News Briefs

Estes: House bill gutting EPA budget part of strategy to ‘kneecap’ federal regulators

By: - November 6, 2023 9:07 am

U.S. Reps. Ron Estes and Tracey Mann, both Kansas Republicans, voted to slash 39% from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to express frustration with federal regulation of the threatened lesser prairie chicken and the tightening of environmental mandates on water resources in Kansas. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services)

TOPEKA — Republican U.S. Reps. Tracey Mann and Ron Estes said their votes in support of a 39% cut in funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was linked to consternation with President Joe Biden’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened in Kansas.

GOP members of the Kansas congressional have denounced last year’s listing as a regulatory overreach harmful to economic interests of the state’s ranchers and farmers as well as oil and gas businesses. Lesser prairie chickens nest in prairie grass and shrubs in western Kansas, but habitat loss reduced the population from hundreds of thousands to an estimated 32,000 in November 2022.

Estes, who serves the 4th District in and around Wichita, said he voted for the House’s appropriations bill because it would limit the Biden administration’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken and repeal the EPA’s Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule designed to comply with the Clean Water Act.

“Kansans have proven to be good stewards of the land and natural resources we have here in our state, yet federal bureaucrats continue to abuse their positions by micromanaging ponds and puddles through the overreaching WOTUS rule and listing the lesser prairie chicken as endangered despite the population remaining stable,” Estes said.

He said the House’s approach to budgeting would “kneecap the entrenched D.C. administrative state from pushing WOTUS and the lesser prairie chicken listing onto hardworking Kansas farmers, ranchers and energy producers.”

Rep. Tracey Mann of the 1st District, said he backed the bill because it cut EPA funding, blocked WOTUS, reversed the prairie chicken listing in addition to prohibiting EPA from implementing a permit process on livestock waste emissions.

He said the dozen appropriations bills to be considered by Congress this year were an opportunity to reprioritize government spending and regulation.

“These bills would support congressional oversight investigations and rein in overreaching Environmental Protection Agency regulations like President Biden’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken as threatened in Kansas,” Mann said.

U.S. Rep. Jake Laturner, the 2nd District Republican, voted for the bill while Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of the 3rd District in the Kansas City area voted against it.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under Biden, listed the bird as threatened in Kansas and endangered in southwestern states. Biden also vetoed legislation sponsored by Republican U.S. Sens. Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran of Kansas that would have undermined federal protection of the lesser prairie chicken and repealed revised WOTUS definitions.

The House voted 213-203 on Friday to approve the 2024 spending bill for the EPA and the U.S. Interior Department. It would need to be endorsed by the Senate and signed into law by Biden.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.