Bloomberg BNA – Democrats beat back efforts from Republicans to include provisions in a fiscal year 2014 appropriations package that would have limited President Barack Obama's ability to implement his climate action plan, according to the White House.
Matt Lehrich, an assistant press secretary at the White House, told Bloomberg BNA in a statement that all of the “many” riders to the $1.1 trillion appropriations package that would have “gutted” Obama's climate action plan were eliminated from the final bill.
“While some limited environmental riders were included, our ability to continue to move our environment and climate agenda forward is very much intact,” Lehrich said.
Provisions to roll back the administration's emissions standards for power plants and its authorities to establish vehicle emissions standards were among the provisions excluded from the appropriations bill, according to a White House official.
Another provision to undercut energy efficiency standards was also among the dozens of riders removed from the final bill, according to the White House.
The omnibus would provide $8.2 billion in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, an increase of approximately $299 million compared to the agency's post-sequester fiscal 2013 funding level. The bill includes increased funding for state water infrastructure revolving funds and state and local air quality grants awarded under the Clean Air Act.
Overseas Coal Financing
One of the climate change-related provisions in the $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill appears to soften the ability of the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to implement policies prohibiting U.S. financing of coal power plants overseas except in certain circumstances, though Democrats and Republicans sharply disagreed about its impact.
Any funding appropriated for the rest of the fiscal year could not be used to implement those agencies' policies against financing overseas coal plants if the result would be job losses in the U.S. or reduced exports, according to House Republicans.
According to a House Appropriations Committee summary from Republicans, the provision would prevent both agencies “from blocking coal-fired or other power-generation projects that increase the export of U.S. goods or services or prevent the loss of U.S. jobs.”
An aide on the Appropriations Committee told Bloomberg BNA that Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) personally sought the inclusion of the language in the final version of the legislation.
But the administration disagreed about the impacts of the provision. A spokesman for the Export-Import Bank said the provision would slightly expand the list of countries where the bank could consider financing coal projects by about 15 countries to include some lower-middle class nations as well.
The provision does not alter the guidelines of the bank at all and there are currently no coal power projects in the pipeline, according to the spokesman.
Only the addition of those 15 or so International Development Association lower-middle class countries would require a change in administration policy, the Export-Import Bank spokesman said.
Waxman: ‘Not Helpful.’
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Bloomberg BNA he wished the language on overseas coal plant financing had not made it into the final bill.
“I don't see any reason for any of these riders to be in there,” Waxman said. “I'm sorry this one is in there. We're going to evaluate how much damage it will do, but it's not helpful and it's not constructive.”
Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, told Bloomberg BNA the riders in the final bill were “generally benign,” especially given the kinds of provisions considered during the process.
“They're probably not without issue, but considering the kinds of riders that were being contemplated, it is not going to create much of a reaction in the clean air community,” Becker said. “They're not nearly as controversial than what was being contemplated initially”
Members of the House from coal-producing states said the financing agencies' policies were “in contravention of these organizations' fundamental missions” and “will fail to achieve their intended environmental goals.” They urged members of the Appropriations Committee to bear those concerns in mind during the appropriations process.
Guidelines approved by the Export-Import Bank on Dec. 12 state U.S. financing will no longer be available for overseas power plants unless they use technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration, except in extremely limited cases.
Similar limitations on U.S. financing were approved in November by the OPIC, which helps finance projects in developing countries.
Obama pledged to largely end the U.S. financial support of overseas power plants in his climate action plan as part of a wide-ranging approach to reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases.
Climate Report Required
The omnibus includes several additional climate-related policy riders, including language requiring the White House to file a report to Congress outlining federal spending on climate change programs.
The report, which would be due to Congress within 120 days following submission of the president's fiscal 2015 budget request, would be required to describe federal agency obligations and expenditures for climate change programs in fiscal 2013-2014.
The legislation also includes language that would prohibit the EPA from using appropriated funding to promulgate regulations requiring the issuance of permits under Title V of the Clean Air Act for emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, water vapor or methane and a provision prohibiting the EPA from using appropriated funds to require the mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.
The House Appropriations Committee said in a summary document released in conjunction with the omnibus that the manure management emissions language would exempt livestock producers from “overly burdensome” greenhouse gas regulations.
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