David McNew/Getty Images
The House budget plans stand to curtail the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, among many cuts. In 2009, the Obama administration announced that it had authorized the EPA to regulate emissions, including those from the AES Corporation's Alamitos natural gas power station, above.
The House budget plans stand to curtail the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, among many cuts. In 2009, the Obama administration announced that it had authorized the EPA to regulate emissions, including those from the AES Corporation's Alamitos natural gas power station, above. David McNew/Getty Images
The Environmental Protection Agency and global warming programs government-wide stand to lose big in the battle over the federal budget.
The House already passed its bill to fund the federal government for the rest of this year, and it doesn't just cut EPA programs — it also steamrolls the Obama administration's environmental policy.
The House bill would slash the EPA budget by nearly a third — more than any other agency. It would stop the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it would gut many other programs that prevent air and water pollution and enforce environmental laws.
Senate Democrats say the bill drafted by House Republicans would hobble the EPA.
"They have essentially unleashed war against the EPA, and in doing so, they are going to hurt the American people. And we have to stop it," says Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who heads the Senate Environment Committee.
But Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, who heads the subcommittee responsible for the EPA's budget, says the House bill responds to concerns that Republicans across the country have about EPA officials.
"They've gone far beyond their authority and, frankly, are costing jobs in this country," Simpson says.
He says he's had only a couple of calls complaining about the budget cuts, but lots of input from people who want to rein in the EPA.
Environmentalists say the public isn't complaining because few people have heard about the extent of the cuts. They're trying to spark an outcry with television ads. One, paid for by the Environmental Defense Fund, shows an ultrasound of a fetus and quotes an American Academy of Pediatrics study warning about the risks of mercury exposure to young children.
An announcer says: "The House sided with corporate lobbyists to block limits on mercury pollution. Did they think America wouldn't notice?"
The ad is referring to pollution standards for cement plants, and an amendment added to the House bill would stop the agency from enforcing the standards.
Taking Aim At Government Climate Programs
It was one of a cascade of amendments to block EPA initiatives such as restoring the Chesapeake Bay and Florida Everglades, and cleaning up coal ash waste and mountaintop coal mining.
House Republicans also took aim at climate change programs across the government. Many new House Republicans deny what scientists widely accept: Climate change will have catastrophic consequences, and people are a significant cause of it because they burn fossil fuels.
During the House debate, a new Republican member from Kansas, Mike Pompeo, led a drive to slash funding for an EPA program that makes businesses report their greenhouse gas pollution.
"I can attest to you that this greenhouse gas registry will destroy jobs in Kansas. It will increase the costs of manufacturing for every Kansas airplane manufacturer, and it will increase the cost of energy for every Kansas family," said Pompeo, who formerly ran an oil field services company and founded an aerospace business.
Some of the biggest EPA reductions would come in projects to update water treatment and sewage systems. Rep. Donna Edwards, a Democrat from Maryland, tried but failed to talk colleagues out of these cuts.
"Just last month out in my district, in a cold winter morning not far from Capitol Hill, a 54-inch water main broke, created massive destruction, overturned cars, destroyed businesses and left residents like me without safe drinking water for days," Edwards said.
The Senate has yet to lay out its strategy, but Sen. Boxer says her colleagues won't approve the House bill because it goes too far.
"And it means dirty air, dirty water," she said. "It means more mercury in the air. It means more soot getting into our lungs. This is serious business."