Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2017 Budget Bill

June 16, 2016 – The Senate Appropriations Committee has marked up and approved, by a party-line vote of 16-14, the FY 2017 bill that funds EPA.  Earlier in the week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies reported the bill to the full Committee. The Senate bill calls for $8.12 billion for EPA, as compared to the President’s request of $8.27 billion and the House Appropriations Committee’s recommended amount of $7.98 billion. The Senate Committee rejected the President’s $40 million increase for state and local air grants and, instead, approved last year’s enacted level of $228.2 million.  In addition, the bill includes $25 million for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program (the President requested $10 million and the House called for $100 million) and $20 million for Targeted Airshed grants (the President did not recommend any funding for this program and the House called for $40 million).  The Senate bill does not contain the controversial air-related riders included in the House version of the bill. During the full committee mark-up, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced an amendment that would have prohibited EPA from expending funds on any Clean Power Plan-related activities while the court’s stay on the regulation is in effect.  Senator Capito expressed her “strong feelings” for the amendment and then withdrew the measure, indicating that she felt the bill itself would limit EPA’s spending in certain accounts related to the Clean Power Plan. The bill has a number of other important measures affecting the air program, some described in the accompanying committee report. Most notably, the Committee expressed disagreement with EPA’s implementation of the “directive from fiscal year 2016 to update the formula for State and Tribal Air Quality Management Grants,” directing the agency to “hold all States and regions harmless in fiscal year 2017 by allocating funds in the exact same manner as fiscal year 2016…Should the Agency update the formula, the Committee directs the Agency to provide the new formula and funding estimates” to the Committee. The Committee expressed its displeasure with EPA’s implementation of the multipurpose grant program “in a manner that was not flexible and aligns more directly with the Agency’s priorities. Given that such is the case, the Committee has not continued funding for the multipurpose grant program.”  The Committee also expressed concern with “potentially overlapping implementation schedules related to the 2008 and 2015 standards for ground-level ozone” and has directed EPA to “provide the Committee with a report examining the potential for administrative options to enable States to enter into cooperative agreements with the Agency that provide regulatory relief and meaningfully clean up the air.”  The Committee also expressed disappointment with the “Agency’s efforts to regulate methane from existing petroleum and gas sources,” and concluded, “States are adequately regulating methane emissions.”  The Appropriations Committee expressed concern with the “mandate for fuel with a sulfur content of 0.1% in the North American Emission Control Area…having a disproportionately negative impact on vessels which have engines that generate less than 32,000 horsepower,” asking the agency to consider exempting these engines. Finally, with respect to wood stoves, the Committee noted that the “observed variance for the best current methods of measuring PM emission from new residential wood stoves may be too great for the test to reliably confirm compliance with the Step II, 2020 standard” and asked the Administrator to report back.