MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The Environmental Protection Agency stands to lose big in the battle over the federal budget. The House already passed its version of a bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the year. It calls for big cuts in EPA programs.
And as NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports, those cuts are aimed directly at the Obama administration's environmental agenda.
ELIZABETH SHOGREN: The House bill would slash the EPA's 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.
Representative Mike Simpson from Idaho heads the House subcommittee responsible for EPA's budget. He says he's only gotten a couple of calls complaining about the cuts.
Representative MIKE SIMPSON (Republican, Idaho): I've had substantial input from people on the other side that are concerned about the EPA and like what we're doing. They feel like we ought to rein them in some. They've gone far beyond their authority and, frankly, are costing jobs in this country.
SHOGREN: Environmentalists say the public isn't complaining because few people have heard about the extent of the cuts. Groups like the Environmental Defense Fund are trying to spark an outcry with television ads.
(Soundbite of ultrasound of a fetus)
SHOGREN: This one shows an ultrasound of a fetus. It quotes an American Academy of Pediatrics study warning about the risks of mercury exposure to young children.
(Soundbite of TV ad)
Unidentified Woman: The House sided with corporate lobbyists to block limits on mercury pollution. Did they think America wouldn't notice?
SHOGREN: The ad is referring to new pollution standards for cement plants. An amendment added to the House bill would stop the agency from enforcing those standards.
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 that climate change will have catastrophic consequences, and people are a significant cause of it.
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.
Representative MIKE POMPEO (Republican, Kansas): 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.
SHOGREN: Some of the biggest EPA reductions would come in projects to update water treatment and sewage systems. Representative Donna Edwards is a Democrat from Maryland. She tried but failed to talk colleagues out of these cuts.
Representative DONNA EDWARDS (Democrat, Maryland): 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.
SHOGREN: Senate Democrats like Barbara Boxer from California say the House bill would hobble EPA.
Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): And it means dirty air, dirty water. It means more mercury in the air. It means more soot getting into our lungs. This is serious business.
SHOGREN: Boxer says the Senate won't go for these cuts. She says House Republicans went way too far.
Sen. BOXER: 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.
SHOGREN: The battle over the EPA budget is one example of why it's so hard for Congress to agree on a plan to fund the federal government for the rest of the year.
Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.
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