Jun 29 2007

Key EPA Appropriator Back Adoption of House, Senate GHG Measures

Inside EPA

By Anthony Lacy

Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA), chairman of the House appropriations panel responsible for EPA's budget, is suggesting that lawmakers adopt separate House and Senate measures to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the agency's fiscal year 2008 spending bill.

Dicks' suggestion comes as mandatory climate control opponent Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) failed in an attempt to strike a sense of the House favoring mandatory GHG rules during floor debate of EPA's spending bill.

Dicks told Inside EPA in a brief June 21 interview that he may seek to include both a House proposal requiring EPA to develop rules for reducing GHG emissions, as well as a Senate proposal requiring the agency to develop a mandatory GHG registry, in the agency's upcoming FY08 spending bill.

The House version of the spending bill requires EPA by July 1, 2008, to use $2 million to issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking outlining options to reduce emissions in the transportation, electricity generation and industrial and commercial sectors. The House approved EPA's spending bill June 27 in a 272-155 vote.

In contrast, the Senate's spending bill -- which the appropriations committee approved June 21 -- would only require EPA to use the $2 million to develop a rule requiring mandatory reporting of GHG emissions to an agency-administered registry.

Dicks was optimistic that lawmakers could resolve the differences. "We'll work it out," he said. "I don't know, we'll just have to wait and see. After we get to conference we'll negotiate and maybe we'll do both of them. It would make sense to do them both."

However, it is not clear whether senators will back Dicks' proposal. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Inside EPA June 21 he would rather Congress require EPA to develop GHG rules as part of an authorizing bill. "I'd rather do it through the authorizing bill, that's the regular order of business. To do legislation, and we do from time to time, on appropriations is unusual but it happens."

It is also unclear whether other lawmakers agree with Dicks' proposal. Asked by Inside EPA June 21 whether the House or Senate GHG provisions would survive conference negotiations, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI) said, "I have no idea what the Senate has done, I don't care what the Senate does. We're simply trying to get our bills through the House and we'll go through the normal conference process."

Dicks' suggestion comes as lawmakers are weighing a slew of legislative options that would require EPA to develop a mandatory, economy-wide registry for companies to report their GHG emissions, proposals that could set up a clash with the Department of Energy's (DOE) existing voluntary registry.

In addition to differences on GHG rules and registries, the Senate bill does not include a measure included by Dicks in the House bill giving EPA $50 million to address climate change adaptation. The House bill would create a new temporary commission on adaptation and mitigation, which would last for two years and be chaired by the president of the National Academy of Sciences. Panelists would include officials from EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Forest Service.

The commission would recommend specific amounts of money that should be directed toward these or other government agencies to conduct additional research on climate change adaptation. EPA would allocate $45 million to itself and other agencies over the next two years, depending on the panel's findings, and an additional $5 million would be used for the operations of the panel.

In a related development, during House floor debate June 26 on EPA's spending bill Barton offered an amendment that would have removed language from the bill which says Congress finds there is a growing scientific consensus on global warming and that mandatory, market-based GHG limits are needed, as long as they do not significantly harm the United States economy.

Barton's amendment failed June 26 on a 274-153 vote, with 44 Republicans joining the Democrats to oppose striking the language. No Democrats voted in favor of the amendment, and 10 lawmakers did not vote.

Prior to the House approving EPA's funding bill, the House appropriations committee approved by voice vote June 21 a supplemental report to EPA's spending bill that details every earmark in H.R. 2643, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill 2008. Relevant documents are available on InsideEPA.com. See page 2 for details.

The supplemental report identifies the amount, congressional sponsor, and details of 141 earmarks to be funded directly from EPA's state and tribal assistance grants fund.

Overall, the funding bill includes 323 earmarks worth $198 million for a slew of projects funded through EPA, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies. Obey said the amount of earmarks "adheres to our goal" of a 50 percent reduction in FY08 earmarks compared to FY07.