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House Energy & Commerce Committee Asks for EPA “Unexpended Balance” Figures

On Monday (October 24th), majority members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to report on unexpended funds from prior year appropriations that could be available for new obligation. The Agency has about $4 billion in unobligated balances carried forward since FY 2010, according to OMB figures.  Similar request letters were sent to the Departments of Commerce, Health & Human Services, and Energy.  Each request comes with a November 7 “reply by” date.

Specifically, the letter asks that EPA provide information in four specific areas “…to better understand the status and composition of EPA’s contribution to the Federal government’s unexpended balances…”

  1. A complete list of EPA programs and other expenditures, based on the most current available date (including earmarks).  Include the status of budget authority available to the Agency, including whether funds remain unobligated, have been obligated, have been obligated but not expended, and the level of unexpended balances that have been carried forward into FY 2012.
  2. List and describe all instances since FY 2009 where annual, multi-year and no-year budget authority was obligated to a contract, grant, or interagency agreement where objectives have been achieved and balances in previously obligated budget authority have been carried forward to the next fiscal year to become available for new obligation.
  3. Describe all EPA efforts since FY 2009 to “deobligate” unliquidated obligations, including but not limited to those instances where deobligation is followed by “recertification” or reuse of such funding authority.
  4. Describe all instances since FY 2009 in which the EPA’s use of recertified funds has offset the need for new funding requests of Congress.

On Thursday, EPA responded saying that about $1.6 billion of the unobligated funds are in special accounts for Superfund sites where “potentially responsible parties” have made negotiated settlements.  The funds are “saved” for future work at specific sites.  Much of the remaining dollars are found in state and tribal grant programs.  Because of the need to coordinate with local entities, a two-year obligation process is the norm.  Funds still unobligated after two years are typically “earmarked” dollars.

State drinking water program administrators should be mindful that the DWSRF (especially when combined with the CWSRF) represents a large portion of the Agency’s budget and thus an obvious “target” for Congressional attention.  In addition, states that have not taken/spent all of their Expense Reimbursement Grant funds need to quickly determine what they plan to do with the funding or run the risk of having it swept into the Treasury.  Although the ERG dollar amounts may seem minimal when compared to the Federal deficit, they would represent a savings of some sort.

The letter to EPA and the Commerce, Health & Human Services, and Energy Departments is available on the House Energy & Commerce website at www.energycommerce.house.gov in the “Letters” portion under the ‘Committee Actions’ tab.