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U.S. House Republicans are proposing sweeping cuts to the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other executive departments with major influence in the Mountain West. Their bill is a part of the lengthy debate over federal funding for the next fiscal year.
Overall, the bill approves more than $25 billion in spending, which is a 35 percent – or $13.4 billion – drop from last year. The EPA would face a 39 percent cut, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service would see their budgets slashed significantly.
Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican, said in a committee meeting that making these decisions was especially tough as a resident of a Western state. But the cuts are necessary, he added.
“If you’re looking for a pretty bill, this is not it. This is a hard bill, and frankly, it’s a necessary bill,” he said. “With the nation’s debt in excess of $32 trillion and inflation at an unacceptable level, we have to do our jobs to rein in unnecessary federal spending.”
The proposed budget also takes on hot-button environmental issues, like the status of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act and mining and drilling leasing policies. The northern long-eared bat, for instance, would lose protections, and the bill opposes a proposed BLM rule that would put conservation projects on equal footing as other land uses like mining or grazing.
Democrats, meanwhile, say the budget cuts would slash important programs from President Joe Biden’s agenda. Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree said they would also hamper progress on climate change and prevent agencies from enforcing safety regulations.
“The cuts in this bill are so severe that even agencies that usually enjoy bipartisan support are targeted for damaging reductions,” she said. “The majority of Americans support becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and they support taking responsibility for future generations. The austere and irresponsible cuts in this bill do not align with their values.”
It’s unlikely this bill will make it through the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. The 2024 fiscal year starts Oct. 1.