Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Bill
Legislation will fight job-crushing regulations, protect the nation’s natural resources, and promote safe and sustainable American energy
June 9, 2015 -
The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2016 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 $30.17 billion in base funding, a decrease of $246 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and a reduction of $3 billion below the President’s request. Included is $452 million to fully fund “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) – which provides funds to local communities with federal land to help offset losses in property taxes – and $3.6 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat devastating wildfires.
In addition, the legislation contains several policy provisions to stop job-crushing bureaucratic red tape and regulations at federal agencies – such as the EPA – that stymie growth, hurt businesses both large and small, and damage the U.S. economy.
“This bill makes responsible investments in programs that care for our public lands, promote domestic energy independence, fight devastating wildfires, and that provide good stewardship of our nation’s vast resources to encourage prosperity for years to come. Just as importantly, this legislation stops the abuse of power by overzealous bureaucratic agencies in Washington – including the EPA – that seek to impose unnecessary regulations that kill jobs and hinder growth,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “It is a well-balanced bill that makes the most of every dollar, while protecting jobs and the natural resources that help make our country great.”
“This bill represents difficult decisions to allocate resources to important federal programs, while operating under a tight budget caused by the Administration’s unwillingness to address our national debt,” Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert said. “In addition, the bill takes meaningful steps to shield our economy and defend American jobs from the executive overreach of EPA regulators, provides significant funding for our national resources, and fulfills our commitment to the needs of Indian Country. And, as a Californian, I have seen firsthand how devastating earthquakes can be, so the bill prioritizes funding for the potentially- lifesaving Earthquake Early Warning System.”
Wildland Firefighting and Prevention – In total, the bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.6 billion, $52 million above the fiscal year 2015 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 and provides $526 million for hazardous fuels management, which is equal to the fiscal year 2015 level.
Federal Payments to Local Communities – The bill provides $452 million for the “Payments In Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) program. PILT provides funds for local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their counties. 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 $7.4 billion, a reduction of $718 million – or 9 percent – below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. Within the EPA, regulatory programs are cut $69 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $206 million below the budget request. 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;
- Prohibits the EPA from making changes to the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act;
- Prohibits the EPA from making changes to the definition of “fill material;”
- Prohibits the EPA from imposing duplicative financial assurance requirements; and
- Prevents the EPA from regulating the lead content of ammunition and fishing tackle.
Native American Programs — To maintain the government’s moral and legal responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Education is funded at $2.8 billion – an increase of $165 million above the fiscal year 2015 level – and the Indian Health Service is funded at $4.8 billion –an increase of $145 million.
The bill fully funds contract support costs while protecting direct services; provides funds to staff newly constructed health facilities; keeps pace with the rising costs of medical inflation; improves public safety; and makes significant investments in the operation, maintenance, and replacement of schools.
Office of Surface Mining (OSM) – The OSM is funded at $180 million in the bill – $30 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. The bill creates a new $30 million program to accelerate the reclamation of abandoned mine lands to boost community redevelopment and economic growth. Further, the bill funds grants to states at $68 million, and rejects a White House proposal to hire more federal regulators to duplicate State inspections. 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, an increase of $30 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. Within this funding, the bill provides a total of $60 million, an increase of $45 million above the fiscal year 2015 level, to implement and monitor sage-grouse conservation plans.
The bill blocks proposals by the President that would hamper economic prosperity, including a plan to impede the growth of sustainable American energy by increasing oil and gas inspection fees, and a proposal to increase financial burdens on ranchers by hiking fees for grazing on federal land.
National Park Service (NPS) – The legislation contains $2.7 billion for the NPS, an increase of $53 million above the fiscal year 2015 level. Within this funding, the bill provides $52 million in targeted increases for park operations and maintenance to help reduce the maintenance backlog.
U.S. Forest Service – The bill includes $5 billion for the Forest Service, which is $13 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. More than half of this funding is targeted to wildland fire prevention and suppression. 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.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – The FWS is funded at $1.4 billion in the bill, which is $8 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. Within this amount, the legislation prioritizes funding for programs such as those to conserve sage-grouse, to reduce the delisting backlog for recovered species, to fight invasive species, to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, and to prevent the closure of fish hatcheries. The bill continues a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act rulemaking for the sage-grouse.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – The bill includes $1.05 billion for the USGS, equal to the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. Within this amount, the bill prioritizes funding for programs dealing with natural hazards, streamgages, the groundwater monitoring network, mapping activities, and the earthquake early warning system, including the requested funds for “LandSat 9.”
Smithsonian Institution – The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $820 million in the bill, equal to the fiscal year 2015 enacted level.
National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities – The bill includes $146 million for each of the endowments, equal to the fiscal year 2015 enacted level.
Eisenhower Memorial Commission – The bill provides no funding for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, extends the authority to build on the present site, and requires that all construction funds be appropriated before construction begins.
For the subcommittee draft text of the legislation, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-114HR-SC-AP-FY2016-Interior-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf