EPA:

Budget hearings to serve as battleground for climate policies

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will defend the White House's request to increase funds for climate regulations when she testifies before House and Senate panels this week.

Jackson will testify tomorrow before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and will appear Wednesday at the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss President Obama's $10 billion budget request for EPA.

The fiscal 2011 request would cut the agency's total funding by about $300 million from 2010 levels while allotting $56 million -- including $43 million in new funding -- for regulatory programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions (Greenwire, Feb. 1).

The recommended boost comes as EPA prepares to regulate stationary and mobile emissions of greenhouse gases an effort that has drawn the ire of many Republican and some Democratic lawmakers who say EPA climate rules will cripple the already struggling economy.

GOP lawmakers -- some of whom have been vocal critics of the Obama administration's climate policies -- are likely to use this week's budget hearings to blast the proposed spending levels.

"When the president released his EPA budget proposal, he proved that jobs aren't really his top priority," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Friday in a statement. Barrasso, ranking member of the EPW Oversight Subcommittee, has been one of the Senate's leading critics of EPA climate rules.

"The more money the EPA receives, the more power it will exert to issue job-killing regulations for small businesses and other employers," Barrasso added. "If the administration is serious about addressing unemployment and reducing the deficit, it will decrease the size of the EPA."

Last year, a host of lawmakers sought to use the EPA budget as a vehicle to handcuff the agency's ability to implement new climate rules. And as EPA prepares to roll out its first climate rules next month, lawmakers are expected to pursue similar tactics.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) -- who has introduced a bill to strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions -- said earlier this month that he will fight during the appropriations process to remove any funding that would go toward curbing the heat-trapping emissions.

But Jackson and Democratic lawmakers are expected to staunchly defend the draft budget.

"The president's 2011 budget is a responsible strategy," given the economic challenges facing the country, Jackson told reporters earlier this month. "There's no moving away from a commitment to a greener, more sustainable economy, and the work EPA does is the backbone of that" (E&ENews PM, Feb. 1).

Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and state regulators have endorsed the White House proposal to ramp up funding for programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions (E&E Daily, Feb. 2).

Some Republicans may also challenge the overall size of EPA's budget. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), ranking member of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, last month called for cuts in some areas of the federal budget, particularly at EPA, which received a 36 percent boost in fiscal 2010 over 2009 levels (E&E Daily, Jan. 27).

Simpson added that, given the administration's agenda, he expects "that they will do all they can to protect the climate change money."

Climate, air programs

Of the president's requested $56 million for climate regulatory programs, $25 million would aid states as they begin to account for greenhouse gases in New Source Review and operating permits; $7 million would go toward developing New Source Performance Standards to curb greenhouse gases from major stationary sources; $6 million would be used to implement EPA's pending greenhouse gas standards for automobiles and developing other mobile source regulations; and $5 million would be used to develop the best available practices and technologies for controlling emissions.

Obama also requested $21 million to implement the agency's greenhouse gas reporting rule, which requires large facilities to monitor their emissions this year. That marks a $4 million boost from fiscal 2010 levels. EPA plans to begin making that data publicly available by June 15, 2011.

The administration also pledged to protect air quality by working to attain national standards for ozone, particulate matter and other criteria pollutants, and to reduce regional haze by slashing regional transport of pollutants. EPA will also continue to develop and issue national technology-based and risk-based standards to reduce toxic air pollutants emitted by industrial facilities and urban sources.

Water programs

The president proposed a cut for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which finance state and local clean water projects. The funds would get a total of $3.3 billion, down from $3.5 billion in the fiscal 2010 spending bill. The number still would be more than double what the programs received in fiscal 2009.

Great Lakes cleanup efforts would receive $300 million, down from $425 million in fiscal 2010, to continue projects to clean up contaminated sediments and toxic chemicals, fend off invasive species and curb pollution and habitat degradation. That program still has money left over from last year's allocations, Jackson said.

Chesapeake Bay restoration would get $63 million under the proposal, up from $50 million in fiscal 2010. Obama has marked the ecosystem for extra federal attention, issuing an executive order in May calling for a more serious cleanup effort.

The budget proposes $17 million in new funding for the Mississippi River Basin. EPA and the Agriculture Department would use the money to target pollution runoff from farms in an effort to reduce nutrient pollution that contributes to the severely oxygen-depleted "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.

Science, toxics cleanup

Obama proposed to cut the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative, which the White House said was duplicative of other programs. Instead, the budget proposes funding larger brownfield cleanup efforts, providing $138 million for fiscal 2011, $38 million more than Congress approved last year.

Cash for Superfund would decrease slightly from $1.31 billion in fiscal 2010 to $1.29 billion in the White House proposal. Funding for EPA's Office of Inspector General would remain roughly level at $46 million, a slight increase from last year's $45 million, as would money for EPA's leaking underground storage tank cleanup, which would receive $113 million.

Science and technology funding would see a slight boost in fiscal 2011, from $846 million in 2010 to $847 million. Part of the funding would be slated for land preservation and restoration, with research focused on contaminated sediments in groundwater and the fate of nanomaterials in the environment. Funding would also be directed to the agency's healthy communities research agenda, focusing on mercury, pesticides and toxic chemicals, and nanotechnology, as well as broader human health research and risk assessments.

Senate schedule: The Senate EPW hearing is tomorrow at 10 a.m. in 406 Dirksen.

House schedule: The House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing is Wednesday at 2 p.m. in B-308 Rayburn.

Witness: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.