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Chairman Simpson's Full Committee Opening Remarks on FY 2012 Interior-Environment Appropriations


Washington, Jul 12 -

"Good morning and welcome to the full committee markup of the fiscal year 2012 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill. 

 

"As we begin this morning, I want to personally thank Mr. Moran, Mr. Dicks and each of the bipartisan Members of our subcommittee for their active participation and the bipartisan spirit that has been a part of our deliberations this year.  Regardless of our positions on this bill, I do sincerely appreciate your positive contributions—and I mean that.  My staff and I have made a genuine effort to work with each of you in preparing this bill.

 

"We are living at a time when the Federal government borrows more than 40 cents for each dollar that it spends.  We are also living at a time of record deficits and debt.  While reductions in discretionary spending alone will not totally erase the deficit, we all know that reducing federal spending is a necessary first step. 

 

"The fiscal year 2012 Interior and Environment bill is funded at $27.5 billion which is $2.1 billion, or seven percent, below the FY11 enacted level and $3.8 billion, or 12 percent, below the budget request.  Overall funding within this bill is essentially level with fiscal year 2009 spending.

 

"Each of you is well aware that the subcommittee has made very difficult choices in preparing this budget proposal.  In total, 235 Members of the House submitted over 1,700 programmatic requests to the subcommittee for consideration.  While the bill makes significant spending reductions across many agencies and programs, it also provides ample funding to address the needs of key accounts supported by a bipartisan cross-section of Members.

 

"For instance, fire suppression at the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service is fully funded at the 10-year average. 

 

"The bill includes increased funding for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to hire new inspectors and move forward with offshore oil and gas permitting and leasing while also improving safety. 

 

"And, Members will be pleased to know that the operations of our national parks are sustained at levels only slightly below last year which means every park unit in the country will be operational and fully staffed without the threat of furloughs or layoffs.   

 

"Finally, this bill also makes critical investments in Indian Country—an area of particular interest to Members of this subcommittee.  Building upon efforts begun by Mr. Dicks and Mr. Moran, this bill continues to make investments in human health and wellness programs in Indian Country affecting health care, education, and Self-Determination.  

 

"Overall, the Department of the Interior is funded at $9.9 billion which is a $715 million, or seven percent, reduction below last year’s enacted level.  As I mentioned, we’ve done some things that Secretary Salazar will support.  The Secretary and I have had many discussions about these issues, as well as some areas where funding isn’t where he would like it to be.   

 

"One of those areas relates to funding for the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Since the ESA was enacted, there have been 2,018 species listed and only 21 species recovered.  By any calculation, that’s a pretty poor track record.  Any other program with such a poor rate of success would have long since been terminated. 

 

"There isn’t one member of this Committee opposed to protecting endangered species.  But the ESA has become so contentious, so political, and so litigious that it has become a policy failure.  The authorization for the ESA expired 20 years ago and the assumption has been that the Appropriations Committee would continue to fund it year in and year out. 

 

"That’s not how the process is supposed to work, and just as we are going back to regular order to pass appropriations bills, we need to return to regular order when it comes to working with the authorizers to update and fix laws that no longer work.

 

"It’s time to fix the ESA; the best way to do that is for the authorizers and stakeholders in the conservation community to come to the table to fix what is broken so we can begin actually recovering species again.  We are sending that message today.

 

"Climate change is another item of interest to the Members of this Committee.  Most of you know that I’m not a climate change naysayer.  The fact is that climate change funding has been increasing over the last few years and no one has any idea how or whether this funding is being coordinated between the various agencies.  

 

"The GAO came to the same conclusion in a report released in May.  The GAO said, “Without further improvement in how federal climate change funding is defined and reported, strategic priorities are set, and funding is aligned with priorities, it will be difficult for the public and Congress to fully understand how climate change funds are accounted for and how they are spent.”  As a result of this ongoing concern, climate change funding in this bill is reduced by $83 million, or 22 percent. 

 

"The bill also makes significant reductions in funding for land acquisition.  Land acquisition is funded at $301 million in this fiscal year.  The President had requested $900 million for next year.  We fund it at $62 million in this bill to complete land acquisitions currently under consideration.  I personally would like to see more funding for LWCF; the problem is we just don’t have the money. 

 

"It’s also worth noting that while we increase funding for oil and gas rig inspections, we don’t pay for them by including the President’s proposed $38 million increase for additional onshore oil and gas fees or the $55 million increase for additional offshore oil and gas fees.  These issues are best left to the authorizing committees of jurisdiction. 

 

"There are a few other items of interest to Members that I’ll mention briefly:

"The U.S. Geological Survey is funded at $1.1 billion, which is $30 million, or three percent, below the FY11 enacted level.  The next generation LandSat satellite imaging program—which has been a cooperative venture with NASA—was proposed to be transferred entirely to USGS without any corresponding funding from NASA.  Because projected costs are estimated to increase tenfold over the next two years and because LandSat is a widely used governmental and private sector resource, this bill sends the proposal back to the Administration with instructions to start over.

"Within the EPA, the bill includes $15 million for a new, competitive grant program to fund rural water technical assistance which is widely supported on both sides of the aisle.The NEA and NEH are both funded at $135 million which is a level too low for some Members and too high for others.  It’s worth noting that both sides worked together in an effort to maintain several longstanding, proven programs that the Administration had slated for termination. The bill provides funding for the Smithsonian at levels just below the FY11 enacted level and includes $50 million to begin construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and $75 million for revitalization of existing Smithsonian buildings. The bill also provides a $30 million down payment to begin construction next year of the memorial near the Air and Space Museum to honor the memory of Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

"I suspect that most of the headlines from today’s markup will focus on this subcommittee’s attention on the EPA.  One of the major underlying themes to this year’s work is the sheer volume of regulatory actions being pursued by agencies in the absence of legislation and without clear congressional direction. 

 

"Earlier this year I said that the scariest agency in the Federal government is the EPA.  I still believe that.  The EPA’s unrestrained effort to regulate greenhouse gases, and the pursuit of an overly aggressive regulatory agenda, are signs of an agency that has lost its bearing.  Wherever I go, the biggest complaint I hear about the Federal government is about how the EPA is creating economic uncertainty and killing jobs.   

 

"This isn’t a partisan issue.  Members of both parties have said that the EPA’s regulatory actions vastly exceed its authority.  The responsibility to determine whether or not to expand that authority rests solely with Congress—and not the EPA. 

 

"We have included a number of provisions in the base bill to address some of these issues.  Believe it or not, we turned away far more policy provisions than we included.  We saw during consideration of HR 1, and we will see again today and on the House floor, even more efforts to rein in the EPA. 

 

"I know some of my Democrat friends will be especially critical of the spending reductions to the EPA accounts.  While we all recognize the importance of the Clean Drinking Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, we all know that funding them as we have in the past is not possible.  We need to find a better long-term funding source for water infrastructure projects.  It’s also worth pointing out that these accounts received $6 billion in the Recovery Act in 2009 and still have nearly $3 billion available in unobligated funding. 

 

"In calendar year 2009, the EPA received over $25 billion in combined stimulus funding and regular appropriations.  So it should come as no surprise that the funding for the EPA is reduced by $1.5 billion, or 18 percent, from current levels.

 

"Much will be said today about the subcommittee’s allocation and the policy provisions in this bill, but just remember—at the end of the day, what this Committee is attempting to do is all about reducing spending, creating more certainty in the marketplace, and promoting an economic environment conducive to job growth.

 

"If there’s one thing we should have learned from the last Congress it’s that we can’t spend our way to economic recovery.  That didn’t work.  All it did was make the hole we’re in much deeper. 

 

"I know Mr. Moran and Mr. Dicks may not agree, but the legislative provisions in this bill—and those that will be added today and on the House floor—they aren’t about special interests. 

 

"They’re about jobs. 

 

"They’re about protecting businesses and hard working Americans from frivolous lawsuits.

 

"They’re about creating certainty in the marketplace. 

 

"And, they’re about assuring businesses that employ people that it’s safe to begin hiring people again without the threat of the EPA—under the guise of protecting the environment—imposing millions of dollars of penalties through regulations that are unreasonable or simply defy common sense.

 

"Is this a perfect bill?  No.  But it’s a bill that makes some very tough choices on spending.  It’s a bill that attempts to rein in the excesses of EPA.  And it’s a bill that sends a clear message to stakeholders that it’s time to get busy on renewing expiring authorizations."