House Boosts Funding For Environment, National Parks And Global Warming Research

Wednesday, June 27th 2007, 7:30 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House on Wednesday approved a bill to hike spending for the environment, national parks and global warming research.

The measure, approved 272-155, would allocate $27.6 billion for the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service and other agencies, a 4.3 percent increase over current spending.

The president's budget office and some GOP lawmakers criticized the bill as overly generous, but Democrats said spending for national parks and other environmental priorities has been shortchanged for years.

``I do not know of one increase in this package which can't be fully justified based on need or on the ability to spend the money wisely,'' said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who led floor debate on the measure.

Between 2001 and 2007, funding for the Interior Department fell by 16 percent, for the EPA by 29 percent and for the Forest Service non-fire budget by 35 percent, when adjusted for inflation, Dicks said.

The White House threatened a veto if the measure clears the Senate and reaches President Bush's desk.

``Democrats continue their spending spree as if the federal government has a credit card with no limit and American families don't pay the bills,'' said House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.

While ``saddling taxpayers with billions in excessive spending, the majority has also used this bill to make sure no new energy is produced within the interior of the United States to lower gas prices for American consumers,'' Boehner said.

Democrats nearly doubled funding for research into climate change and trumpeted an 11 percent increase to operate and maintain national parks in advance of a 100th-anniversary celebration in 2016.

Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., co-chairman of the National Parks Caucus, hailed the increase in parks spending, which he said will pay for hundreds of additional park rangers, park programs and other activities that directly benefit visitors.

``By supporting our national parks, we are preserving our heritage,'' Baird said.

The Interior bill is the first of the 12 major spending bills to be considered by Congress to contain so-called earmarks, the back-home projects so eagerly prized by almost every lawmakers. The measure contains 228 projects sought by lawmakers, totaling $119 million.