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Blunt watching budget, environmental issues

June 19, 2015 at 4:00 a.m. | Updated June 19, 2015 at 4:00 a.m.

Even as Congress continues debating federal defense spending, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt also is looking forward to the debates about environmental issues.

During a conference call with Missouri reporters Wednesday, the Springfield Republican said the Interior Appropriations committee marked up its budget bills this week. He said the panel "tries to use the funding mechanism as a way to slow down some of these regulations, at least until people have had a chance to think about them - and, hopefully, have one more intervening presidential election."

Blunt and others consistently complain the Obama administration is "over-reaching" with many of its proposed environmental regulations.

"This is a fight we could have again next year," Blunt said, "on things like the power utility plan that would have dramatic impact over just a very short period of time on utility bills in Missouri; the tremendous overreach of the so-called "Waters of the U.S.' bill."

On that issue, he noted, the federal Environmental Protection Agency "is contending, somehow, that all waters are navigable under the authority they were given in the Clean Water Act some 40 years ago."

The EPA and several environmental groups say its authority should extend to smaller streams to prevent pollution in the nation's major waters.

But opponents like Blunt argue the agency has gone too far with regulations that could make farming and construction more difficult, even when they occur nowhere near a stream "navigable" for boats.

Blunt said not funding government proposals in appropriations bills is a proper way to fight the executive overreach.

"You know, voters have a say on this every time they elect people to public office," he said. "I think you're going to see this Congress working really hard to find a way to suspend these excessive regulations until people have, really, had time to think about them."

Blunt also wants Congress to pass a law that would require it a vote on every regulation with "any significant economic impact ... before they can become finally effective."

Under that idea, he said, "Most of these regulations would not happen in the extreme way that they're happening now."

Still, Blunt said there are things in that bill that he likes.

It contains language telling the U.S. Treasury department "to invest private funds in a way that allows the interest (earnings) on those private funds to go into the project those funds are trying to benefit," he said, such as the "City-Arch-River" project in St. Louis making improvements to the Gateway Arch and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial land it sits on.

"There's a lot more private funding than federal funding going into that project," Blunt explained, "and the money the government holds should, actually, go to the benefit of that project."

The bill also directs the EPA to contract with the National Academy of Science to study the environmental sources of lead at the Superfund sites related to the former Doe Run mining operations in Southeast Missouri.

And, he said, if Congress approves, the bill would "set some new restrictions on the Mark Twain Forest and what they can do in terms of burning and trying to re-establish a different kind of forest there."

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