House Republicans Unveil Latest Attempt To Block Obama’s Climate And Clean Water Rules

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Speaking generally, Congressional Republicans and conservative groups really don’t like the Obama administration’s attempts to limit carbon emissions and water pollution. They’ve tried to block new environmental rules in a number of ways, pushing federal and state legislation to block them, urging state governors to ignore them, and filing lawsuits to nullify them.

Now, House Republicans have unveiled yet another attempt to stop new regulations: The budget.

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee introduced its budget bill for environment-related agencies in fiscal year 2016. That bill includes provisions to block what the committee calls “harmful, costly, and potentially job-killing regulations” from the Environmental Protection Agency, including the much-talked-about Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule.

To refresh, the Clean Power Plan refers to proposed rules that will require power plants to reduce their carbon emissions, for the primary purpose of fighting climate change. The Waters of the United States rule offers federal pollution protection to two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands.

Along with prohibiting the EPA from implementing those regulations, the bill would reduce the EPA’s funding by $718 million, a 9 percent reduction from fiscal year 2015 levels. According to the Hill, the EPA has already had its funding decreased by 20 percent since Republicans took the House in 2011. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be cut by $8 million, and the Department of Interior would be forced to stop giving federal protection to endangered gray wolves in Midwestern states.

It was largely expected that House Republicans would attempt to block the Obama administration’s environmental regulations via the 2016 budget. Indeed, the House proposed similar cuts for the 2014 and 2015 budgets, but were less successful in part because of a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Now, however, Republicans have control of both the House and Senate, and there’s a lot of momentum in the Senate to try and delay or stop new EPA rules. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he would “do everything I can to try to stop” the administration’s environmental agenda.

So far, Republicans have been unsuccessful in their attempts to stop EPA regulations via regular legislation, as they haven’t had enough votes to override a Presidential veto. However, they may have more luck attaching similar legislation to budgetary bill like they’ve done here, because if a compromise can’t be reached, the environmental agencies won’t be funded at all and will shut down.

Since it was introduced on Tuesday, the bill has already passed the appropriations subcommittee — but not without opposition from the committee’s Democrats. Ranking member Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) said the bill represented “going backwards” on environmental protections, while Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) said the proposal “drastically shortchanges job-creating investments and vital environmental protections, while carrying a wish list of special interest giveaways that hurt hardworking American families’ health and safety.”

While most Republicans in opposition to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule have argued that the proposals will cost jobs in the coal sector, others have argued that job growth in renewable technologies combined with increases in energy efficiency will outweigh those losses. Researchers at private consulting firm Industrial Economics and the University of Maryland, for instance, recently predicted that the plan would add more than a quarter of a million jobs to the U.S. economy by 2040. This week, the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute said the Clean Power Plan would create nearly 100,000 more jobs than are lost.