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Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2017 Interior and Environment Bill

Priorities include: reining in regulatory overreach, responsibly using the nation’s natural resources, fighting devastating wildfires, and promoting safe and reliable drinking water

Washington, May 24, 2016

The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2017 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 provides $32.095 billion, $64 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $1 billion below the President’s budget request. Included is $480 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 $3.9 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat devastating wildfires. The bill also includes funding to help address the problem of lead in drinking water across the United States.

In addition, the legislation contains policy provisions to stop bureaucratic regulatory overreach that harms U.S. industries and hinders economic and job growth.

“This is an important bill that will help promote the responsible use of our natural resources, protect against and fight devastating wildfires, and invest in federal programs and infrastructure that will improve the quality of life for families across the country,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “In addition, this bill will stop many harmful and unnecessary regulations – by the Environmental Protection Agency and others – that hurt recovering communities and kill jobs.”

 “Job creation and wage growth continue to be stifled because American job creators wake up every day worrying about what new regulation the Obama administration will issue next. The EPA’s overreach continues to cause economic harm, and this bill denies funding for more job-killing regulators while providing necessary resources to effective programs that actually improve the environment and protect our natural resources,” Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert said. “In addition, I am pleased that the bill will once again provides increases for our incredible National Parks as they celebrate their Centennial this year, and continues progress on a functional Earthquake Early Warning System.”

Bill Highlights:

Wildland Firefighting and Prevention – In total, the bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion – fully funding the 10-year average for wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. When accounting for a previous, one-time payment within last year’s funding bill, the legislation provides $243 million above the fiscal year 2016 level. The legislation also includes $575 million for hazardous fuels management, which is $30 million above the fiscal year 2016 level.

Federal Payments to Local Communities – The bill provides $480 million for the “Payments In Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) program. PILT provides funds for local governments in 49 states to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their counties. Without congressional action, many rural communities would face huge budget shortfalls impacting public safety, education, and other local government responsibilities.

Lead in Drinking Water – To help address the ongoing problem of lead in drinking water across the U.S., which can cause dangerous health risks, the bill provides additional legal authority allowing states to provide debt relief in areas with elevated levels of lead in drinking water.  The bill also provides targeted increases for water infrastructure programs such as:

  • $2.1 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), including an increase of $207 million over the current level for the Drinking Water SRF;
  • $50 million for the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (WIFIA) program;
  • $109.7 million for state grants, a $7.7 million increase above the current level, to improve operations and oversight of drinking water systems; and
  • $6.5 million, the full requested amount, for integrated planning activities within EPA’s Office of Water to assist communities as they plan to replace pipes.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The bill funds the EPA at $7.98 billion, a reduction of $164 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $291 million below the President’s budget request. Within this total, the EPA’s regulatory programs are reduced by $43 million (6 percent) below the current level and $187 million (21 percent) below the President’s request.

The legislation also rejects the President’s proposed increase in staffing, holding the EPA to the current capacity of 15,000 positions, the lowest since 1989.

To stop the EPA’s anti-growth agenda that includes various harmful, costly, and potentially job-killing regulations, the bill contains a number of legislative provisions. Some of these include:

  • A prohibition on the EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations for new and existing power plants, and the elimination of funding for greenhouse gas “New Source Performance Standards”;
  • A prohibition on the EPA from making changes to the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act;
  • A prohibition on the EPA from making changes to the definition of “fill material”;
  • A prohibition on the EPA from imposing duplicative financial assurance requirements;
  • A reporting requirement on the backlog of mining permits awaiting approval;
  • A prohibition on new methane requirements; and
  • A prohibition on the regulation of the lead content of ammunition and fishing tackle.

Native American Programs – The Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Education are funded at $2.9 billion – an increase of $72 million above fiscal year 2016. This includes necessary increases for schools, law enforcement, road maintenance, and economic development.

The Indian Health Service is funded at $5.1 billion – an increase of $271 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This includes operating costs for staffing at new facilities, and increases for rising contract support costs, medical inflation, and a growing and aging population.

Office of Surface Mining (OSM) – The OSM is funded at $236 million in the bill – approximately the same as the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This includes $90 million to continue a pilot program to accelerate the reclamation of abandoned mine lands, which will help boost community redevelopment and economic growth. The legislation also continues state regulatory grants at $68 million, and rejects the President’s proposal to impose additional and duplicative federal oversight over the program.

To fight damaging bureaucratic overreach, the bill includes a provision to stop potentially job-killing, harmful changes to the “stream buffer rule.”

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – The bill contains $1.2 billion for the BLM, a decrease of $10 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.

The bill rejects a flawed and potentially harmful presidential proposal to increase oil and gas inspection fees, which could increase energy costs nationwide. It also rejects a White House proposal to raise fees on American ranchers for grazing on federal land. 

The bill provides an increase of $12 million above the fiscal year 2016 level for on-the-ground sage grouse conservation to protect the species and to preserve federal lands for public and private uses, such as energy development, ranching, recreation, and military training.  

National Park Service (NPS) – The legislation contains $2.9 billion for the NPS, an increase of $71 million above the fiscal year 2016 level. Within this funding, the bill provides $65 million in targeted increases for park operations and maintenance to help reduce the maintenance backlog and addresses other priorities related to the Park Service’s centennial anniversary.

U.S. Forest Service – The bill includes $5.3 billion for the Forest Service. More than half of this funding $2.9 billion 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 $1.5 billion in the bill, a $17 million decrease below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Within this amount, the legislation prioritizes funding to reduce the endangered species delisting backlog and maintenance backlog, to fight invasive species, to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, and to prevent the closure of fish hatcheries. The bill also continues a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act status reviews, determinations, and rulemakings for greater sage-grouse.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – The bill includes $1.1 billion for the USGS, $18 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Funding is targeted to programs dealing with natural hazards, streamgages, the groundwater monitoring network, and mapping activities. Also, within the total, the bill includes $10 million for an earthquake early warning system to help save lives during natural disasters, and $6 million for the accelerated launch of “Landsat 9” – a satellite program that provides land use measurements that are important to local communities for agriculture, forestry, energy and water resource decisions.

Smithsonian Institution – The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $863 million in the bill, $23 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. The increases will improve the long-term storage of collections and increase security.  

National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities – The bill includes $150 million for each of the endowments, $2 million above the fiscal year 2016 level and equal to the President’s request.

Eisenhower Memorial Commission – The bill provides no funding for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, but extends the authority to build on the present site and requires all construction funding to be appropriated before construction begins. 

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – The bill provides $322 million for LWCF programs, a reduction of $128 million below the fiscal year 2016 level and $153 million below the President’s request. State and local recreation and battlefield preservation programs are prioritized, while federal land acquisition is reduced.

For the subcommittee draft text of the legislation, please visit: /UploadedFiles/BILLS-114HR-SC-AP-FY2017-Interior-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf




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