The House Appropriations Committee has passed a bill to fund the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in fiscal year (FY) 2012. The bill would cut funding for several scientific and conservation agencies, and would reduce support for climate change programs by 22 percent. “This Committee remains skeptical of the Administration’s efforts to re-package existing programs and to fund new ones in the name of climate change,” stated the Committee’s report on the bill. “That the climate is changing is not in dispute. However, recent rapid increases in funding and the number of new and seemingly duplicative programs are potentially wasteful.”

Funding for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) would decline by $30 million relative to last year to $1.05 billion. The programs targeted for reductions include climate research (-$23.7 million, 37 percent reduction) and biological and ecosystems research and monitoring (-$10.7 million, 7 percent reduction). The proposed cuts to biological research include:

  • $4.8 million from wildlife and terrestrial endangered species research
  • $1.0 million from aquatic and endangered resources research
  • $0.2 million from research on invasive species
  • $1.4 million from monitoring of species and habitat status and trends
  • $4.7 million from the Cooperative Research Units (partnerships between universities, states, and USGS to conduct biological research in 38 states)

Terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystem studies would receive an additional $1.5 million relative to FY 2011.

USGS climate research would be reduced by $13.4 million, although support for Climate Science Centers would increase by $4.7 million. Carbon sequestration research would be eliminated. Climate science support for other Interior bureaus would also be zeroed out.

The USGS Water Resources program would receive a boost of $5 million over FY 2011. The natural hazards and energy, minerals, and environmental health programs would be funded at the same amount as last year.

The budget for the Fish and Wildlife Service would be cut by $315 million (21 percent) from last year, including an 80 percent reduction in funding for land acquisition. The bill would eliminate funding for listing new species or establishing critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act, and would zero out funding for the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. Republicans on the Appropriations Committee justified the spending reductions by stating that the legislation that authorizes these programs has expired, and that the proposed appropriations are meant to incentivize the House Natural Resources Committee to address the lapsed legislation.

The EPA would receive $7.1 billion, about $1.5 billion less than FY 2011. Although two-thirds of the cuts would come from funds to assist states with water infrastructure, about $500 million would be cut from EPA’s operations. EPA Science and Technology would be cut by 7 percent to $754.6 million. The EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) fellowship program would be eliminated.

The United States Forest Service’s Rangeland Research program would be reduced by nearly 10 percent to $277.3 million. Most of this reduction would come from the elimination of the Forest Service’s climate research and development activities. According to report language, “The Committee strongly supports the Forest Service research program and its products. Unfortunately declining budget allocations have forced the Committee to make difficult choices and instead focus limited funds on the on-the-ground management of national forests for future generations.”

The House of Representatives could debate the legislation in the next few weeks. The Senate has yet to act on Interior and Environment and Related Activities FY 2012 appropriations.

 


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