FY17 Interior & Environment Full Committee Bill Summary





Full Committee Mark: June 16, 2016


Washington, D.C. – The Senate bill recommends $32.034 billion in discretionary funding for agencies funded by the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.  That amount is $125 million less than the fiscal year 2016 level and $1.080 billion less than the budget request.  While the bill includes important investments in national parks, tribal programs and cultural agencies, it also makes troubling cuts to the clean air and water programs and includes a number of policy riders that would roll back the nation’s core laws protecting public health and the environment.


U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, said:


“I’m deeply disappointed that the Interior Subcommittee was not able to follow the lead of our fellow Senate Appropriations Subcommittees and produce a bill that is free of poison pill riders and other partisan attacks on the environment.   It’s especially frustrating because there are many good things about this bill, including strong funding levels for water infrastructure, national parks and tribal health and education programs, as well as priorities for my home state of New Mexico.  But the bill includes damaging policy riders that undermine protections for imperiled species, weaken water quality protections and roll back other key environmental laws that have been on the books for decades.  It also reduces funding for wildland firefighting and includes partisan cuts to programs that protect clean air and clean water.  Until we are able to address these issues in a more balanced, bipartisan way, I will have to oppose this bill.”  


U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement:


“I want to thank Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall for their work on this bill.  But unfortunately the inclusion of poison pill riders and deep funding cuts mean I cannot support this Interior bill.  The riders in the bill invite a Presidential veto and cannot be supported by Democrats, so they only produce delay, not progress.  I’m disappointed in the deep cuts for core environmental and public health priorities.  Efforts to keep the air clean are cut by 10 percent.  Efforts to keep our water clean are cut by 10 percent.  And funding to keep endangered species from going extinct is cut by 15 percent.  I’m especially disappointed in the riders and cuts because this Interior bill supports many priorities important to every member here.  The bill funds the National Park Service so we can celebrate a century of America’s ‘best idea,’ invest in cutting down the maintenance backlog, and rebuild parks.  The Interior bill also supports protections for the Chesapeake Bay and many other programs important to Maryland.”



Key Points & Highlights


  • Water Infrastructure State Revolving Funds.  The bill provides $2.37 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water revolving funds, which are provided directly to the states for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.  The bill provides $113 million more than the fiscal year 2016 enacted level, a critical increase to help supply Americans with clean drinking water and replace aging sewer systems. The bill focuses new investments on clean drinking water, which is critical for states and cities working to replace lead service lines and upgrade other aging infrastructure.  This funding also supports construction jobs.  The bill would result in more than 1,000 water infrastructure projects, more than 52,000 jobs, and $4.5 billion in matching investments from states.  However, the bill offsets these much needed investments with unacceptable cuts to key EPA programs supporting clean water, clean air, climate and environmental enforcement.


  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The bill includes unacceptable cuts to EPA’s operating budget, including 10 percent reductions to EPA programs supporting clean water, clean air, climate, and civil and criminal enforcement as well as a 50 percent reduction to environmental education programs.  The bill also rejects the President’s proposal, including $25 million in state grants, to support states as they implement rules related to climate change. 


  • Wildland Fire Management.  The bill provides $4.446 billion, which is $16 million more than the President’s request for Wildland Fire programs at the Interior Department and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.  Within that amount, the bill provides the 10-year rolling average of firefighting costs, which is currently $1.643 billion.  Senator Udall successfully offered an amendment to include an additional $661 million in emergency firefighting dollars.  The bill now fully funds the estimated firefighting needs for fiscal year 2017.  The bill also includes a proposal to authorize a disaster cap adjustment for future wildland firefighting needs.


  • National Park Service.   The bill provides $2.913 billion for the National Park Service, $63 million more than fiscal year 2016.  The bill includes nearly $50 million in new funding to reduce the $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance at national parks and to address pressing construction needs.  It also provides $11 million to fund operations of newly authorized parks and expand other critical park services, as well as $10 million to protect and preserve important civil rights sites.  A total of $20 million is provided for the Centennial Challenge program to match non-federal investments and fund infrastructure and visitor services needs at parks around the nation.


  • Native American Trust Responsibilities.  The bill includes $4.993 billion, $186 million more than fiscal year 2016, for the tribal health programs of the Indian Health Service (IHS).  The bill includes $25 million in new investments for mental health and suicide prevention services and $16.8 million in new funding to expand alcohol and substance abuse programs.  The bill also provides $2.85 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, $59 million more than fiscal year 2016.   The bill increases education programs by $22 million, for a total of $874 million.  It also provides $133 million for construction and maintenance needs at Native schools. 


  • Fish and Wildlife Service.  The bill maintains funding for operations of the National Wildlife Refuge System at the fiscal year 2016 level.  It also provides the full amount of the President’s request for anti-wildlife trafficking programs to better protect elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers and other iconic species.  However, the bill makes an unacceptable cut to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s programs supporting the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, reducing funding by $3 million (15 percent).


  • Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  The bill provides $400 million for land acquisition, conservation easements and state assistance grants, which is $50 million less than fiscal year 2016 and $75 million less than the President’s request.  LWCF is critical for improving recreational access to our federal lands, protecting iconic landscapes and providing farmers and ranchers with easements that allow them and their families to continue working their lands without development pressures.


  • Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).  The bill funds payments to counties through the PILT program at a total of $480 million, an increase of $28 million.


  • Cultural and Arts Programs.  The bill provides a total of $860.2 million for the Smithsonian Institution, which is $20 million more than fiscal year 2016.  The National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, which provide grants to cultural institutions in every state, are each provided $148.4 million, an increase of $500,000 for each endowment.  The National Gallery of Art receives $155.5 million, $8 million more than fiscal year 2016.


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.  Unfortunately, an amendment to strike the poison pill riders, offered by Senator Udall, failed on a party line vote.  Some of the most controversial language items include:


  • Clean Water.  Includes new language that 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 business and industry.


  • Hazardous Waste Cleanup.  Includes new language that blocks a law requiring industry to make financial plans to clean up potential future hazardous waste contamination, compelling taxpayers to continue to shoulder the costs.  Taxpayer-funded cleanup has already totaled more than $4.5 billion in the last three decades.


  • Stream Buffer.  Includes new language to block the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining from developing a rule to strengthen the stream protection requirements of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to protect downstream drinking water.


  • Gray Wolves.  Includes new language that 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.


  • Lesser Prairie Chicken.  Includes new language that prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from fulfilling its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.  The provision blocks the agency from conducting any activities related to determining if the lesser prairie chicken may be a threatened species, setting a dangerous precedent by circumventing the scientific and legal process established to protect imperiled species.


  • Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Road.   Includes new language that authorizes a land exchange and construction of a road through 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.


  • Alaska Refuge Wildlife Management.  Includes new language to block U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules that prohibit certain aggressive hunting practices on predator species, such as bears and wolves, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska. 


  • Forestry Reforms.  Couples budgetary reforms for wildland firefighting with major new authorizations to modify the National Environmental Policy Act requirements for forestry projects and set new requirements for the Forest Service logging program on the Tongass National Forest.



Press Contact

Mara Stark-Alcalá w/Appropriations:             (202) 224-2667                                  

Jennifer Talhem w/ Udall:                          (202) 228-6870