July 12, 2016
House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert today spoke on the House floor in support of H.R. 5538, the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
The text of the statement follows:
Mr. Chairman, I’m pleased to bring to the floor H.R. 5538, the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill.
As we begin, I want to personally thank Chairman Rogers for his leadership and support. 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 assistance and hard work on the legislation before us.
The fiscal year 2017 Interior and Environment bill is funded at $32.095 billion which is $64 million below the FY16 enacted level and $1 billion below the budget request.
The Committee has provided robust wildland fire funding in this bill. Fire suppression accounts are again fully funded at the ten-year average level—which rose by $133 million from last year. The Committee has also addressed concerns about forest health and active forest management, and provided a $30 million increase for hazardous fuels.
This bill also makes critical investments in Indian Country. Overall, funding for the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Education is increased by $72 million (or three percent), while funding for the Indian Health Service is increased by $271 million (or six percent) from fiscal year 2016 levels. This is the largest increase in this bill.
The bill also provides $2.9 billion for the National Park Service, including more than $65 million in new funding to address the maintenance backlog and other priorities related to the Park Service Centennial.
The bill provides $480 million to fully fund “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) in fiscal year 2017.
We have also addressed a number of concerns within the Fish and Wildlife Service. The bill continues funding for popular cost-shared grant programs. 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 delisted.
The bill provides $322 million for Land and Water Conservation Fund programs that enjoy broad, bipartisan support.
Funding for EPA is reduced by $164 million from fiscal year 2016 enacted levels. 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 make an additional point about the challenges facing Flint, Michigan, and other communities across the country addressing lead in drinking water. This is an issue of great concern to Committee members. It is not a partisan issue.
What occurred in Flint has called greater attention to aging infrastructure and the need for prudent management and oversight of water systems. This bill provides targeted investments and prioritizes resources that will help the EPA and Michigan respond to Flint, and help other States and communities address the needs of their water systems.
The bill provides an increase of $207 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. It also includes $50 million for the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation (WIFIA) program which may be leveraged through direct Federal loans or loan guarantees to fund $3 to $5 billion worth of water infrastructure projects nationwide.
In addition, the bill provides increases for State grants for improved State oversight and operations of drinking water systems, and for communities to work on integrated plans for pipe replacement. The bill also directs the GAO to assess the number of lead service lines by State.
Lastly, the Committee is taking an additional step to provide relief to communities like Flint by including bill language that allows States to use State Revolving Fund dollars to forgive a portion of a community’s outstanding loans. This, and the other steps taken in this bill, will have a real impact.
Mr. Chairman, this is a good bill and it deserves Members’ support.