9 Environmental Wins in the Final Spending Bill

For now at least, Congress is still working to protect our environment and health.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer preps for a press briefing with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the omnibus spending bill moving through Congress on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2018.

Credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

In the nick of time Friday evening, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill, avoiding a government shutdown—as well as the slashed budgets and litany of anti-environment policy riders that were in the original budget proposal.

The dynamics of the vote, with Democrats in a position of bargaining power after the House Freedom Caucus refused to vote, kept the final bill much greener than the original House version.

While the omnibus spending bill isn’t perfect, here are nine key environmental wins:

  1. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget stayed intact. After Trump’s proposed 25 percent cut, the end result was, in fact, a $763 million increase, including $300 million for clean water and safe drinking water funds.
  2. $50 million was given to new grant programs to address lead in drinking water.
  3. Congress soundly rejected the president’s proposal to shut down the highly successful Energy Star program as well as the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, which awards funding for breakthrough energy technology projects.
  4. Clean air efforts won. Riders that tried to roll back methane and smog rules, as well as the Clean Air Act, were removed.
  5. A rider that would’ve allowed clearcutting was shot down, which means protections for Alaska’s old-growth Tongass forest remain intact.
  6. Our national parks, in the news lately for their state of disrepair, received a $270 million budget increase.
  7. A rider that attempted to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, one of our best shots at climate change mitigation, was removed.
  8. Another rider that aimed to roll back the Clean Water Rule, which protects drinking water sources that supply more than 117 million Americans, was also cut.
  9. The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, in charge of promoting clean energy and energy efficiency research, received $2.3 billion—far more than the $636 million requested by the president.

Only one anti-environment rider remained on the final budget: an exemption for livestock operations from reporting the release of harmful chemicals—an obligation for all other industry polluters. The rider was framed as a win for small farms but instead will benefit large-scale factory farms.

While the Trump administration continues its full-scale attack on our environment and health, the spending bill provides some relief—and shows that efforts by environmental advocates, and their allies in Congress, can make a difference in protecting our basic rights to clean air, clean water, and public lands.


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