June 26, 2015 | Issue Brief on Energy and Environment
The new Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2822) will be the seventh discretionary spending bill considered by the House of Representatives this year. The bill would provide $30.17 billion in discretionary budget authority (BA) for fiscal year (FY) 2016, roughly $246 million less than current levels. The bill largely provides funding for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The bill also includes funding for Indian Health Services (Department of Health and Human Services) and the Forest Service (Department of Agriculture). Finally, the bill provides funding for various independent agencies, such as the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities.
A number of programs in the bill, however, should no longer receive federal funding. The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, for instance, should be funded privately or at the state level. Although the bill fails to cut spending adequately, it does have important policy riders, including reversal of a number of harmful EPA regulations.
In March, The Heritage Foundation published “The Budget Book: 106 Ways to Reduce the Size and Scope of Government.” It includes an analysis of the entire budget with recommendations for the programs included in this bill.
The following should be considered for elimination:
Below are additional programs that have functions that should be considered for privatization or devolved back to the states:
The bill would influence policy in a number of important ways. Many sections of the bill would prohibit implementation of problematic federal regulations.
When appropriations bills provide new budget authority for programs whose statutory authorization (the legal authority for the program to continue) has expired, that is known as an unauthorized appropriation. Long-standing rules of the House and Senate prohibit the funding of unauthorized appropriations. The rules were intended to place the jurisdiction of a program’s policy objective with the authorizing committees—not the appropriators. However, Congress has made a practice of ignoring these rules, and continually authorizes funding for programs whose authorizations have long since expired—a technical violation of law, and a wasted opportunity to review these programs for reform or elimination.
The House Interior and Environment appropriations bill includes important language preventing economically harmful regulations from taking effect. However, this bill does not do nearly enough to reduce government spending. The bill continues to provide funding for programs such as the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities. Funding for the arts should not be done at the federal level, and conservatives have championed efforts to defund or allow these programs to receive private funding. Ultimately, this bill allows too many big government programs to continue.—John Gray is a Research Fellow in Federal Fiscal Affairs in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, of the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity, at The Heritage Foundation. Nicolas D. Loris is the Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow in the Roe Institute. Daren Bakst is Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy in the Roe Institute.
 The Heritage Foundation, “Lands and Wildlife,” in Environmental Policy Guide: 167 Recommendations for Environmental Policy Reform, 2015, http://thf_media.s3.amazonaws.com/2015/pdf/04_Environmental_Policy_Guide_Lands_and_Wildlife.pdf, and Katie Tubb and Nicolas Loris, “The Federal Lands Freedom Act: Empowering States to Control Their Own Energy Futures,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2992, February 18, 2015, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/02/the-federal-lands-freedom-act-empowering-states-to-control-their-own-energy-futures.
 Pre-publication version: Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States,’” May 27, 2015, http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/preamble_rule_web_version.pdf (accessed June 23, 2015).
 American Farm Bureau Federation, “Farm Bureau Releases Detailed Analysis of Waters of the U.S. Rule,” June 11, 2015, http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=newsroom.news_article&id=311 (accessed June 23, 2015).
 U.S. House of Representatives, Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Oversight Hearing on “State Perspectives on the Status of Cooperating Agencies for the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule,” May 20, 2015, http://naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398500 (accessed June 23, 2015).
 Laura Barron-Lopez, “COP Omnibus Rider Keeps Administration from Tightening Mining Rule,” The Hill, January 16, 2014, http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/195621-gop-rider-in-omnibus-bill-would-tighten-rules-on-waste (accessed April 28, 2015). See also Kate Sheppard, “Appropriations Bill Would Block New Mountain Removal Fill Rules,” The Huffington Post, January 14, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/14/omnibus-coal-mining_n_4598628.html (accessed April 28, 2015).
 Claudia Copeland, “Controversies over Redefining ‘Fill Material’ Under the Clean Water Act,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, August 21, 2013, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31411.pdf (accessed April 28, 2015).
 Kevin D. Dayaratna and David W. Kreutzer, “Unfounded FUND: Yet Another EPA Model Not Ready for the Big Game,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2897, April 29, 2014, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/04/unfounded-fund-yet-another-epa-model-not-ready-for-the-big-game.
 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016, H.R. 2822, 114th Cong., 1st Sess., § 433, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr2822 (accessed June 24, 2015).
 “Environmental Protection Agency: National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone,” Federal Register, December 17, 2004, https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/17/2014-28674/national-ambient-air-quality-standards-for-ozone (accessed June 23, 2015).
 James E. McCarthy, “Ozone Air Quality Standards: EPA’s 2015 Revision,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, October 3, 2014, http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43092.pdf (accessed March 17, 2015).