July 25, 2011
by Phil Taylor and Jean Chemnick
Republican lawmakers intend to offer amendments to the fiscal 2012 Interior and U.S. EPA funding bill to prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from funding a recovery program for Mexican wolves in the Southwest and a provision to remove environmental restrictions on U.S. border patrol.
Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) today said he will likely offer an amendment similar to one he offered to the House’s fiscal 2011 continuing resolution in February that would prevent FWS from funding recovery of Mexican wolves.
The animals, which differ from the gray wolf of the northern Rockies and Great Lakes, once roamed throughout broad portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, but came into conflict with human settlement in the 1900s, including livestock operations, according to FWS.
Pearce said he is also likely to offer an amendment to prohibit EPA from offering grants for environmental cleanups in foreign countries.
“Why should we be borrowing from China to pay for China’s environmental cleanup?” he said this afternoon at the Capitol.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said he will likely offer a border protection amendment that will prohibit the Interior Department or the Forest Service from using funds to “impede, prohibit or restrict activities” of the Department of Homeland Security on public lands near the U.S. border with Mexico.
Bishop said the language resembles a proposal by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that was included in a Senate funding bill but was watered down in conference.
Bishop this year introduced H.R. 1505, a proposal that would allow DHS to waive major environmental laws on public lands within 100 miles of the U.S. border.
That bill came before the Natural Resources Committee earlier this month (Land Letter, July 14).
Bishop added that he expects as many amendments to be offered as there are “stars under the heavens” to the funding bill, which would undercut the Obama administration’s request by nearly $4 billion.
But he expects the chamber to put forward a unanimous consent (UC) request tomorrow to move to a structured rule.
“They want to have all the amendments filed by tonight so they can look at what is there,” Bishop said. “Why didn’t we just do a structured rule in the first place and forget the charade of doing an open rule just so we can do a UC later on?”
Bishop added that the bill’s funding cuts for EPA, while not as low as some Republican members had hoped, are a meaningful first step to reining in harmful government overreach.
He added that House leaders hope to have the funding bill wrapped up by the end of the week but that action on the bill may happen intermittently as the chamber grapples with other pressing measures such as deficit reduction.
Another amendment was offered on the floor today by Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas to reduce spending levels to those recommended by the conservative Republican Study Committee.
The measure drew howls from Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who warned that it would zero out land acquisition for FWS and the Forest Service, while cutting $3 billion from spending altogether.
The amendment was also opposed by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the chairman of the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.
Moran also offered an amendment to transfer $18.6 million from the Bureau of Land Management’s resource management program to fund Indian Sanitation Services.
House Democrats plan to offer as many as 32 amendments to strike the bill’s numerous prohibitions on the use of funds to craft and implement environmental rules in fiscal 2012.
A list of proposed Democratic amendments obtained by E&ENews PM shows that House Democrats may offer an amendment to eliminate the bill’s one-year stay on EPA greenhouse gas emissions regulations for stationary sources. Another amendment would strike the bill’s language barring EPA from preparing vehicle emissions regulations to take effect after model year 2016.
Democrats will also take aim at riders to bar EPA from implementing new regulations for hazardous and smog- and soot-forming emissions from power plants and from implementing new Clean Air Act regulations for the manufacturers of portland cement.
Also on the docket could be amendments to kill the bill’s moratoriums on new rules for mountaintop mining, the regulation of coal ash and EPA’s plans to expand the reach of the Clean Water Act, among many other amendments.
Chamber Democrats also plan to offer some amendments to increase funding for several projects under the bill, but they have not released details yet.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) will reprise an amendment he also offered to this spring’s fiscal 2011 continuing spending resolution, which would block EPA from using funds to approve higher-blend ethanol (E15) until further research is done into its effect on motors.
Patrick Kelly, a senior policy adviser at the American Petroleum Institute, said the oil and gas trade association supports the Sullivan amendment because EPA has not conducted enough research to ensure E15 does not corrode engines.
“It’s not because we’re opposed in general to ethanol,” Kelly said. “We think EPA jumped the gun and approved E15 prematurely.”
But the ethanol trade group Growth Energy said the Sullivan amendment — co-sponsored by Michigan Democrat Gary Peters — would “perpetuate America’s addiction to foreign oil and harm our economy.”
“Ethanol is the only competition to foreign oil we have today, and E15 is a proven fuel for today’s autos that is cheaper than gasoline refined from foreign oil,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis.