FY16 Interior & Environment Full Committee Markup Bill Summary

Mara Stark-Alcalá (Appropriations):              (202) 224-2667
Jennifer Talhelm (Udall):                                (202) 228-6870
Full Committee Mark: June 18, 2015
Washington, D.C. – The fiscal year 2016 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill provides a total of $31.06 billion, including $30.01 billion in discretionary funding and $1.05 billion in emergency firefighting funds.  But the bill contains $2.2 billion of cuts below the President’s request in funding to protect natural and cultural resources, build infrastructure and create jobs.  The bill also includes a number of policy riders that would cripple the nation’s core laws protecting public health and the environment.
The Subcommittee’s allocation conforms to the post-sequester caps under the Budget Control Act.  Not one Senate Democrat voted for these spartan spending levels because they do not provide adequate resources to protect America, build infrastructure, create opportunity, and spur economic growth.  We need a new budget deal, in the spirit of Murray-Ryan, that stops hollowing out investments in America’s future.
U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, said:
“I am deeply disappointed in this bill.  By allowing sequester spending cuts to continue, this bill fails New Mexicans and the American people. It underfunds education and health care for Tribal communities. It shortchanges communities that depend on national parks and other public lands to support their local economies.  And it includes dangerous policy riders that undermine environmental laws that have kept our air and water clean, protected imperiled species and safeguarded sensitive ecosystems for decades. These riders set back efforts to reduce climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions and they put the health of our communities, families and environment at risk. Important national policy deserves deliberation and debate – it shouldn't be made through ideological riders shoved in appropriations bills.  I want to work with Chairman Murkowski to support the good things in this bill – including emergency funds to fight wildland fires, language to reform the way we budget for wildland firefighting, and priorities for my home state of New Mexico.  But we need to do it on a bipartisan basis.  Until we remove these damaging policy riders and deliver realistic funding levels, I will have to oppose this bill.”
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement:
“This bill provides inadequate funding for the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and related agencies to meet their missions. It includes significant, harmful cuts to the State Revolving Funds that support water infrastructure improvements for clean drinking water and sewer upgrades. These cuts will cost jobs, delay the completion of projects and decrease matched funds in Maryland and across the country. Regrettably, the bill is not only limited by the post-sequester spending caps, but is also riddled with poison pill riders that endanger the environment and public health, and nearly brought down the Omnibus, last year. We should leave these complicated policy issues to our authorizers, because our job as appropriators is to fund the missions of these agencies – not take partisan swipes at them. We must also begin work on a sequel to the Murray-Ryan budget deal sooner rather than later, so we can begin writing more responsible funding bills.”
Key Points & Highlights
  • Water Infrastructure State Revolving Funds.  The bill provides only $1.8 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water revolving funds, which are provided directly to the states for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.  These projects not only supply Americans with clean drinking water and replace aging sewer systems, but also produce significant construction jobs.  Compared to fiscal year 2015, the bill would result in 230 fewer water infrastructure projects, 14,000 fewer jobs and $1 billion less in matching fund investments from states.
  • National Park Service.  This bill provides $2.73 billion for national parks, which is $112 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level, but still $321 million below the President’s requested level.  That means we are underfunding parks in 2016, the same year the National Parks Service celebrates its centennial.  While the bill provides a $30 million increase to fund backlog maintenance and repairs at parks, the President requested an additional $121 million for repairs and to help address the $11.5 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects throughout the park system, which remains unfunded.
  • Native American Trust Responsibilities.  The bill includes $4.78 billion for tribal health programs of the Indian Health Service (IHS), which is $324 million less than the President’s request.  The bill does not include $69 million in proposed increases for purchased and referred care programs that allow tribal patients to seek care at non-IHS facilities, $23 million for suicide prevention programs or the more than $100 million to cover other services and facility needs.  The bill also includes $2.69 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, $232 million less than the President’s request.  That funding level won’t cover $34 million in new broadband for tribal schools; $54 million for school construction, repairs and teacher housing; or $43 million for natural resource management programs included in the budget request.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The Committee rejects the President’s proposal to support states in implementing rules related to climate change, including $25 million in state grants and $26 million in technical assistance.  The bill also includes deep cuts to EPA’s operating budget, including a $75 million reduction for EPA’s programs supporting clean air and clean water, and a $7.5 million reduction for civil and criminal enforcement.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).  The bill ignores the President’s request for increased wildlife refuge maintenance funding, effectively freezes funding for National Wildlife Refuge System operations at the fiscal year 2015 level, and cuts refuge law enforcement by $2 million.  Anti-wildlife trafficking funding falls far short of the President’s initiative which would bring on more agents, investigators and international liaisons to better protect elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers and other iconic species.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  This bill provides $292 million for land acquisition, conservation easements and state assistance grants, which is $14 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $108 million below the President’s requested level.  LWCF is critical for improving recreational access to our federal land, protecting iconic landscapes, and providing farmers and ranchers with easements that allow them and their families to continue working their lands without pressure to develop it.
  • Oil and Gas Programs.  The bill does not include the President’s proposal to charge the oil and gas industry inspection fees for drilling on federal lands.  Congress, on a bipartisan basis, agreed to inspection fees for offshore producers after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but this bill fails to provide parity for onshore producers.  The bill also does not include language requested by the President to charge offshore producers additional inspection fees when they require multiple inspections for the same infractions.  Together, this leaves the taxpayer footing the bill for $54 million worth of oil and gas inspections.
  • Coastal Resiliency.  The bill does not include the President’s proposal to create a $50 million grant program to assist states in preparing for major natural disasters along their coastlines.  Funding would be available to restore ecological systems that protect communities and infrastructure from the impacts of coastal storms, such as beaches, dunes and wetlands.
  • Cultural and Arts Programs.  The bill flat-funds the Smithsonian Institution, rejecting the President’s requested increase of $116 million.  This will force difficult decisions on how to fully open the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016, and renovate the National Museum of Air and Space and other museums on the National Mall.  The National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, which provide grants to cultural institutions in every state, are also flat-funded.
Poison Pill Riders
The bill includes a number of policy riders that would cripple the nation’s core environmental laws and are unrelated to the Committee’s jurisdiction, including:
  • Climate Change. Includes new language that permanently dismantles efforts to address climate change by permanently blocking federal enforcement of a nationwide, coordinated effort to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.  This provision will effectively allow states to opt out of the Administration’s proposed Clean Power Rule without consequence, block meaningful progress in reducing carbon emissions and threaten human health, the environment and the nation’s economic productivity.
  • Clean Water.  Includes new language that permanently blocks implementation of protections for the streams and wetlands that have the greatest impact on our nation’s water quality, and thwarts steps taken to make compliance more straightforward and predictable for businesses and industry.
  • Ozone Pollution.  Includes new language that permanently delays efforts to strengthen ozone pollution standards.   This provision prevents reductions in ground-level ozone pollution that will improve public health and contribute to a more productive workforce. 
  • Hazardous Waste Cleanup.  Includes new language that blocks a law requiring industry to make financial plans to clean up potential future hazardous waste contamination.  This means taxpayers will have to continue to shoulder the costs of cleanups, which have already totaled more than $4.5 billion over the last three decades.
  • Gray Wolves.  Includes new language that permanently overrides court rulings requiring that specific populations of gray wolves must maintain protections under the Endangered Species Act.  This provision circumvents the scientific and legal process established to protect imperiled species.
  • Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Road.   Includes new language that permanently authorizes a land exchange and the construction of a road through an internationally recognized wildlife habitat and congressionally designated wilderness in Alaska.  The provision overrides the decision of the Secretary of the Interior, who rejected the proposal in 2013, and creates a precedent that could threaten habitat and wilderness protections for other public lands.
  • Climate Change Planning.   Includes new language that prevents government agencies from using a consistent standard as they account for climate change impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • Hydraulic Fracturing. Includes new language that permanently undercuts a new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule that ensures oil and gas wells drilled on federal lands comply with consistent environmental protections, no matter where the development takes place.  The provision forces BLM to accept state or tribal standards related to hydraulic fracturing on public lands – even if those standards are weaker than BLM’s.  
  • Carbon Dioxide Emissions.  Includes new language that permanently shortcuts scientific findings related to carbon dioxide emissions from the use of forest biomass as an energy source and requires all biomass emissions to automatically be treated as carbon neutral, no matter the scale. 
  • Sage Grouse.  Continues language preventing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from fulfilling its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.  The provision overrides a court requirement that FWS must make a determination on whether sage-grouse should be listed as a threatened or endangered species, and sets a dangerous precedent by circumventing the scientific and legal process established to protect imperiled species.
  • Lead Ammunition.  Continues language that exempts lead ammunition and fishing tackle from environmental controls under the Toxic Substances Control Act and other environmental laws.

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