House Panel Would Slash EPA, USGS, and Smithsonian Budgets

Ax man. Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is proposing deep budget cuts in some agencies as part of an overall Republican plan to trim federal spending.

U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. government climate and environmental research programs and the Smithsonian Institution would see deep budget cuts under a 2014 spending proposal approved today by a U.S. House of Representatives panel.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would get a 34% cut under the fiscal year 2014 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill unveiled by the House Appropriations Committee, while spending at the Smithsonian would drop 19%. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would see a 9% drop. All the cuts are calculated against 2013 spending levels approved by Congress, which do not include the roughly 5% across-the-board-cuts known as the sequester.

Overall, the $24.3 billion House spending bill would take a 19% bite out of the current budgets of a host of agencies—including the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service. Under a promise by House Republicans to cut projected federal spending by some $5 trillion over the next decade, House appropriators have $91 billion less to work with this year than their counterparts in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The Senate has yet to act on its version of the Interior spending bill.

To "do more with less," the House panel is "dramatically scaling back lower-priority, or 'nice-to-have' programs," said House Appropriations Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) in a statement released yesterday.

Although the panel released few details, the statement said that those lower priorities include climate change and ecosystem research programs at USGS, which would see its budget drop by $101 million to $967 million; the Obama administration's request was $1.2 billion. EPA's budget would be cut $2.8 billion, to $5.5 billion; the administration request was $8.2 billion. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would drop by $401 million to $1.06 billion, well below the $1.6 billion request. The Smithsonian Institution would get $660 million, a cut of $155 million from current levels and below the request of $869 million.

In contrast, an array of energy development programs would see stable or increased funding. The bill would also bar the Obama administration from implementing a host of new environmental regulations, including those aimed at regulating greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

The House bill is unlikely to become law. With House and Senate leaders at an impasse over 2014 spending, many observers expect Congress to extend 2013 spending levels into the new fiscal year, which begins on 1 October. It's not clear when a final budget agreement will be reached.