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House passes EPA-interior department appropriations bill

Legislation hits EPA hard with lower funds and blocks spending on WOTUS rule and endangered species listings.

Before heading home for its summer recess, the U.S. House approved legislation funding the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other related agencies, providing a total of $32 billion, which is $64 million below the FY16 enacted level and $1 billion below the President’s request.

This legislation prohibits funding for implementation of the Waters of the United States rule, cuts the Endangered Species Act listing budget by 23%, provides flexibility for states to implement new ozone standards, and funds critical wildfire mitigation, suppression, and response activities to address the threat posed by catastrophic wildfires.

The EPA’s funding is provided at $7.98 billion, which is $165 million below FY16 enacted level and $291 million below the President’s request. The bill delays changes to the listing status of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

“This legislation reins in the EPA by reducing overall funding, holds EPA to the lowest staffing level since 1989, and blocks spending on egregious federal rules such as WOTUS,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.).

An amendment offered by Newhouse and Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.) addresses the recent EPA-funded, anti-agriculture “What’s Upstream” lobbying campaign in Washington state. The amendment reiterates current law by prohibiting funds from being used in support of grassroots advocacy campaigns whose efforts are intended to persuade the outcomes of legislation in either Congress or other official in federal or state governments.

Newhouse had several amendments included to require the EPA to adhere to the law’s intended scope rather than expanding regulations to target farmers, to minimize livestock-losses from wolf predation, and to encourage federal agencies to move forward with rules to delist the gray wolf.

One amendment restores funding for the “Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Program,” which assists livestock producers in undertaking proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss from predation by wolves, and addresses livestock losses caused by wolves.

Another prohibits the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from using any funds to continue treating the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act after June 13, 2017. The amendment does not delist the gray wolf but encourages U.S. Fish & Wildlife to move forward with its own proposed delisting rule.

Another approved amendment prevents the EPA from expanding regulations under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 to target farmers, livestock producers and dairies. The amendment would prohibit funding for the EPA to issue new regulations under the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.) that apply to animal feeding operations. Agriculture is currently exempt from this law, and this amendment ensures the Agency does not circumvent Congress’s will.  (See related story here.)

During floor consideration, the House passed an amendment to raise the threshold for farm oil storage that is subject to Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements. The provision would increase the single above-ground container storage to 10,000 gallons and increase the aggregate level to 42,000 gallons.

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