Last week the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would cut $1.2 billion from federal natural resource and environmental programs in fiscal year (FY) 2013. The legislation would decrease funding for Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Forest Service.

A number of research programs would be negatively impacted if the bill were enacted. The budget for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) would be cut by $101 million relative to the current budget. The proposed 9.5 percent cut would put the agency below its FY 2006 budget. USGS ecosystem and natural hazards programs would be particularly hard hit. The proposed 18 percent reduction for biological sciences would cut research and monitoring of wildlife, fisheries, and ecosystems. Only the invasive species and contaminant biology research programs would be spared budget reductions. Research programs on climate and land use change, energy, and minerals are also targeted for reductions. Funding for administrative costs and enterprise information would be slashed by 25 percent. Conversely, the USGS Water Resources program would receive a modest 2 percent increase.

Other Interior bureaus are targeted for funding reductions. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service would receive 21 percent less funding in FY 2013. The budget for the National Park Service would by cut by 5 percent.

The EPA would be subject to the largest cut: $1.4 billion (-17 percent) below the current level. If enacted, this would bring the agency’s funding below the FY 1998 level. According to committee documents, the bill would cap EPA’s personnel at the lowest number since 1992. EPA’s Science and Technology budget line would be reduced by $55.4 million (-7 percent). The proposed funding level is less than Congress appropriated for EPA science in FY 2004. Funding for watershed restoration projects around the nation would also be reduced collectively by $63.5 million.

Despite an overall increase for the Forest Service, the agency’s Forest and Rangeland Research program would be cut by 16 percent. The bill would fund the program at less than the FY 2003 level.

Funding for government climate change activities would be reduced by $101 million (-29 percent) across the entire bill. The bill also includes a policy rider that prohibits funding for the President Obama’s National Ocean Policy.

The bill was approved with the support of 26 Republicans on the committee, who defended the proposed funding reductions as necessary for addressing the nation’s debt. “This bill addresses threats to our natural resources and wildlife, bolsters public safety, and nurtures economic growth and domestic energy production,” said Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY). “And, this bill wisely places a limit on big-government excess - cutting funding for programs and agencies that stifle economic growth rather than encourage it - including reducing the EPA’s budget by 17%.”

All of the Democrats on the committee — plus one Republican — opposed the bill. Members of the minority party expressed deep concern about the negative impacts of the reduced funding levels on the nation’s economic recovery and ability to protect the environment. Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) reportedly opposed the measure because it did not cut enough spending.

“The deep funding cuts to important conservation and environmental protection programs would, if enacted, cause serious harm to our environment,” said Representative Jim Moran (D-VA), Ranking Member of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee. “Likewise, this bill again includes a number of riders and funding limitations that I believe do not belong in the bill and whose effect would be to undermine important environmental law. I strongly disagree on the need for these provisions. Protecting the public’s health did not cause the recession, and suspension of these laws will not sustain a recovery.”

Rep. Moran also said that he is “99 percent” sure the bill will not be considered by the entire House of Representatives. Rather, the bill could go straight to conference with the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to unveil their version of the legislation.


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