“The Worst” Enviro Budget Cuts in 35 Years


In all the debate about debts and deficits, it’s been easy to forget that Congress is making cuts that, if approved, will have an impact immediately. This week, the House is poised to pass the 2012 spending bills for the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency—with cuts that congressional Democrats are attacking as Draconian.

“This spending bill represents one of the most egregious assaults on the environment in the history of Congress,” said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) at a press conference Monday morning, via The Hill. Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) called it “the worst” Interior and Environment Appropriations bill he’s seen in his 35 years on the committee in a statement. He also warned that it could get “even worse” as debate on the bill proceeds in the full House this week.

House Dems have a bit of a flair for the dramatic (note Markey holding up a copy of the bill covered in police tape earlier today, as an example). But the proposed cuts are dramatic. Among them:

  • a 7 percent cut to the Department of Interior overall, and a 21 percent cut to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in particular (which handles endangered species issues, among other things)
  • an 18 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency

Republicans on the committee also approved 38 riders targeting specific programs, such as:

  • defunding the EPA’s rulemaking on coal ash as well as mercury and other toxic air pollutants
  • blocking EPA from moving forward on implementing greenhouse gas emission rules
  • preventing the EPA from issuing the next round of fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks

National Wildlife Federation and Earthjustice have more on the targeted cuts. It’s a good reminder that while big-picture, long-term cuts are the getting all the news attention right now, there are immediate cuts making their way through Congress, too.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.