House, Senate OK Separate Curbs on Environmental Laws

Article excerpt

Legislation that would restrict some major environmental laws won House approval Thursday. It would limit the government's enforcement of clean air rules and endangered species protection for the rest of this fiscal year.

At the same time, the Senate approved a measure that temporarily bars the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing any new plants or animals as endangered species.

Both actions were taken as part of separate legislation that would rescind billions of dollars in previously approved spending by government agencies this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The House legislation, which cuts $17 billion in overall government spending, was approved 227-200. It includes a cut of $2 million from programs related to endangered species protection.

The curb in the Senate on endangered species came on an amendment to a defense spending bill. It rescinds $1.5 million in the Fish and Wildlife Service budget for new listings of endangered species. The amendment cleared by voice vote after an attempt to scuttle it failed 38-60.

The House-passed spending reduction package also included a provision that would widen the ability of logging companies to cut in federal forests, by allowing greater access to unhealthy "salvage" timber without an environmental impact review.

The bill would increase overall logging on federal land by about a third, to nearly 6 billion board feet.

The House-approved bill also would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from pursuing several regulations to clean up urban smog, including a controversial rule on automobile emission inspections.

The bill bars the EPA from requiring states to implement a centralized auto emissions inspection program with the more-sophisticated equipment required under the 1990 Clean Air Act. Motorists in many states have complained that the new inspection program is costly and inconvenient.

Unfunded Mandates Pass

The House completed the second major piece of legislation under the Republican's Contract with America on Thursday as it sent to the president a bill to curb federal orders to states.

The bill requiring the federal government to pay for carrying out many rules and regulations it imposes on states and localities passed the House by a 394-28 vote. All no votes were cast by Democrats.

The bill was approved by the Senate on Wednesday 91-9. President Bill Clinton is expected to sign it.

The bill requires the Congressional Budget Office to prepare cost estimates of, and Congress to pay for, proposed regulations that would cost states and local governments more than $50 million.

The bill is not retroactive and does not apply to legislation protecting constitutional rights, civil rights or anti-discrimination law.

Cost estimates, but no funding, are required for regulations costing the private sector more than $100 million. …