Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How Congress Snuck Changes to U.S. Environmental Policy into the New Budget Bill

The $1-trillion bill keeps agencies from acting on clean air and water and energy
December 17, 2014 |By Joshua A. Krisch and Josh Fischman

It took 1,603 pages of legalese to keep the U.S. government running for another year. That is the length of the 2015 Fiscal Year Omnibus Appropriations Bill,


It is not all about dollars. Congress also loaded the bill with special instructions, called policy riders, which dictate how government funds must be spent. Because the bill was rushed through just before the government ran out of money, and Congressional leaders did not want another government shutdown if the bill did not pass, lawmakers seized the opportunity to tack on controversial riders that might otherwise have been debated.

A lot of those 11th-hour mandates will affect science and environmental policy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, got $8.1 billion. That’s $60 million less than last year and the agency now has to operate at its smallest budget since 1989. But even that money comes with conditions. Although agriculture is a major source of atmospheric methane, Congress forbade the EPA from using its funds to require farmers to report greenhouse gas emissions from “manure management systems.” And the agency is no longer permitted to regulate farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act.

Here are a few of the key riders and their effects in different areas:


The Export–Import Bank, the U.S.’s official export credit agency, must loan funds to companies to build coal-fired power plants overseas, reversing a previous ban.

The Department of Energy cannot develop and enforce new standards for more energy-efficient lightbulbs.


Funding for defense research went up, with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency receiving a 3.4 percent increase, plus additional funds for fighting Ebola. And space science clearly won the day, with NASA receiving $500 million more than it initially requested.


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