Friday, July 23, 2010

House Subcommittee Approves Interior & Environment Funding

Great Lakes Funding Cut From $475 To $300 Million
Jul 22: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment approved annual funding legislation for the next fiscal year. The bill, which funds federal agencies under the subcommittee's jurisdiction, totals $32.2 billion which is equal to last year's level. Subcommittee Chair, James Moran (D-VA), issued a statement saying, "This bill is based on a lot of hard work by many people. This Subcommittee held 20 hearings with 21 different Administration witnesses. In addition, we held a series of Native American and public witness hearings where we heard from 81 different witnesses and received written testimony from an additional 165 people. Recently, we held a hearing to review the response to the BP Oil Spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, at which we heard from 5 different witnesses about the Administration's response to the Gulf disaster and the implications for this bill."
    He said the bill provides $32.24 billion for the Department of the Interior, U.S. EPA, the US Forest Service, the Indian Health Service and a host of smaller agencies. The funding is equal to last year, but $133 million below the President's request. The bill includes a number of items in response to the BP disaster: temporarily suspending further leasing or pre-leasing activities on the Pacific Coast and North Atlantic Coasts and temporary suspension for Bristol Bay Alaska; and temporary suspension on further leasing and pre-leasing on the South and Mid-Atlantic coasts, while additional operational safety procedures and regulations are established to protect these areas. The bill nearly doubles the number of OCS inspectors to 130, to allow the new BOE to increase offshore inspections and compliance by increasing offshore inspection fees to $40 million, up from the current $10 million. Many other provisions are provide as well.
    The bill provides $10 billion for U.S. EPA, including over $3.2 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure assistance that will be used to assist 1208 American communities meet the clean and safe drinking water needs of their citizens. An additional $1.3 billion is provided for the Superfund program. The bill provides $473 million to protect major American lakes and estuaries, and fully funds the $300 million request for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
    The bill includes $455.5 million for climate change adaptation and scientific efforts, which is $9 million above the request and $91 million above 2010. We have included $42 million for EPA research on Climate Change and response, $58 million for EPA and state regulatory programs, and $129 million for EPA Climate Protection Programs and Grants. We have also provided the requested amount of $23 million for USGS Regional Science Centers and National Wildlife Centers and $168 million for other Department of the Interior Climate Change programs. The bill also includes $15 million for Forest Service and Smithsonian research programs.
    House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis (R-CA) raised several concerns with the Interior bill in the subcommittee meeting, including its high level of spending in the midst of historic national deficits and debt. Lewis and Republican members of the subcommittee expressed grave concerns over the attempted overreaching by federal agencies -- such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- through new and expansive regulations. They said, "These regulations have the force of law, are not approved by Congress, and can have costly and damaging effects on individuals, businesses, and communities across the country." Rep. Lewis said, "Billions in taxpayer dollars are being spent on the EPA's pursuit of a variety and mix of regulations that are frustrating local officials across the country. This arbitrary rule-making is stifling growth and making it difficult for farmers and small businesses to survive."
    The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition (HOW) issued a release calling for the U.S. Senate to restore funding for Great Lakes restoration programs to the $475 million level that was funded this year (FY10). Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the HOW said, "We need to keep pace with the urgent threats facing the Great Lakes. It is imperative that Congress fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $475 million now and in the coming years. There is a tremendous need for this kind of investment in Great Lakes restoration if we are to catch up from years of delay. Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery hinge on a robust commitment by the federal government. Otherwise, the longer we wait, the problems will only get worse and the solutions more costly. We look to the U.S. Senate to fund Great Lakes restoration at last year's level, which better reflects the need for a healthy environment and economy."
    Access a statement from Chairman Moran summarizing the bill (click here). Access a summary table (click here). Access a listing of earmarks (click here). Access a lengthy release from the Republican Minority listing their amendments offered and the voting results (click here). Access the complete release from HOW (click here).