APPROPRIATIONS:

Vitter amendments would limit EPA regulatory power

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has introduced two amendments to U.S. EPA's annual spending bill aimed at limiting the agency's authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

The measures are among at least 50 amendments on a wide range of contentious issues being offered to the Interior-EPA spending bill currently on the Senate floor. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said senators must introduce amendments today because he wants the chamber to wrap up work on the bill quickly and turn to the defense appropriations bill this week. It remains unclear which, if any, of the amendments will be brought to the floor for a vote.

Vitter has filed an amendment that would prohibit any funding from the Interior-EPA spending bill from being used to regulate carbon dioxide emissions until both China and India have signed international agreements that require a percentage of carbon dioxide emission reductions similar to that required in the United States.

The senator filed a separate amendment to prohibit EPA from finalizing or implementing the agency's proposed "endangerment finding" until the agency conducts an evaluation of the potential loss or shifts of employment that may result from finalizing the proposed rule. The agency released its draft finding in April, which would establish greenhouse gases as pollutants under the Clean Air Act and pave the way for future regulations (Greenwire, April 17).

The Louisiana Republican introduced another amendment that would prevent EPA funding from being used to terminate or reduce programs at EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics. The office has become the focal point of a GOP probe questioning the transparency of the Obama administration's efforts to develop carbon dioxide regulations (E&ENews PM, Sept. 15).

Vitter's amendments come as EPA plows forward on rules that answer the Supreme Court's 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision that ordered EPA to reconsider whether greenhouse gases are pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act, as well as a nationwide standard to control greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles (Greenwire, Sept. 10).

Another Vitter amendment would require EPA to spend $1 million in an arrangement with the National Academy of Sciences in which the academy would conduct a study of the cancer and noncancer health effects of formaldehyde.

Biofuels

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has prepared an amendment that would bar EPA from using the bill's funds to consider emissions from "international indirect land-use changes" when implementing the national biofuels mandate.

A 2007 law that expanded the biofuels mandate requires that ethanol and other renewable fuels have, by varying degrees, lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based fuels. The ethanol industry and its allies say EPA's weighing of emissions from indirect land-use changes -- such as forest clearing in other countries for cropland due to increased use of U.S crops for fuel -- is based on faulty science.

Environmentalists say these emissions must be weighed, or else national biofuels policy could support ventures that worsen greenhouse gas emissions. They argue that there is ample science to show that biofuels production can lead to land-use changes -- such as deforestation -- that release of stored carbon. "The EPA should be allowed to move forward using the best available science without interference from Congress," said Brendan Bell, an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a statement.

But Harkin's plan drew cheers from the ethanol trade group Growth Energy, which said EPA's draft rule would penalize domestic biofuels production. "Senator Harkin's legislation is rooted in logic and fact -- two things that are lacking from the EPA's proposed rule," said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, in a statement.

Offshore drilling, land management

Vitter also introduced an amendment that would immediately approve a 2010-2015 outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program proposed in the waning days of the Bush administration, which would greatly expand outer continental shelf development, including opening areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. A similar Vitter amendment would approve the program and also require one lease sale in each of the Atlantic, Pacific and Alaska planning areas and three lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico region within 180 days of the bill being signed into law.

Vitter, Sen. Jim DeMint (D-S.C.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) also offered an amendment to try to force Interior to implement the Bush-era offshore leasing program by prohibiting money in the spending bill from being used to delay it (E&E Daily, Sept. 22).

Vitter also introduced an amendment that would prevent any funds in the appropriations bill from being used to develop regional climate change offices within the Interior Department. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week signed a secretarial order to create eight Regional Climate Change Response Centers that would address climate change impacts on Interior resources (E&ENews PM, Sept. 14).

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered a series of amendments aimed at federal land management policies. They would:

  • Require that any report submitted by a federal agency to the House or Senate Appropriations panels be posted on the committees' Web sites.
  • Cancel $1 million directed to the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, D.C., and instead give the money to the National Park Service for its maintenance backlog.
  • Prevent money in the bill from being used to impede or restrict activities of the Department of Homeland Security to achieve "operational control" of U.S. international borders.
  • Prevent funding for the implementation of any regulation that would delay or restrict the development of renewable energy on public lands and transmission lines necessary for delivering the electricity produced.
  • Divert money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for land acquisition to instead be used by federal agencies to reduce their maintenance backlogs.
  • Require the president within 120 days of submitting the 2011 budget request to submit a report describing the annual cost of maintaining all federal land holdings for the previous three years.
  • Modify an amendment from Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) on requirements for adding or removing property in a national heritage area, requiring that no private property be included unless the owner makes a written request.

Dorgan introduced an amendment to require all agencies funded by the bill to include a separate category for administrative expenses when they submit their 2011 appropriation requests.

An amendment by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would require states to direct at least 30 percent of federal clean water grants to disadvantaged communities in the form of negative-interest loans, principal forgiveness or grants. The federal government provides the money to the states through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which are slated to receive a combined $3.5 billion in the spending bill.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced an amendment aimed at speeding the cleanup of the Tar Creek Superfund Site in Oklahoma. The provision would allow purchases of "chat" -- the gravel-like waste created from lead and zinc mining -- to be counted at twice their purchase price and to be eligible to be counted toward meeting the federally required disadvantaged business enterprise set-aside on federally funded projects.

Reporter Taryn Luntz contributed.

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