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Lawmakers clash on energy regulations in Interior-EPA budget bill

Republicanlawmakers kept up their fight to block major federal regulations for the energysector by submitting amendments to the U.S. House of Representatives' spendingbill for the U.S. Department of Interior and EPA. At the same time, Democratssubmitted dueling amendments aimed at protecting many of those rules, includinggreenhouse gas emissions standards for the electric power sector.

Houselawmakers have proposed more than 150 amendments to the chamber's fiscal-year2017 interior and environment appropriations bill. Amendments were due July 7,and the House Rules Committee is set to meet July 11 on next steps for thelegislation.

Thebill already includes provisionsto block implementation of the EPA's Clean Power Plan for cutting carbonemissions from existing power plants and the EPA and U.S. Army Corps ofEngineers' Clean Water Rule, both of which are on hold pending the resolutionof legal challenges. The legislation also would prevent finalization of theU.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's proposed StreamProtection Rule and prohibit enforcement of the EPA's greenhouse gas emissionsstandards for new power plants.

GOPlawmakers pushed for further restrictions on EPA activity in recently submittedamendments. A proposal from Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., would prohibit funds frombeing used to implement, administer or enforce any new regulatory actioncosting over $100 million. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, offered a measure toprevent finalization or enforcement of the EPA's Clean Energy IncentiveProgram, which would reward early deployment of renewable energy and efficiencymeasures ahead of the Clean Power Plan's compliance deadlines. The agencyreleased proposeddetails for the CEIP on June 16.

Coalstate lawmakers introduced protective measures for that industry. Rep. BobGibbs, R-Ohio, proposed to bar the EPA from using funds to retroactively veto apreviously issued permit from the Army Corps under Section 404 of the CleanWater Act — likely a reaction to the EPA's decision to an active permit for 's Spruce surfacemine project in West Virginia.

Inaddition to targeting specific rules, House Republicans suggested broad fundingcuts for Interior and the EPA that would likely limit their regulatory work.Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., proposed an amendment to cut the bill's totalspending level by 1%, and Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., called for a 17% reductionin the EPA's budget from the $7.98 billion offered in the bill for fiscal year2017.

Amendmentsproposed by Democrats attempted to undo many of the GOP's proposals in thebill. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., who is ranking member of the House Energyand Commerce Committee, co-sponsored an amendment that would strike thesections of the bill blocking finalization and implementation of the EPA'sgreenhouse gas emissions standards for new and existing power plants. Rep.Jared Polis, D-Colo., and six other Democrats proposed to eliminate a provisionof the bill that would block spending on any methane regulations for oil andgas wells under Sections 111(b) and 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. And Rep. DonBeyer, D-Va., offered amendments to strike provisions that would prohibitfinalization of the Stream Protection Rule and implementation of the CleanWater Rule.

CaliforniaDemocrat Alan Lowenthal meanwhile proposed allowing Interior to proceed withupdating royalty rates and valuations for coal, oil and gas production onfederal lands, which would undo another section of the legislation.

Congressis running short ontime to pass separate appropriations bills, given that the House and Senatewill be out of session from mid-July through August and the 2017 fiscal yearstarts in October. Assuming both chambers pass their Interior and EPA spendingbills, the legislation would need to go to a conference committee to resolvedifferences between the two versions. If Congress cannot send a spending billto the president for signing before October, lawmakers will likely have to passa continuing resolution to fund the governmental agencies at prior-year levels.