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House Committees Pass Bills to Slash EPA Funding and Delay Recent Clean Air Act Rules

The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce and Appropriations Committees passed a barrage of measures aimed at limiting environmental regulation by the EPA and U.S. Department of the Interior (“Interior”).  Among the measures passed was a delay of at least eighteen months before EPA can finalize two new rules for power plants, the cross-state air pollution rule (“CSAPR,” also known as the “transport rule”) and the utility MACT rule. 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 12 passed H.R. 2401, the “Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011” (“TRAIN Act”).  The TRAIN Act applies to a number of EPA regulations affecting the power and other sectors and creates a cross-agency committee chaired by the Secretary of Commerce to analyze the economic impacts of environmental regulations.  It includes an amendment to implement a deferral of the transport rule and utility MACT for six months following completion of the study, which will take one year to complete.  The transport rule sets state-specific emissions limits aimed at reducing wind-borne transport of ozone and fine particulate matter across state lines in the East and some state west of the Mississippi.  The utility MACT establishes new limits on mercury, heavy-metals, and other hazardous emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  The committee voted 33-13 in favor of the TRAIN Act, with five Democrats voting in favor and one Republican voting against the bill.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has promised a floor vote by the summer, but most anticipate the bill will have a difficult time getting past Senate Democrats and would likely be vetoed by the President.

The House Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, on July 13 sent a package of policy riders and significant spending cuts targeting EPA and Interior to the House floor after committee Republicans repeatedly rebuffed Democrats’ attempts to remove the measures.  The package makes a $715 million cut in Interior’s budget from its fiscal 2011 allocation and a hefty $1.5 billion cut to EPA’s $8.6 billion 2011 funding, $1.8 billion less than what President Obama wants for the agency.  The budget cuts include providing only a fraction ($62 million) of proposed $900 million in land acquisition funding and cutting $1 billion from water infrastructure assistance to states.  

The Appropriations Committee additionally included in its package a host of policy riders eliminating or slashing environmental initiatives and regulations. The riders include the TRAIN Act, a ban on greenhouse gas regulation, a moratorium on new species listings and critical habitat designations under the Endangered Species Act, restrictions on financial assurance requirements for mining operations, a prohibition on imposition of certain water pollution control requirements, and a ban on new tailpipe emissions rules for vehicles after model year 2016.  Republicans argued the measures are necessary to protect jobs, defeating Rep. Jim Moran’s (D.-Va.), the top Democrat on the Interior and Environment subcommittee, amendment to strike all riders from the bill. Democrats and Republicans alike speculated some of the spending cuts and policy riders in the appropriations package could become law.