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House Subcommittee Adopts Downsized Interior, EPA Budgets

A House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday voted out a $27.5 billion spending bill that cuts funding for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in fiscal year (FY) 2012, and is favorable to oil and natural gas producers.

The measure cleared the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies by 8-5. It included $9.9 billion in funding for Interior in FY 2012, which is $720 million below the level for the current fiscal year and $1.2 billion below President Obama's request; and $7.1 billion for the EPA -- $1.5 billion less than last year and $1.8 billion below the president's request for the agency.

The bill did not include the nearly $100 million in onshore and offshore oil and gas fees that were proposed by the Obama administration. The measure is headed to the full House Appropriations Committee, which is expected to mark it up on July 12 (see Daily GPI, July 7).

The spending bill also incorporates House legislation (HR 2021), which was passed last month, that would force the EPA to act on exploratory air permits within a six-month time frame and would limit the ability of opponents to use the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board to invalidate the permits for offshore exploration (see Daily GPI, June 24). Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

"It's...worth noting that the bill does not include the president's proposed $38 million increase for additional onshore oil and gas fees or the $55 million increase for additional offshore oil and gas fees. Issues like this are best left to the authorizing committees of jurisdiction," said Subcommittee Chairman Michael Simpson (R-ID).

He further noted that the measure provides additional funding for Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to hire new inspectors and move forward with offshore oil and gas permitting and leasing.

Simpson made no apologies for the panel's decision to cut the EPA's FY 2012 budget by 18%. "Earlier this year I said that the scariest agency in the federal government is the EPA. I still believe that. The EPA's unrestrained effort to regulate greenhouse gases, and the pursuit of an overly aggressive regulatory agenda, are signs of an agency that has lost its bearing."

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