barack Obama requested for fiscal 2014.
The two bills also are divided on policy riders. The House measure would bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, increasing restrictions on lead paint, and implementing a new rule for sulfur emissions in gasoline. The House Appropriations Committee on July 31 also voted to bar the agency from using the administration's new social cost of carbon estimate in rulemakings. But the Senate measure contains none of that language.
The House Appropriations Committee's markup on July 31 was contentious, with Democrats panning the bill's spending levels as too low to meet basic resources management needs. The committee plans to resume consideration of the bill after the August recess.
The Senate package, by contrast, was supported by both subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The differences between the two bills underscore how challenging it will be for the House and Senate to agree on funding levels in time to pass legislation by October 1 when the new fiscal year begins. Most observers expect Congress to approve a stopgap spending bill in September to fund the federal government for at least a short period while the two chambers negotiate a longer-term compromise.
The Senate bill would keep funding level for two federal loan programs to repair aging wastewater systems. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund would receive $1.4 billion under the Senate bill, as opposed to $250 million under the House's version. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund would get $907 million, compared with $350 million in the House bill.
The slim appropriations in the House bill for the popular programs drew an outcry from Democratic lawmakers and water agencies, but House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said the bill was an exercise in making "tough choices."
The Senate bill would keep funding essentially level for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which Obama created in 2009 as a multiagency effort and has strong bipartisan support from regional lawmakers. The program would receive $300 million under the bill.
House lawmakers had initially slashed funding to the initiative by 80%, but Republican representatives Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and David Joyce of Ohio successfully offered an amendment during full committee markup to increase the program's funding by $150 million to a total of $210 million. The cost would be offset by extending a federal program that sells helium.
The Senate bill would maintain funding for the Superfund hazardous site cleanup program, setting levels at $1.2 billion. The brownfields project grants, which faced cuts in President Barack Obama's budget request and the House appropriations language, would net $95 million under the Senate bill, equal to the fiscal 2013 appropriation.
The popular Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant program, which offers money to states for retrofitting cars and trucks, would face a cut of just less than $5 million with a level set at $15 million—significantly higher than the $6 million proposed by the Obama administration.
The bill also maintains funding for state and local air quality management grants at 2012 levels. Those grants help state air offices comply with EPA Clean Air Act regulations, including ozone and fine particulate standards. The bill also provides $290 million for clean air and climate programs.