As budget details from the last-minute effort to keep the federal government operating are being released, it is clear that the Environmental Protection Agency is the big loser. Although House budget negotiators were unsuccessful in keeping language that would have reined in the EPA’s war on energy through extensive rule-making, they did succeed in sending a strong message to the agency through a $1.6 billion cut, which amounts to 16 percent of its budget. Lawmakers have not been able to get the attention of the EPA through committee hearings regarding their onerous rulemaking to limit CO2 emissions — effectively bypassing Congress. Perhaps EPA officials will get the message now.
Funding for high-speed rail projects was also cut by $2.9 billion, which affects new projects as well as unspent money on current projects. Newly elected governors from Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin have recently said “no thanks” to federal dollars for high-speed rail projects over fears they will be stuck with cost overruns and high operating costs for projects that seldom live up the claims of their proponents.
Western legislators were also able to attach a rider that allows states to delist wolves as an endangered species. There are reports that in Idaho and Montana increasing wolf populations are decimating elk herds and putting many guides and outfitters out of business. Many hunters in Michigan are also concerned about the pressure the increasing wolf population in the Upper Peninsula is placing on the deer herd. If wolves are delisted as an endangered species, states with increasing wolf numbers can allow wolf hunting. That carries the duel benefits of controlling wolf populations and providing additional hunting opportunities which is good for local economies.
While the recent budget deal does not effectively address the country’s massive debt problem, at least it is a step in the right direction to help restore the proper balance of power by cutting EPA’s budget, reducing some wasteful government spending and lifting onerous regulations.