4 Issues to Watch for as Energy and EPA Bills Hit the House Floor

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The House this week will feature fierce battles over energy and environmental priorities as lawmakers consider a package of bills containing annual funding for the EPA, the Departments of Energy and Interior, and federal government projects. ‘water.

Starting tomorrow, the entire House will begin debating a $402 billion minibus and six bills, HR 8294which contains the Interior-EPA, Energy-Water, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture-Rural Development, Financial Services-General Government, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Bills 2023 (Daily O&M, 11 July). It should pass by Thursday.

“Instead of serving the biggest corporations and billionaires who, despite record profits, continue to raise their prices, we bring to the floor government funding bills that help the middle class, working families, small businesses and hard-working vulnerable people. We are committed to fighting climate change,” said House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

The Rules Committee will decide this evening on the number of nearly 600 proposals amendments in the pack will get votes on the floor. Here are four numbers to watch:

Block Biden

The pending amendments include dozens proposed by Republicans that would seek to reverse or stall the Biden administration’s energy and environmental goals.

Republicans, for example, are proposing multiple amendments that would thwart President Joe Biden’s sweeping executive order on climate change, which calls for the United States to join the Paris climate accord, sets a goal of preserving 30% of the country’s land and water by 2030. , and directs agencies to prioritize a series of climate activities (Daily O&MJuly 15th).

While House Democrats have the votes to block any backtracking, Republicans are using the amendments to signal changes that may be in store if they win the House in the midterm elections.

With a GOP majority next year, the House could pass spending bills that would hamper or even negate many of Biden’s climate efforts for the rest of his term.

Several Republican offers this week aim to spark a debate over high gas prices, which the party sees as a winning issue in this fall’s election.

They include proposals to reverse an increase in royalty rates for drilling on federal lands, lift limits on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, block some sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and ban exports. of crude.

Contrasting views are also expected on renewable energies.

Democrats have amendments to add more than $150 million in funding to the DOE-Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency and to bolster funding for the Defense Production Act for solar manufacturing.

Republicans, meanwhile, have proposals to eliminate all funding for the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Democrats are likely to block many amendments or package them in such a way as to cause GOP members to withdraw them.

Top energy and water grabbers, Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), both said last week that they don’t expect no provision that would derail their usually bipartisan bill.

Allocation up

Billions of dollars for thousands of allocations are contained in the spending package, with $1.92 billion in Energy-Water and Interior-EPA bills alone.

The bulk of the energy and water funding, about $630 million, would go to 75 Army Corps of Engineers water projects (Daily O&MJune 28).

The Interior-EPA bill contains nearly $1 billion in appropriations, many of which are spread across smaller EPA grants for clean and safe drinking water projects, which are popular across parties (Daily O&MJune 29).

Lawmakers on both sides are passing earmarks, also known as community spending, which returned last year after a 10-year hiatus with new disclosure and eligibility requirements.

The House increased the number of assignments members could request this year, making it almost certain that when Senate projects are added, they will top the more than $9 billion in member-directed spending last year. .

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), like many conservatives, didn’t seek any assignments last year, but he got two of the biggest this cycle in the latest Energy-Water bill for water projects. water towers worth a combined $258 million. They will go to deepening ports and waterways, he said, which is crucial for transporting natural gas and other fuels.

“We are a huge energy exporting state,” Weber said when asked about the rationale for such projects.

Weber said he believed new ‘safeguards’ were in place to limit the abuse and fraud that plagued the posting a decade ago and gave him pause to seek them a year ago. . He also said that with billions of dollars earmarked for bipartisan allocations in fiscal year 2022, he wanted to make sure Texas got its fair share.

Climate expenditure

As hopes for a climate bill look dashed in the Senate, House Democrats are expected to argue this week that this year’s spending bills offer their best way to fund emissions reduction efforts. .

Kaptur listed the climate issues funded in this year’s Energy-Water Bill.

“We are talking about energy independence for this country. We talk about climate change and what has happened in the West with the reduction of water reserves and forests. We talk in the Gulf about all the flooding and storms and the warming of the Great Lakes and what that’s done to our fish population,” she said.

The environmental focus reflects an ongoing shift since 2019, when Democrats regained control of the House. Water-energy, long considered the focus of DOE water projects and research labs, has become one of the major annual climate measures.

On Interior-EPA spending, lawmakers are expected to say they successfully reversed Trump’s spending cuts to climate programs and that this year’s spending allows them to further expand those efforts.

“During my first term as Home Speaker, I am extremely proud that we have been able to make unprecedented investments to fight the climate crisis, restore science to the foundation of decision-making, enshrine the highest-ever level of federal funding to the arts and humanities. , and continuing our commitment to tribal nations. I look forward to building on these successes,” said the chair of the Homeland and Environmental Appropriations Subcommittee of the House, Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who drafted a fiscal year 2023 bill that would see a double-digit increase.

Republicans counter that the nation cannot afford the increases with soaring inflation and record gasoline prices.

“We should be cutting federal spending and directing our limited resources to the most pressing needs of our country,” said Appropriation Ranking Member Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) during last month’s Interior-EPA markup. .

lame duck outlook

The House action this week is the most significant progress this year on spending bills, but it could represent a high point.

DeLauro said last week that she intends to pass all 12 House spending bills before the chamber leaves for its summer recess. That would include passing a package with the two biggest measures of fiscal year 2023 next week – the defense and labor-health and social services-education bills. These two items account for well over half of all discretionary spending.

But Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said last week that there could be two or three spending bills that could have “problems” getting through the floor.

He declined to name them, although he is likely referring to defense and homeland security measures, which did not clear the floor of the House as stand-alone measures last year due to wrangling over levels spending and immigration policy.

The generally bipartisan Commerce-Justice-Science bill, which funds NOAA and NASA, was also stymied last year in a surprise tussle over federal policing grant funding. Democrats are likely to avoid that fight this year.

Whatever progress the House makes on spending bills will be slowed by the political realities of an evenly divided Senate.

Senate Democrats are threatening to skip all increases this year and simply release their versions of the spending bills in late July if Senate Republicans don’t reach a bipartisan deal on overall spending (Daily O&MJuly 13).

The owners of both chambers acknowledge that a final agreement is unlikely until Election Day. Instead, as usual, party leaders are expected to concoct an omnibus spending package in a lame session.

Program: The rules hearing will be held on Monday, July 18 at 1 p.m. at H-313 Capitol and via webcast.

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