GOP Attack on Biodiversity, Climate 'Sticks Finger in the Eye of American People'

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) chairs a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that allocates funds to the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. The subcommittee advanced a bill slashing funding for the agencies on June 28, 2024.

(Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

GOP Attack on Biodiversity, Climate 'Sticks Finger in the Eye of American People'

Critics of a House appropriations bill that guts environmental agencies warn it's a sign of what the Republicans will do if they retake the Senate and the presidency next year.

Democrats and watchdog groups reacted with outrage on Friday as a U.S. House environmental subcommittee led by Republicans approved an appropriations bill that would reduce funding for two federal agencies and limit their ability to protect the environment.

The House Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee voted to advance a bill to weaken the regulatory capacities of the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cutting funding for conservation, climate action, national parks, and environmental justice initiatives.

"This bill sticks a finger in the eye of the American people who care deeply about clean air, climate change, endangered species, and responsible use of public lands," said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. "It's a nasty wishlist to defund the priorities of protecting a livable future."

The fiscal year 2025 bill proposes a 20% cut to the EPA's annual budget, from $9.2 billion to $7.4 billion, including a $749 million cut to state and tribal assistance grants. It also proposes reductions to many Interior agency budgets, including a $210 million cut to the National Park Service and a $144 million cut to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Taking aim at the government's ability to regulate industry, most of the Republicans' spending allocations are below fiscal year 2024 and almost all of them are below the amount requested by the Biden administration.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, said in a statement that the proposed EPA cut was "irresponsible" and that she was "greatly disappointed and frustrated" by the bill, which "completely disregards the reality of a warming planet and ignores the need for us to do more, not less."

Pingree's Democratic colleague, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member of the full appropriations committee, agreed.

The bill "promotes dirty energy, taking the side of fossil fuel companies and those who deny the scientific reality rather than address the escalating risk to our economy and national security presented by the changing climate and growing number of extreme weather events," DeLauro said in the statement.

Critics of the bill also objected to the large number of "poison-pill" riders that seek to undo Biden administration rules and undermine the Endangered Species Act by naming specific animals for which listing can't be funded. Per a Trump-era Interior rule, the legislation also delists most gray wolf populations from the ESA.

"This proposal is a hatchet job of disastrous proportion that in an unprecedented scale, targets our nation's most imperiled species and the law saving them from extinction," Robert Dewey, vice president of government relations at Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement.

The Republicans' bill includes proposed reductions to funding for clean water infrastructure projects, which Food and Water Watch (FWW) said was a step in the wrong direction—water and sewer systems need huge infusions of money just to meet current water quality standards.

"The proposed cuts would leave many with unsafe water and exacerbate the nation’s water affordability crisis, adding more pressure on household water bills at a time when families are already grappling with soaring costs for essential services," Mary Grant, a FWW campaign director, said in a statement, calling safe water "non-negotiable."

Grant said that to safeguard Americans' clean water from "foolishly political annual appropriations battles," Congress should pass the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, And Reliability (WATER) Act—a call she also made last year, when the same subcommittee advanced a similar bill.

The full appropriations committee will consider the bill on July 9. If the bill passes through the committee and then the full chamber, as last year's version did, it's unlikely to make headway in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. However, critics of the bill warned that it's a sign of what the Republicans will do if they retake the Senate and the presidency.

Earlier this month, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump said that he plans to gut federal agencies dealing with climate, such as the Interior Department. A union of EPA workers rebuked Trump for the remarks.

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