August Newsline: Senate panel cuts EPA budget, update on sewer debt crisis

August 2009 Vol. 64 No. 8
David Haynes

The Senate requests $32.1 billion to fund the Interior Department, U.S. EPA and U.S. Forest Service for fiscal 2010, compared with the $32.3 billion requested in the measure approved by the House. The Senate package is $225 million below President Obama’s request and $4.5 billion above 2009 levels.

The Senate bill is less generous toward EPA than the House version, with the chambers splitting on funding for water projects.

The agency would see $10.2 billion under the Senate measure, a 33 percent boost from last year's level but $380 million less than the House is proposing and $300 million less than Obama's request.

The differences largely lie in spending for clean water projects, which would receive an enormous boost under any of the proposals. The Senate bill includes $3.6 billion for water and sewer infrastructure, almost $300 million less than the House measure contains but more than double last year's funding level.

The Senate bill would allot $2.88 billion for environmental programs and management activities, an increase of $486 million above the 2009 level.

The Superfund program would receive $1.3 billion, even with the levels in the president's request and the House bill and a 2 percent jump from last year.

The Senate package would fund $112 million for climate change protection activities at EPA - a $17 million boost over 2009 levels, including funding for EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting rule to be finalized later this year.

Other climate change programs included in the spending bill: $42 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service to begin scientific monitoring and assessments to respond to climate change; $15 million to the Bureau of Land Management to respond to the climate change challenges in the West; and $22 million to the U.S. Geological Survey to expand global climate change research.

Grants offered under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act would receive $60 million under the bill, an amount equal to the levels proposed by the House bill and Obama.

Oversight panel sought to end sewer debt crisis

In Alabama, Jefferson County officials asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to help it escape bond deals that have left the county struggling to avoid bankruptcy for more than a year. The county has been unable to win backing from creditors or state lawmakers for plans to restructure the debts.

In a last bid to reach a solution that involves concessions to creditors, county officials have proposed an oversight board for the sewer system.