HR 5538: Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017

Legislation that would modestly increase funding for several bureaus of the Department of the Interior in fiscal year 2017, but cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), passed the House of Representatives on July 14, 2016. H.R. 5538 was among the last items of business the chamber addressed before lawmakers left for a seven-week recess. This is the first time in several years that the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill has been passed by the House; contentious policy items have killed the legislation in recent years.

Notably, the U.S. Geological Survey would receive an $18 million increase if the bill were enacted. This includes a $2.7 million increase for the Ecosystems mission area.

The bill also includes $301 million for Forest and Rangeland Research at the U.S. Forest Service. This represents an increase of $10 million over the current funding level, although the new funding would be directed to forest products and forest inventory programs per an amendment by Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR).

The EPA would lose $274 million in funding from the 2016 enacted level of $8.1 billion, continuing a multiple year slide in funding. Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) sought an additional 17 percent cut. His amendment failed after the bill’s sponsor explained that the proposed reduction would negatively impact state grant funding. An amendment by Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) to eliminate EPA’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs was adopted by voice vote.

More than 100 amendments were debated before the bill passed with the support of 231 Representatives. It was a party-line vote, with all but three of the supporting votes coming from Republicans.

Many of the failed amendments attempted to remove policy riders from the legislation. Several policy provisions would prohibit the listing of new endangered species, block funding for environmental education grants, and prevent Obama administration air and water regulations from taking effect.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill.