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Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2015 Interior and Environment Bill
Legislation will rein in regulatory overreach, fund critical wildland firefighting efforts, invest in the nation’s natural resources, and cut funding for underperforming agencies

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Washington, Jul 8 -

The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2015 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, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies.

In total, the bill includes $30.2 billion in base funding, an increase of $162 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and a reduction of $409 million below the President’s request. This includes a one-time payment of $442 million for “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) – which provides funds to local communities with large areas of federal land to help offset losses in property taxes – and $4.1 billion to prevent and combat devastating wildland fires. In addition, the legislation also includes policy provisions to stop unnecessary, job-killing regulations by federal agencies such as the EPA.

“This bill will ensure the proper management of the nation’s vast natural resources, invest in programs for the well-being of our local communities, and help prevent and fight the wildland fires that cause millions of dollars in damages every year, all while keeping a close eye on the spending of each and every tax dollar,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “In addition, this legislation contains important provisions to rein in the harmful regulatory overreach of federal bureaucracies that will unnecessarily cause job loss and that will weaken our recovering economy.”

Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert also commented on the bill.

“The Interior and Environment bill provides the agencies within its jurisdiction with the resources necessary to carry out their mission in times that are fiscally challenging,” said Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert. “This bill also protects Americans from the onslaught of job-killing regulations coming from the EPA, and makes difficult decisions to carefully balance national priorities.  I am pleased that our Subcommittee continues to place an emphasis on producing energy on federal lands, providing robust funding for our wildland fire accounts, and addressing a variety of health, education, and safety needs within Indian Country.”

Bill Highlights:

Wildland Firefighting and Prevention – In total, the bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $4.1 billion, $149 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. The bill fully funds the 10-year average for wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service, includes an additional $470 million for the Forest Service to help fill the expected shortfall in fire suppression funding this year, and provides an increase of $90 million above the current level for hazardous fuels management. In addition, the bill includes funding for two next-generation aircraft to replace decades-old planes used for large-scale fire suppression.

Federal Payments to Local Communities – The bill provides $442 million for the “Payments In Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) program through a one-year extension of this mandatory program. PILT provides funds for 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, 2014, and without congressional action, many rural communities could face huge budget shortfalls impacting public safety, education, and other local government responsibilities.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The bill funds the EPA at $7.5 billion, a reduction of $717 million – or 9 percent – below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Administrative funding for the agency is cut by $24 million, including a 50 percent reduction to the Office of the Administrator, the Office of Congressional Affairs, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. In addition, staffing levels at the EPA are held to 15,000, the lowest level since 1989. These reductions will help the agency streamline operations, and focus its activities on core duties, rather than unnecessary regulatory expansion.

The legislation also includes provisions to stop various harmful, costly, and potentially job-killing regulations by the EPA. For example, the bill prohibits the EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations for new and existing power plants, changes to the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act, and changes to the definition of “fill material.” The bill also includes policy provisions to protect the privacy of dairy and livestock farmers’ personal information, and to prevent the EPA from regulating the lead content of ammunition and fishing tackle.

Indian Health Service – Funding in the bill is prioritized to meet the nation’s obligations to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The bill includes $4.6 billion for the Indian Health Service, an increase of $208 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This funding will help provide increased access to and improved healthcare for Native Americans, and includes targeted funding for problematic health care issues, including those related to domestic violence, dental health, alcohol and substance abuse, cardiovascular health, diabetes, and infant mortality.

Office of Surface Mining (OSM) – The OSM is funded at $149 million in the bill – essentially equal to the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. The bill will fund grants to states at $68 million, and directs OSM to discontinue joint federal and state efforts to increase fees on private businesses. The bill also rejects a White House proposal to impose new fees on the mining industry. The legislation also includes a provision to stop potentially economically damaging changes to the “stream buffer rule.”

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – The bill contains $1.1 billion for the BLM, a decrease of $13 million from the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Within this funding, the bill increases oil and gas programs by $20 million from the fiscal year 2014 enacted level to speed permitting and to increase inspections. The bill also rejects 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 denies a proposal to increase federal land grazing fees by $6.5 million.

National Park Service (NPS) – The legislation contains $2.6 billion for the NPS, an increase of $3 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This funding will ensure that every National Park will remain open and fully operational next year.

U.S. Forest Service – The bill includes $5.6 billion for the Forest Service, which is $85.7 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Much of this funding is related to wildland fire 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 $1.4 billion in the bill, a cut of $4 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Within this amount, the legislation prioritizes funding for programs such as those to fight invasive species, to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, and to prevent the closure of fish hatcheries. The bill includes a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act rulemaking for the “greater sage-grouse” and “Gunnison sage-grouse,” and prohibits the FWS from administratively establishing new or expanding existing wildlife refuges.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – The bill includes $1 billion for the USGS, a $4 million increase above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. Within this amount, the bill prioritizes funding for programs dealing with natural hazards, stream gages, the groundwater monitoring network, mapping activities, and the earthquake early warning system. 

Smithsonian Institution – The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $813 million in the bill – an increase of $8 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This includes funding to complete construction of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities – The bill includes $138 million for each of the endowments, a reduction of $16 million compared to the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.

Program Eliminations – The bill does not include funding for several programs, such as: the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, EPA’s U.S.-Mexico Border grant program, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. 

For the subcommittee draft text of the legislation, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-113HR-SC-AP-FY2015-Interior-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf

 

 

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