EPA Funding Still Undecided

Although the House Appropriations Committee passed an FY 12 EPA funding measure and it was brought to the House Floor, no vote took place before the summer recess and it has not been placed on the schedule thus far this Fall.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has taken action on all appropriations measures except for the one that includes EPA.  The current Continuing Resolution (HR 2608) sets overall government spending at the $1.043 trillion level agreed to in the debt limit law (PL 112-25) enacted in August, but does not add or subtract from FY 11 EPA funding levels.  That CR expires on November 18.

Why is this funding measure so hard to move on the House Floor?  Why does the Senate appear to be reluctant to take up this last appropriations measure?  Speculation is rife that the reason lies with the potential to add more riders to the legislation that would bar EPA from issuing or completing regulations such as those for climate change, Clean Air Act, or the Clean Water Act.

In the Senate, Jack Reed (D-RI), who chairs the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, believes that progress is still possible.  He has stated that, “We are trying to conceptually work through first the funding levels — because we think frankly there’s more common ground there — and then consider the legislative language…and not just the controversial riders, but other legislative language.”  Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Subcommittee’s Ranking Minority Member is less optimistic that the Committee will mark up FY 12 funding legislation for EPA.

Meanwhile, both chambers seem to agree that, once again, nearly all appropriations measures will either be rolled into a giant omnibus bill or possibly packaged into smaller “mini-buses” where funding proposals are generally in reasonably close agreement between the House and Senate.  Some of these mini-buses could be passed in advance of the November 18 CR expiration date and whatever is left would be placed into the larger omnibus proposal.  This approach would avoid contentious wrangling over issue-specific language and allow individual members to avoid making commitments (or not) that could come back to haunt them in the next election cycle.