Special Topics in Environmental Management

Spending Bill Gives EPA a 5-Month Reprieve

EPA’s existing budget survived almost intact in an omnibus spending bill which passed Congress before existing funding expired on May 5.

The bill provides the EPA with $8.06 billion, an $81 million cut (1 percent) from the Agency’s existing budget; this includes a $28 million reduction (3.8 percent) to $707 million for the Agency’s science and technology programs.

But overall, the apparent vote of support for the Agency’s programs contrasts with the White House’s Budget Blueprint, which requested a 31 percent reduction in EPA funds and elimination of 3,000 full-time- equivalent positions. No jobs at the Agency are lost under the omnibus bill. Funding will be in force until the fiscal year (FY) ends on September 30, 2017. Before that, Congress, which approves all federal spending, will again debate how much money will be appropriated for the Agency in FY 2018 and which programs will stay and which will go.

Water Programs Funded

Following are several highlights of appropriations for the EPA:

  • Operating Programs. EPA operating programs funded through the Environmental Programs and Management appropriation are provided at $2.598 billion, and the Agency’s research programs funded through the Science and Technology appropriation are provided at $706 million. Both funding levels are a slight decrease from the enacted FY 2016 levels.
  • Water infrastructure investments. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $1.394 billion, the same as the enacted level. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $863 million, the same as the enacted level.
  • Geographic Programs. EPA’s Geographic Programs are funded at $436 million, an increase of $8 million over the enacted level. Within the Geographic Programs, the Great Lakes Restoration Agreement receives $300 million, the same as the enacted level; the Chesapeake Bay program receives $73 million, the same as the enacted level; the Lake Champlain program receives $4.4 million, the same as the enacted level; and the Long Island Sound program receives $8 million, an increase of $4 million to the enacted level.
  • State and Tribal Assistance Grants. In addition to water infrastructure funding, the bill provides a total of $1.27 billion for EPA’s State and Tribal Assistance grants, including categorical grants. This level is an increase of $9 million to the 2016 enacted level.

Blocked Cuts

Also, Democrats declared that they successfully fought back many riders that would have significantly diminished EPA’s authority. These included language to block:

  • Implementation of the Clean Power Plan, including greenhouse gas emissions restrictions from new and existing power plants;
  • EPA efforts to strengthen public health protections against ground-level ozone pollution;
  • The EPA from using the federal Superfund law to require industry to make financial plans to pay for the cleanup of hazardous waste;
  • Enforcement of a rule that imposes safety standards to reduce lead contamination during building renovations; and
  • EPA’s ability to require industry to phase out hydrofluorocarbons and other refrigerants that damage the ozone layer.

Non-EPA Programs

Other blocked environmental language not specifically related to the EPA would have:

  • Authorized construction of a road through the wildlife habitat in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska;
  • Prevented efforts to strengthen environmental and water quality protections for mining operations; and
  • Prevented the Bureau of Land Management from improving environmental and safety standards for the use of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.

The bill and supporting information are here.