Week ending July 15, 2016
H.R.5538 – Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 totals $32,095,000,000. This amount reflects a $63,859,000 reduction from the amount appropriated in fiscal year 2016 and a $1,019,444,000 reduction from the budget request.
Funded at $12.2 billion the Department of Interior loses $130.6 million.
Funded at $8.2 billion the Environmental Protection Agency loses $291 million.
Funded at $12.7 billion the Related Agencies lose $597.7 million and General Provisions in the bill funded at $33 billion lose $1 billion in funding.
(Full text of H.R. 5538 at congress.gov)
Sponsor: Rep. Calvert, Ken [R-CA-42] (Introduced 06/21/2016)
Status: Passed House /
VOTES and FLOOR ACTION
On Passage: On passage Passed by the Yeas and Nays: (Roll no. 477).
House amendments are reported here…
Motion to recommit:
Text of the motion:
COST AND IMPACT
Cost to the taxpayers:
Regulatory and Other Impact:
Dynamic Scoring: Not applicable to this bill.
Duplication of programs:
Advisory Committee Statement:
Constitutional Authority: Assumed.
The Interior, Environment and Related Agencies (Interior) Appropriations bill provides $32.095 billion for most of the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other related agencies. This allocation is $64 million less than the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.
The most significant programmatic cut is to the Environmental Protection Agency, which would receive $164 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level. This cut will impact the Agency’s ability to protect public health and the environment, and will jeopardize clean air and water for our families and future generations. Draconian cuts to EPA would undermine EPA’s ability to effectively regulate pollution. The bill starves EPA of resources for enforcement and legal services, cutting $37 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $115 million below the Administration’s request. These cuts would reduce EPA’s capacity to enforce and litigate environmental laws that are in place to protect individuals and create an unfair playing field in which big corporations are the winners and regular citizens are left unprotected. Disappointingly, the bill reduces the Clean Water State Revolving Fund by $394 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This cut is both austere and irresponsible. EPA’s most recent Clean Watersheds Needs Survey estimated the investment required to meet wastewater and stormwater treatment and collection to be $271 billion. The bill’s disinvestment in wastewater infrastructure is at odds with addressing this need.
While funding for water infrastructure is woefully inadequate, the bill appropriately provides additional authority for states to offer debt relief in areas with elevated levels of lead in drinking water. However, this bill does not provide any funding specifically to assist the residents of Flint, Michigan, even though thousands of children and adults were poisoned by contaminated water as a result of corroded lead pipes. The situation in Flint is a culmination of years of weakening EPA through budget cuts and over-reliance on state agencies to manage federal environmental laws. All of our communities deserve and expect their government to provide clean water and basic public health protections.
Residents of Flint were betrayed by their state government and to this day still do not have safe drinking water available from their taps. That is why it is imperative the Appropriations Committee provide additional funds for Flint, Michigan, under an emergency designation. A Federal State of Emergency was declared for Flint, yet the Committee voted down, along party lines, an amendment offered by Representatives McCollum and Wasserman Schultz to provide emergency funding to begin to address these responsibilities. It is unconscionable that American citizens have been victimized first by their state government and now by the Federal government.
The majority continues its assault on the Endangered Species Act in this bill, reducing funding for endangered species listing by 30 percent. This irresponsible cut opens the door for litigation and delays protecting and recovering vulnerable species.
This bill also shortchanges the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which since its inception has protected conservation and recreation land in every State and supported tens of thousands of State and local projects. Yet, despite its merits, this bill slashes the LWCF program by a third. This successful program enjoys bipartisan support, as evidenced by the amendment offered and withdrawn by Republican Representative Fortenberry. Unfortunately an inadequate overall allocation does not provide sufficient resources for this important program.
In light of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, we strongly reject the majority’s policy decision to leave the National Wildlife Refuge System vulnerable to those who seek to harm the refuge.
Representative Kilmer’s amendment, which failed, 20-29, would have saved taxpayer dollars by allowing the Fish and Wildlife Service to recover costs from any responsible party who has inflicted damage or injury to a National Wildlife Refuge and use those funds for the repair, restoration, or replacement of the refuge. Currently, fines and penalties resulting from litigation against responsible parties who damaged a refuge go to the U.S. Treasury. This amendment would have brought parity between the Fish and Wildlife Service and the other land management agencies in the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, as well as the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration all have this authority.
The costs associated with the recent 41 day illegal occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge highlight the importance of this authority. The current cost to the American taxpayer of this illegal occupation is $6.9 million, almost three times the annual appropriation of $2.5 million to operate Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The House majority’s opposition to this amendment further supports their agenda to undermine federal management of public lands.
Native American Issues
Despite this bill’s shortcomings in environmental protection and resource conservation, the subcommittee continues to maintain a non-partisan approach to addressing Native American issues, and the bill recommends an increase of $343 million for programs critical to Indian Country.
The increased funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service is critical to fulfilling our federal trust and treaty responsibilities to tribal nations, including support for health care, education, and public safety. American Indian and Alaska Native populations face substantial hardships, and when compared to the total population, have poorer health, lower earnings, and higher poverty rates.
The bill maintains the subcommittee’s commitment to providing Native American students with safe schools that are conducive to learning and to fully funding contract support costs so tribes are not penalized for exercising their self-determination rights.
National Park Service
Another bright spot in this bill is the continued support for the National Park Service’s Centennial Initiative. The bill recommends an additional $80 million for the Centennial, which will strengthen the foundation for visitor services and make essential infrastructure investments.
We praise the Chairman for working with us to resurrect the Save America’s Treasures program. This program funds preservation of nationally significant sites, structures, and artifacts. Additionally, we note that the bill provides $11 million for the Civil Rights Initiative grant program, an increase of $3 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level, but $14 million below the budget request. The bill also provides $3 million for grants-in-aid to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which is $3 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and equal to the request.
Wildland Fire Funding
Once again the majority has failed to adopt the common sense reforms requested by the Administration and championed in Representative Simpson’s wildfire disaster funding bill. Every member of the Interior subcommittee is a cosponsor of that bill, yet the majority has balked, citing committee jurisdiction. The majority should adopt the Administration’s proposal so costs associated with wildfires can be responsibly met without usurping base funding of other agencies in the Interior bill.
The bill includes numerous harmful funding limitations and legislative riders. The number and outrageous nature of the riders included in this bill pander to special interests at the expense of the public good.
Once again the bill is loaded with veto-bait provisions that seek to derail the Administration’s effort to combat climate change, restrict control of greenhouse gas emissions, and undermine clean water and clean air protections.
This bill contains provisions that would undermine worker protections for agricultural workers and offshore oil rig workers. This includes a provision that would effectively and functionally deny workers information regarding pesticide application and hazard information. There is also a provision that would reverse the safety improvements developed following the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. Eleven lives were lost in that explosion. It is unconscionable this bill puts the profits of big agricultural and oil companies ahead of worker safety.
The bill carries several harmful policy provisions that block the federal government’s ability to use the Endangered Species Act and effectively repeals major federal land management statutes like the Federal Land Management Policy and Management Act and the National Forest Management Act by subordinating federal authority to undefined state land use plans.
Democrats attempted to address many inadequacies through the amendment process in Committee. Ranking Member McCollum offered an amendment to remove thirty-three partisan riders, including those affecting the Department of the Interior, EPA and U.S. Forest Service. The majority strongly rejected these efforts. Ranking Member Lowey offered an amendment to strike section 429, which delays implementation of EPA’s lead renovation, repair, and painting rule. The amendment failed along party lines, and the majority effectively stripped EPA of one of its tools for addressing lead paint in homes.
Instead, more controversial riders were added during Committee mark-up, including one that undermines the Antiquities Act, prohibiting the use of funds to make a Presidential declaration of a national monument in several specific counties across the country. There were also several Republican amendments adopted that delayed the Administration from finalizing rules related to land use and energy use. The majority also offered and approved an amendment related to California’s complex water challenges, which would inject ill-considered and controversial language that preempts state water law, court decisions, and statutory environmental protections, and has no place on an appropriations bill.
Finally, the majority once again rejected an amendment to provide the full $1.9 billion requested by the Administration to protect Americans from the Zika virus.
We cannot support this bill given in its current form given the inclusion of ideological riders, dramatic cuts to environmental protection, and the insufficient allocation for the overall bill. Despite our current opposition, we intend to continue to work with Chairman Calvert through this year’s appropriations process to produce a responsible bill that both parties can support.
Nita M. Lowey.
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