Inhofe letter asks why EPA requests $1.24 billion in new funding, despite $2 billion on hand

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe is challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s request for $1.24 billion in new funding when the agency has more than $2 billion at hand left over from the 2011 budget.

A February report from the Office of Management and Budget showed the agency still had $2.26 billion in unspent funding at the time. The EPA has requested $1.24 billion in additional funding for the 2012 fiscal year.

In a letter sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson Tuesday, obtained by The Daily Caller, Inhofe questioned the agency’s choice not to spend the unused funds and asked why its budget has grown so much.

“At a time when we are looking for every opportunity to cut spending and reduce the deficit, the EPA must be held accountable for why such a large portion of funds from the FY2011 Superfund budget sat idle and were clearly not used to protect the environment or public health,” Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, told TheDC.

The $2.26 billion is part of the EPA’s “unobligated balance” — funding that has not been designated for a specific purpose. Inhofe asked in the letter why the non-designated funds totaled nearly a quarter of its budget.

“It is not unusual to have an office carry over an unobligated balance from year to year, but it is unusual to have an office carry over an amount that is over one and a half times its total fiscal year request,” the letter read.

“To put this in perspective, EPA’s FY 2012 Superfund request is $1.24 billion and the budget request for the entire EPA is $8.97 billion—so EPA is holding on to one quarter of its total budget in its Superfund account,” Inhofe wrote to Jackson. “OMB estimates that, coupled with EPA’s FY2012 request, that amount will grow to almost half of the EPA’s total FY 2012 budget request. The EPA needs to answer to the taxpayer for these actions.”

Inhofe is the second Republican to go after the EPA this week. A new report from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa faulted the agency for coordinating with environmental groups to target energy producers.