Wall Street Journal April 13, 2011
GOP Wins Deep Cuts in Environment Spending
BY JANET HOOK, NAFTALI BENDAVID and STEPHEN POWER
In negotiating the budget deal that averted a government shutdown, Democrats and the White House claimed a big victory in preventing Republicans from blocking a set of environmental regulations. But as details of the compromise became known Tuesday, it was clear Republicans had won deep reductions in spending at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Under the deal headed to House and Senate votes by the end of this week, the EPA's 2011 budget would be reduced by 16% from 2010 spending, taking it to $8.7 billion.
That reflects the kind of tradeoffs each side made in the negotiations over the bill. The legislation doesn't include most of the policy provisions that Republicans proposed to block funding for key administration priorities on health care, the environment and other issues. But Republicans found Democrats moving more than halfway in the compromise over how much to cut spending in the $1.05 trillion bill for the remaining six months of the 2011 fiscal year.
Democrats had wanted to freeze spending; Republicans sought $61 billion in cuts from 2010 levels. The final bill calls for about $39 billion in cuts-the largest one-time federal spending reduction in history.
Although the outlines of the compromise were announced Friday, the details were not released until Tuesday, when legislation was filed spelling out how the cuts were spread across legions of programs.
The EPA was also a major focus of both parties. The deal didn't include a Republican-backed measure that would have stripped the agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases and other pollutants. But the bill cuts $1.6 billion from the agency.
"The Obama administration has dumped money into the EPA over the past two years, and what the American people have seen as a result is a slew of new regulations pouring out of the agency," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R., Idaho). Mr. Simpson, chairman of the Interior subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, helped fashion the EPA cut in the spending deal.
On Mr. Obama's watch, the EPA's budget has risen sharply, to $10.3 billion in the 2010 fiscal year, after years in which its funding hovered between $7.5 billion and $7.7 billion.
Most of the EPA cuts will reduce aid to help states implement health and environmental-protection laws. Mr. Obama had proposed cutting those programs, but only by about $200 million.
"These federal cuts make our job to provide a clean environment that much harder," said R. Steven Brown, the agency's executive director, who said the practical effect would be to derail roughly $1 billion in improvements to sewage-treatment and drinking-water plants.
The deal also cuts by $149 million, or 33%, a federal fund for buying land for environmental purposes. Programs related to climate change would be cut by $49 million, or 13%.
The position of the president's special adviser on climate change would be eliminated. The post has been open since Carol Browner left the administration earlier this year, and the White House has said it will not name a successor. But the job had not been formally eliminated.
Also included in the compromise was a provision, backed by Mr. Simpson and Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), that would take gray wolves in the northern Rockies off the endangered-species list.
Environmentalists say it is the first time Congress has taken such a step, and that it sets a bad precedent for lawmakers, rather than scientists, to determine what species should be on the list. But Mr. Tester said wolf populations had recovered in Montana and should no longer be considered at risk.
Another GOP-backed provision would block the Interior Department's Wild Lands initiative, which would have inventoried federal lands for their wilderness characteristics. Ranchers and others feared it would have led to greater restrictions on oil drilling, mining or cattle grazing or snowmobiling on those lands.
"The provision to defund Wild Lands is a victory for Utah and all public lands states," said Rep. Rob Bishop (R., Utah), one of the lawmakers who pushed to include language in the bill defunding the policy.