- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2011

House Republicans are attempting to slash funding for climate-change programs and reduce the power of regulatory agencies in a spending bill for next year that Democrats call an assault on the environment.

President Obama has said he will veto the legislation, which cuts Environmental Protection Agency funding by 18 percent, reduces funding for climate-change programs by 22 percent, and pulls back funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to the lowest level in more than 40 years.

Republicans also added to the bill measures that weaken the ability of the EPA and the Department of the Interior to list species as “endangered,” open the door to uranium mining in areas near the Grand Canyon, and regulate things like carbon pollution, clean-water standards and fuel efficiency.

They tried — and failed — to achieve similar rollbacks of power last April, even though Republican leaders were able to negotiate a 16 percent cut to the EPA’s budget as part of a temporary spending plan to keep the government running.

While that was only a few months ago, Rep. Michael Simpson, Idaho Republican and chairman of the Appropriations Interior and the environment subcommittee, said he thinks things will be different this time around.

“[They were] trying to get it done, and they were negotiating a number,” Mr. Simpson said. “This time I think we’ll be negotiating the Interior bill, so I think we’ll have a better shot at getting some of the stuff in.”

Mr. Simpson shrugged off the likelihood that Mr. Obama will veto the legislation.

“Good for him, that’s his job,” he said. “Our job is to pass a bill.”

Democrats were outraged by the proposed cuts and regulatory changes, saying they would prohibit the EPA from doing its job.

“Not one voter told me to undermine the air, water and land they survive on, recreate on, rely on for the sustainability of their lives,” said Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, adding that the bill “puts some of our nation’s most precious natural resources at risk.”

The bill calls for $27.5 billion in spending for the EPA, Department of the Interior, Forest Service and other related agencies — $2.1 billion less than last year and $3.8 billion less than the level requested by Mr. Obama.

Climate-change legislation was among the major reforms Mr. Obama hoped to achieve when he took office. But his hopes grew dim when Republicans won a majority in the House last November. A cap-and-trade bill limiting carbon emissions had been passed by the Democrat-controlled House in 2009 but never won Senate approval.

Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, said Republicans had to have been “cooped up” inside during the weeks of budget negotiations.

“How else could you explain a bill that says we can’t address heat trapping, carbon pollution while most of America suffers through one of the worst heat waves in a generation?” he said.

“Under the Republican bill, when families go to enjoy the sunset across the canyon, it won’t just be the sun causing the glow, it will be the radiation.”

• Paige Winfield Cunningham can be reached at pcunningham@washingtontimes.com.

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