Energy, environment spending debate to sharpen this week

By George Cahlink | 06/27/2022 06:20 AM EDT

The House Appropriations Committee will mark up six spending bills this week, including measures to fund EPA and the Interior and Energy departments.

Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Interior-Environment Subcommittee Chair Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) sit during a markup last week. Francis Chung/E&E News

Energy and environment spending fights will dominate the week as the House Appropriations Committee wraps up work on its fiscal 2023 bills.

The committee last week approved its Agriculture, Defense, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Legislative Branch, Homeland Security and Financial Services-General Government bills.

This week the committee will take up the Energy-Water, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-EPA, State-Foreign Operations, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, and Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bills.


Appropriators will release reports on the spending bills — which often include mandates and recommendations — ahead of the markups. Also expected ahead of the votes are proposed earmarks to be adopted.

The six bills are likely to advance along partisan lines and move to the floor when the House returns from its current, two-week break next month. The Senate has yet to release any spending bills or schedule markups.

Energy, EPA boosts

Appropriators could spar over a 25 percent percent increase in renewable spending when they mark up the $56.3 billion Energy-Water bill, which is $3.4 billion above current spending.

House Democrats have touted $4 billion in funding for the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable — an $800 million increase — as a step to combat soaring fuel prices (E&E Daily, June 21).

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee, said the hike for clean energy is not wise given soaring inflation. He said he may offer amendments to curtail some renewable energy spending.

Additionally, Simpson said, he does not believe there is enough funding for DOE’s nuclear weapons programs. The Republican said he could propose an amendment that would cut funding for nuclear non-proliferation work to boost the weapons accounts.

On the Interior-EPA bill, Democrats could see the GOP attempt to scale back funding for their climate ambitions (E&E Daily, June 21).

“EPA is a huge priority for us. We passed a good increase last time that didn’t make it all the way through the conference, but we’re going back at it again,” Interior-EPA Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), said defending her push for a 17 percent increase for EPA, something that would allow the agency to expand its workforce from about 14,600 to 16,200 employees.

Democrats also continue to prioritize hiking environment justice spending to nearly $300 million, an increase that could spark calls for cuts from Republicans who question the value of such efforts.

The Interior Department would see its spending rise about 7.5 percent to $16.6 billion. That figure includes boosts for the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), the Interior-EPA Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member, said last week he had no specific amendments planned but warned that some of the bill’s policy riders could contribute to rising gas prices by blocking or slowing domestic energy production.

Joyce does favor increased spending on Great Lakes conservation work and a provision in the bill to end the federal enforcement of marijuana laws on tribal lands.

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), an Interior-EPA appropriator, said he’s hoping to offer a bipartisan amendment to require NASA to include county and local officials in decision-making regarding federal land withdrawals, a contentious issue in the Silver State.

“Basically, it would say if NASA does things that will take local or state land, they have to include those communities in the process,” said Amodei, who added that the agency has largely ignored requests to coordinate land-use issues in the past.

Democrats could push for even greater funding for agencies dealing with energy and the environment as extreme weather events become more frequent. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) last week cited flooding that has washed out bridges and roads in Yellowstone, the country’s oldest national park.

“We need to start looking seriously at working to get more increases to do some of the infrastructure in our treasured public lands and public parks,” McCollum said. “It’s only going to cost us more money in the long run not to fix the problem when we see it right away.”

Climate money questioned

The $64.6 billion State-Foreign Operations bill markup will likely feature what has become a perennial fight over funding for the United Nation’s Green Climate Fund. Democrats say the money is necessary to show the United State’s commitment to reducing global emissions.

Republicans are likely to propose stripping the $1.6 billion as they have in recent years. They could also target a separate $1.6 billion in the bill for other international climate efforts by arguing the money would be better spent on other work like countering China’s influence (E&E Daily, June 23).

While House Republican appropriators lack the votes to remove climate money from the legislation, it’s likely to be dropped in final negotiations with the Senate, where it fell out during talks over the fiscal 2022 omnibus spending package.

Republicans may also push back on a proposed 10 percent increase for the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which totals $85.5 billion (E&E Daily, June 22).

It would boost NOAA to $6.8 billion, a $908 million increase over current spending, and provide $9.6 billion for the National Science Foundation, which does climate science and sustainability research.

Democrats have argued the increased funding for NOAA would help better prepare the nation for extreme weather. There’s also an increase for the Justice Department’s Energy and Natural Resources Division.

However, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member, has called double-digit percentage increases for many of the bill’s agencies “unrealistic” and “downright irresponsible.”

Anti-rule amendments

Republicans may continue trying to add amendments against the Biden administration’s regulatory agenda, something that will intensify if the GOP takes over one of both chambers of Congress next year.

On Friday, during the Financial Services-General Government bill markup, Joyce pushed an amendment to defend the Securities and Exchange Commission climate rulemaking. It would require publicly listed companies to declare their contributions and exposures to climate change.

“I simply want to reiterate that Congress did not establish the SEC to set climate policy or to determine how businesses combat climate change,” Joyce said. “This is, however, the clear goal of the agency climate rule. Bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., specifically unelected SEC staff, should not be imposing personal political wishes at the expense of the American entrepreneurs who put gas in our tanks, build our homes and put food on our tables.”

Democrats voted down the amendment.

“The SEC is key in making sure that investors get to decide what risks to take as long as public companies provide full and fair disclosures and are truthful in those disclosures. The SEC’s climate disclosure rules are no different,” said subcommittee Chair Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). “Investors need reliable information about climate risks to make informed investment decisions.”

Domestic hikes disputed

Democrats are proposing double-digit increases for their two largest domestic spending bills, the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development and Labor-HHS-Education bills, that Republicans will line up against.

The Transportation-HUD bill seeks a total of $168.5 billion for discretionary and formula spending, a 12 percent increase over the fiscal 2022 level. DOT funding would only rise by 2 percent with the larger increase going toward HUD.

Some of the DOT dollars are aimed at low- and zero-emission buses and other efforts to use transit to reduce greenhouse gases (E&E Daily, June 24).

The Transportation-HUD legislation is also a popular target for earmarks, with more than 2,000 expected this year.

As for Labor-HHS-Education, the largest of the domestic spending bills, agencies would receive $242.1 billion, a 13 percent increase over current spending. The measure contains $75 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the health impacts of climate change (E&E Daily, June 23).

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the ranking member on the full Appropriations Committee, acknowledged the two bills contain some popular funding but said the proposals are not affordable.

“Our economy cannot sustain such significant increases in government funding. As I’ve said before, record-high spending equals record-high prices for the American people,” she said.

Schedule: The markup of the Energy-Water and Commerce-Justice-Science bills is Tuesday, June 28, at 10 a.m. in 1100 Longworth and via webcast.

Schedule: The markup of the State-Foreign Operations and Interior-Environment bills is Wednesday, June 29, at 10 a.m. in 1100 Longworth and via webcast.

Schedule: The markup of the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development and Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bills is Thursday, June 30, at 10 a.m. in 1100 Longworth and via webcast.

Reporter Jack Forrest contributed.