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Chairman Calvert Floor Statement on H.R. 2822, the FY 2016 Interior Appropriations Bill

Washington, June 25, 2015 House Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert gave the following statement  in support of H.R. 2822, the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, on the House floor today:

"Mr. Chairman, I’m pleased to bring to the floor H.R. 2822, the fiscal year 2016 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. 

"As we begin, I want to personally thank Chairman Rogers for his leadership and support.  Under his guidance, the Appropriations Committee is again setting the standard for getting things done in the House.  The Interior bill is the seventh appropriations bill to come to the floor so far this year.

"I also want to thank my good friend and our ranking member, Ms. McCollum, for her partnership and work on this bill.  Finally, I want to thank each of our Subcommittee Members for their efforts and the collegiality that continues to be a hallmark of our Subcommittee’s deliberations.  Even though we may have differences of opinion within this bill, I greatly appreciate the Members’ constructive contributions—and I mean that sincerely.

"The Committee has made very difficult choices in preparing this bill.  As reported by the Appropriations Committee, the fiscal year 2016 Interior and Environment bill is funded at $30.17 billion which is $246 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $3 billion below the budget request. We have made a sincere effort to prioritize needs within our 302(b) allocation.  I would like to point out a few of the highlights.

"Again this year, the Committee has provided robust wildland fire funding.  Fire suppression accounts at the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service are fully funded at the ten-year average level.  The hazardous fuels program was increased by $75 million—to $526 million—in the fiscal year 2015 enacted bill and that increase has been maintained in this bill.

"This bill also continues critical investments in Indian Country—a non-partisan priority of the Subcommittee.  Building upon the bipartisan work of former Subcommittee Chairmen Mike Simpson, Jim Moran, and Norm Dicks, this bill continues to make investments in education, public safety, and health programs in Indian Country. Overall, funding for the Indian Health Service is increased by $145 million (or three percent), while funding for the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Education is increased by $165 million (or six percent) from fiscal year 2015 levels—the largest percentage increase in this bill. 

"This bill provides full funding in fiscal year 2016 for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.  PILT payments are made to 49 of the 50 states, as well as to the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

"The bill provides $2.7 billion for the National Park Service, including more than $60 million in new funding relating to the Centennial of the Park Service.  

"We have also addressed a number of priorities within the Fish and Wildlife Service accounts.  The bill funds popular cost-shared grant programs above fiscal year 2015 enacted levels.  It also provides additional funds to combat international wildlife trafficking; protects fish hatcheries from cuts and closures; continues funding to fight invasive species; and reduces the backlog of species that are recovered but not yet de-listed.

"The bill provides $248 million for Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) programs that enjoy broad, bipartisan support.  Some Members would prefer more funding; others would prefer less funding for LWCF.  We have attempted to forge a middle ground that begins to return the emphasis of LWCF to its original intent of recreation, and State and local acquisitions. 

"Overall, funding for EPA is reduced by $718 million (or 9 percent) from fiscal year 2015 enacted levels.  Members from the Great Lakes region will be pleased to know that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is maintained at the fiscal year 2015 enacted level of $300 million.  Rural water technical assistance grants and many categorical grants—including radon grants—are level funded at the fiscal year 2015 enacted level. 

"Again this year, there is a great deal of concern over the number of regulatory actions being pursued by EPA in the absence of legislation and without clear congressional direction.  For this reason, the bill includes a number of provisions to stop unnecessary and damaging regulatory overreach by the agency. 

"Before closing, I’d like to address the Endangered Species Act (ESA) provisions in this bill.  We have no interest in interfering with science or letting any species go extinct.  But, we are concerned about Federal regulatory actions lacking in basic fairness and common sense.  The provisions in this bill address problems created by an ESA driven—not by science—but by court orders that drain limited agency resources, and force the Department to cut corners to meet arbitrary deadlines.  Nowhere is this more evident than with sage-grouse.

"States are rightfully concerned that a listing, or unnecessarily restrictive Federal land use plans, will jeopardize existing conservation partnerships with States and private landowners. These partnerships are necessary to save both the sage-brush ecosystem and local economies. 

"So long as sage-grouse are not under imminent threat of extinction, cooperative conservation must be given a chance to work.  That is why this bill maintains a one-year delay on any decision to list sage-grouse, along with full funding to implement conservation efforts. 

"House consideration of this bill is the next step in a long legislative process.  I hope over the coming months we’ll come together—as we do each year—to find common ground.  In that spirit, I look forward to continuing to work with Ms. McCollum and the Members of the House on both sides of the aisle.

"In closing, I want to thank the staff on both sides for their hard work on this bill. On the minority side, I’d like to thank Rick Healy, Rita Culp, and Joe Carlile, as well as Rebecca Taylor.  They have played an integral role in the process and their efforts are very much appreciated.

"On the majority side, I’d like to thank the Subcommittee staff—Kristin Richmond, Jackie Kilroy, Betsy Bina (By-na), Jason Gray, Darren Benjamin, and Dave LesStrang.  I’d also like to thank Ian Foley, Rebecca Keightley, Alexandra Berenter, and Tricia Evans on my personal staff for their great work. 

"Mr. Chairman, this is a good bill and it deserves the support of the Members of this body."

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