The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday passed, with a 235-189 vote, a short-term government funding measure that cuts more than $61 billion from the remainder of the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget—including a $3 billion slash to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) budget. The continuing resolution (CR) seeks to block the EPA from implementing or enforcing statutory or regulatory greenhouse gas (GHG) rules affecting stationary sources that became effective after January 1, 2011.
If it becomes law, the House-approved H.R. 1 would fund the federal government from March 5 through the end of FY 2011. It would also cut billions of dollars from federal energy and environmental programs. As well as blocking the EPA’s authority to promulgate GHG rules, the CR could bar the agency from enacting rules on mountaintop removal and coal-ash disposal.
The measure was approved in the early hours before sunrise after lengthy debate during which 162 amendments were proposed. Language to defund the EPA was included in the CR passed by the Appropriations Committee and modified in a floor amendment proposed by Texas Republicans Ted Poe, Joe Barton, and John Carter.
Lawyers from the Van Ness Feldman Law Firm said that the defunding of the EPA’s GHG rules does not change their legal effectiveness, “which could create uncertainty around any permits issued during the period covered by the CR that do not include GHG controls.”
The House also voted 239-185 in favor of an amendment by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to remove funding for the EPA’s GHG emissions reporting registry, and it voted 233-187 on an amendment to block the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from funding a planned “Climate Service.” Separate amendments also cut all funding for State Department participation in ongoing international climate talks, and for the White House to appoint an energy and climate advisor (a position previously held by Carol Browner).
The bill additionally cuts more than $1 billion from the budget of the Department of Energy through the end of FY2011, affecting programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Science, and the Office of Nuclear Energy (which would lose 23% of its budget). The Office of Fossil Energy would also see an 11% reduction in its budget.
Other programs targeted include loan guarantee programs. Last week, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) launched an investigation into a decision by the DOE to authorize a $535 million loan guarantee for solar company Solyndra Inc. Republicans said the investigation was to expose waste or misuse of federal stimulus funds.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, the CR rescinded all unobligated Recovery Act funds, blocking funding for 20 loan guarantee applications currently in the review stage. If the bill becomes law, loan guarantee commitments that have not closed also could be cancelled.
The stalemate over how to fund the government has raised what pundits are terming a “real threat” that the federal government could shut down for the first time in 15 years. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring the measure to an immediate vote.
"The House has passed legislation to keep the government running until October while cutting spending,” he said. “If Senator Reid refuses to bring it to a vote, then the House will pass a short-term bill to keep the government running – one that also cuts spending. Senate Democratic leaders are insisting on a status quo that has left us with a mountain of debt and a stalled economy with unemployment near 10 percent. That is not a credible position. Republicans’ goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government, not to shut it down.”
He added: “Senator Reid and the Democrats who run Washington should stop creating more uncertainty by spreading fears of a government shutdown and start telling the American people what—if anything—they are willing to cut.”
Sources: POWERnews, Van Ness Feldman, The Hill
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected (2/23)to reflect that Senate House Majority Leader Harry Reid is a Democrat from Nevada, not a Republican, as had been erroneously published.