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Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2014 Interior and Environment Bill

Legislation cuts overall spending by 19%, reins in EPA overreach, and invests in important programs to ensure the well-being of Americans and their communities


Washington, Jul 22 -

The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2014 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, and various independent and related agencies.

In total, the bill includes $24.3 billion in base funding, which is a cut of $5.5 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level (-19%) and a cut of $4 billion below the current level caused by sequestration cuts. In addition, the bill includes $1.5 billion in emergency spending to help combat devastating wildfires, some of which have already caused widespread damage throughout the western U.S. This emergency funding is offset by a rescission of unused funding left over from the 2009 “stimulus” legislation.

The legislation also includes legislative provisions that will address the overreach of federal agencies, such as the EPA, that mandate overly burdensome regulatory hurdles that hinder job creation and inhibit American businesses from growing and thriving.

“This is a difficult budget year, and this bill reflects the extraordinarily hard choices needed to maintain critical investments and services for local communities. In order to do more with less, the legislation seeks to protect vital programs that directly affect the safety and well-being of Americans, while dramatically scaling back lower-priority, or ‘nice-to-have’ programs,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “In addition, by holding back overly zealous and unnecessary environmental regulations, this bill can have a positive effect on our economy and will help encourage job growth.”

Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson also commented on the bill.

“Simply put, this bill makes very difficult choices in an extremely tough budget environment. In order to fund critical ‘must-do’ priorities, like human health, public safety, and treaty obligations and responsibilities, we’ve had to reduce and even terminate some programs that are popular with both Members of Congress and the American people. Within challenging budget constraints, we’ve focused on providing adequate funding to fight and prevent wildfires, making sure our national parks stay open, and meeting our trust responsibilities to American Indians. Paying for these critical priorities comes at a price to many agencies and activities throughout the bill. We are going to continue to see these kinds of dramatic reductions as long as we keep trying to reduce the debt by cutting discretionary spending alone, rather than also tackling mandatory spending, which is the real driver of our debt,” Chairman Simpson said.

Bill Highlights:

Overall, the bill cuts spending by 19% compared to the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. Funding is targeted to the highest-priority programs that ensure the well-being of Americans and their communities, such as fire suppression, American Indian and Alaska Native programs, required payments to local communities, and programs to encourage the utilization of domestic energy resources. Other, lower-priority programs receive cuts that reflect the overall bill reduction of 19%, or greater.

Wildfire Fighting and Prevention – In total, the bill funds wildfire fighting and prevention programs at $4.08 billion in both base and emergency funding. This level is $559 million (16%) above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. This includes fully funding the 10-year average wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service, which will help the agencies fight devastating forest fires such as the ones that have decimated thousands of acres of forestland in the West already this year.

In addition, the bill provides funding to prevent wildfires in the first place, including $502 million for hazardous fuels reduction for fire prevention, which is $205 million above the President’s budget request. The bill also includes $130 million for two next-generation aircraft to replace Korean-War era fire-fighting planes used for large-scale fire suppression.

By providing additional funding upfront, the bill will help stop the flawed cycle of “fire-borrowing” within the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. This funding gimmick shortchanges fire accounts, and then requires the siphoning of funding from other non-fire programs within the agencies to pay the costs associated with fire suppression.

American Indian and Alaska Native Programs – Funding in the bill is prioritized to meet the nation’s moral and legal obligations to American Indians and Alaska Natives. This includes $4.1 billion for the Indian Health Service, a reduction of $227 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level, but equal to the current sequestration level. Access to health care is a persistent problem in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, and this funding will help provide access for many health problems, including those related to domestic violence, dental health, alcohol and substance abuse, cardiovascular health, diabetes, and infant mortality.

Utilizing Domestic Energy Sources –The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is funded at $142 million in the bill – $7.7 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and the same as the current level caused by sequestration. The bill will fund state grants at $68 million, and language is included to discourage the Administration from imposing new fees on the mining industry.

The bill contains $989.3 million for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – a cut of $76 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and approximately $20 million below the level caused by sequestration. Within this funding, the bill increases oil and gas programs by $23 million from the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. The bill also does not include a proposal by the President to increase oil and gas fees by $48 million – which could hinder the exploration and use of domestic energy resources – and includes language to increase the efficiency and timeliness of all energy permit processing.

Federal Payments to Local Communities – The bill provides $410 million for the “Payments In Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) program and a one-year extension of this mandatory program. No discretionary funds were provided for this program last year.

PILT provides funds for rural local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their areas. The authorization for PILT is set to expire on September 30, 2013, and without congressional action, many rural communities will be left in the lurch with huge budget shortfalls that could impact public safety, education, and other local government responsibilities.

National Park Service (NPS) – The legislation contains $2.3 billion for the NPS, 9% below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. However, the bill funds the operating accounts for national parks at $24 million above the current sequestration level, and will ensure that every National Park will remain open and operational next year.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The legislation reflects significant efforts to rein in the EPA – an agency that has been rife with governmental overreach, overspending on ineffective and unnecessary programs, and costly and questionable regulations.

The bill funds the EPA at $5.5 billion, a reduction of $2.8 billion – or 34% – below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.

The bill continues a cap on EPA’s personnel at the 1992 level, cuts operational accounts by $921 million (20%), cuts the office of the EPA Administrator by more than 30%, cuts the EPA Congressional Affairs office by 50%, and makes other cuts and reductions to programs within the agency.

The legislation also includes provisions to rein in various problematic, costly, and potentially job-killing regulatory actions by the Administration. Some of these provisions include: language related to the “stream buffer rule”; changes to the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act; “new source” performance standards; “silviculture” regulations; changes to the definition of “fill material;” and new financial assurance requirements for hard rock mining.

U.S. Forest Service – The bill includes $5.3 billion for the Forest Service, which is $149 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. Much of this funding is related to wildfire prevention and suppression (as described above). The bill also includes a provision prohibiting the Forest Service or BLM from issuing new closures of public lands to hunting and recreational shooting, except in the case of public safety or extreme weather, and does not include any of the Administration’s proposed increases in livestock grazing fees. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – The FWS is funded at $1.06 billion in the bill, a cut of $401 million – or 27% – below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level. Within this amount, the legislation prioritizes funding – cutting operations costs by 18%, but maintaining funding for programs such as endangered species recovery, invasive species, prevention of illegal wildlife trafficking, and mitigation fish hatcheries.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – The bill includes $967 million for the USGS, a $101 million cut below the fiscal year 2013 level (-9%). Reductions are in climate change, ecosystems, and administrative accounts, while programs dealing with energy and minerals, mapping, and water are prioritized.

Museums and Cultural Institutions –

National Ocean Policy – The bill includes a provision prohibiting funds regarding the President’s National Ocean Policy, and requires a report on previous funding for the policy. This presidential mandate greatly expands government regulatory control over U.S. oceans, potentially killing jobs and damaging the economies of coastal communities.

Program Eliminations – The bill does not include funding for several programs, such as: land acquisition (bill-wide); the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission; the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation; the Woodrow Wilson International Center; Clean Automotive Technologies Climate Change Research; Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE); Brownfields grants; and Community Forest and Open Space Conservation.

For the subcommittee draft text of the legislation, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-113HR-SC-AP-FY2014-Interior-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf

 

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