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House passes Interior-EPA budget bill with goal of blocking environmental rules

TheU.S. House of Representatives passed a $32.1 billion appropriations July 14 to fund the U.S.Department of the Interior, U.S. EPA and related agencies for fiscal year 2017.

Thebill, as well as several newly adopted amendments,would halt development and enforcement of a range of regulations for the energysector.

Thelegislation seeks toblock funds for the EPA's Clean Power Plan to regulate carbon emissions fromexisting power plants, as well as the agency's greenhouse gas standards for newplants. The EPA would also be unable to fund any methane emissions rules foroil and gas wells under sections 111(b) and 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. Thebill would delay the EPA's 2015 ground-level ozone standards by eight years, inline with a separate proposalfrom Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas.

TheHouse proposal would also require Interior to its review of the federal coalleasing program, including a pause on new federal coal leases, by Sept. 30,2017. The agency previously estimated the review, which began in January 2016, wouldtake about threeyears.

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"Relieffrom the EPA's job-killing regulations is paramount to the economic growth thatour country desperately needs right now — so I'm proud that the bill takes thenecessary steps to cut this red tape," House Appropriations CommitteeChairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said July 12 on the House floor.

Inaddition to blocking a wave of regulations, the bill would cut EPA's budget to$7.98 billion, down by $164 million from fiscal year 2016 and $291 millionbelow the Obama administration's request. But the House rejected an amendmentfrom Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., that would reduce funding for EPA by another 17%below the bill's proposed level.

TheHouse defeated several amendments from Democratic lawmakers to strike portionsof the bill blocking funding for various EPA and Interior energy regulationsand eventually passed the bill by 231-196.

Butthe bill faces obstacles. The White House pledged to veto the legislation overthe policy riders and funding cuts. In addition, little time remains in 2016 topass individual spending bills, which raises the chance that Congress will haveto pass a continuing resolution that will keep funding levels and priorities inline with the prior fiscal year.

TheSenate's Interior and environment budget bill has yet to reach the Senatefloor. That billwould also lower the EPA's budget from the prior year, to $8.1 billion, andlike the House bill would block implementation of the EPA and the U.S. ArmyCorps of Engineers' Clean Water Rule, as well as the U.S. Office of SurfaceMining Reclamation and Enforcement's proposed Stream Protection Rule for coalproducers. But the Senate legislation would not prohibit spending on the CleanPower Plan, which the Supreme Court stayed in early February pending theresolution of court challenges, or block funds for EPA's greenhouse gasstandards for new power plants.