On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2013 Interior/Environment appropriations bill, which now awaits floor action. The bill includes R&D funding for the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Forest Service, and would cut research at all three agencies significantly. According to AAAS estimates, the bill would fund R&D at the Department of Interior at approximately $740 million, which is $122 million, or 14.2 percent, below the President’s budget request and $56 million, or 7.1 percent, below FY 2012 levels. The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which conducts most research within Interior, would receive R&D funding of $622 million, which is $105 million, or 14.4 percent, below the President’s request and $54 million, or 8.0 percent, below FY 2012 levels. All other R&D programs within the Department of Interior are also funded below the President’s request with the exception of the Bureau of Reclamation, which is funded 1.8 percent above the request.
The House bill would reduce total Funding for the EPA by 16.5 percent. On R&D-specific funding, the bill includes $517 million, $59 million or 10.2 percent below the President’s request and $51 million or 8.9 percent below the FY 2012 appropriation. The cut is almost entirely for EPA Science and Technology, which is reduced by $51 million, or 9.4 percent, to $493 million. The committee also passed several amendments to limit EPA’s ability to regulate green house gases emissions and other toxins. One amendment, offered by Rep. Austria (R-OH) and approved 26-18, prohibits use of funds to set emissions standards for cars with a model year after 2017. Another amendment, offered by Rep. Loomis (R-WY) and approved 27-18, prohibits use of funds to set emissions standards for new fossil energy plants. Other amendments prohibit EPA from applying asbestos emissions standards for housing complexes with less than five units, and the committee report included language to restrict the scope of EPA research on the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water quality, so that the funds are not used to study environmental justice impacts.
The appropriations bill also includes funding for the Forest Service, a part of the Department of Agriculture. The bill funds R&D at the Forest Service at $281 million, a decrease of $49 million, or 14.9 percent, from the budget request and $53 million, or 15.9 percent, from FY 2012 levels. The committee report highlights concerns about the long terms costs of the Forest and Rangeland Research program, pointing out that the fixed costs of the program’s research stations exceed 90 percent of their budgets.