Chairman Michael Simpson Prepared Opening Remarks on FY12 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill at Subcommittee Markup
"Good morning and welcome to the subcommittee markup of the fiscal year 2012 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill. I want to thank our colleagues, especially Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks, for joining us this morning.
"I also want to personally thank Mr. Moran and each of the Members for their active participation and the bipartisan spirit that has been a part of our deliberations this year. While I know that Mr. Moran, Mr. Dicks, and my Democrat friends will not be able to support this bill, I want each of you to know how much I sincerely appreciate your positive contributions. My staff and I have made a genuine effort to work with you and your staff in preparing this bill.
"This subcommittee’s first and foremost priority this year has been oversight. We have conducted 22 budget hearings—which I believe is more than any other subcommittee—carefully reviewing the programs and budgets under our jurisdiction.
"We are living at a time when the Federal government borrows over 40 cents for each dollar that it spends. We are also living at a time of record deficits and debt. The Appropriations Committee is taking meaningful steps to help put our country’s fiscal house in order. While reductions in discretionary spending alone will not erase the deficit, the bill before us this morning is a step forward in that direction.
"The fiscal year 2012 Interior and Environment bill is funded at $27.5 billion which is $2.1 billion, or seven percent, below the FY11 enacted level and $3.8 billion, or 12 percent, below the budget request. Overall funding within this bill is essentially level with fiscal year 2009 spending.
"Each of you are well aware that the subcommittee has made very difficult choices in preparing this budget proposal. In total, 235 Members of the House submitted over 1,700 programmatic requests to the subcommittee for consideration. While the bill makes significant spending reductions across many agencies and programs, it provides ample funding to address the needs of key accounts supported by a bipartisan cross-section of Members.
"For instance, fire suppression at the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service is fully funded at the 10-year average. The bill includes increased funding for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to hire new inspectors and move forward with offshore oil and gas permitting and leasing while also improving safety. And, Members will be pleased to know that the operations of our national parks are sustained at levels only slightly below last year which means every park unit in the country will be operational and fully staffed without the threat of furloughs or layoffs.
"Finally, this bill also makes critical investments in Indian Country—an area of particular interest to Members of this subcommittee. Building upon efforts begun by Mr. Dicks and Mr. Moran, this bill continues to make investments in human health and wellness programs in Indian Country affecting health care, education, and Self-Determination.
"Overall, the Department of the Interior is funded at $9.9 billion which is a $715 million, or seven percent, reduction below last year’s enacted level. As I mentioned, we’ve done some things that Secretary Salazar will support. The Secretary and I have had many discussions about these issues, as well as some of the other issues where funding isn’t where he would like it to be.
"Most of you know that I’m not a climate change naysayer. But the fact is that climate change funding has been increasing over the last few years and no one has any idea whether this funding is being coordinated between the various agencies.
"The GAO came to the same conclusion in a report released in May. The GAO said, “Without further improvement in how federal climate change funding is defined and reported, strategic priorities are set, and funding is aligned with priorities, it will be difficult for the public and Congress to fully understand how climate change funds are accounted for and how they are spent.” As a result of this ongoing concern, climate change funding in this bill is reduced by $83 million, or 22 percent.
"The bill also makes significant reductions in funding for land acquisition. Land acquisition is funded at $301 million in fiscal year 2011. The President had requested $900 million for land acquisition next year. We fund it at $62 million in this bill but I suspect that number will go up by the time we complete the process later this year. It’s also worth noting that the bill does not include the President’s proposed $38 million increase for additional onshore oil and gas fees or the $55 million increase for additional offshore oil and gas fees. Issues like this are best left to the authorizing committees of jurisdiction.
"I suspect that most of the headlines from today’s markup will focus on this subcommittee’s attention on the EPA. One of the major underlying themes to this year’s work is the sheer volume of regulatory actions being pursued by agencies in the absence of legislation and without clear congressional direction. Earlier this year I said that the scariest agency in the Federal government is the EPA. I still believe that. The EPA’s unrestrained effort to regulate greenhouse gases, and the pursuit of an overly aggressive regulatory agenda, are signs of an agency that has lost its bearing. Wherever I go, the biggest complaint I hear about the Federal government is about how the EPA is creating economic uncertainty and killing jobs. This isn’t a partisan issue. Members of both parties believe that the EPA’s regulatory actions vastly exceed its authority. The responsibility to determine whether or not to expand that authority rests solely with Congress—and not the EPA.
"We have included a number of provisions in the base bill to address some of these issues. Believe it or not, we turned away far more policy provisions than we included. We saw during consideration of HR 1, and we will see again in Full Committee and on the House floor, even more efforts to rein in the EPA. I know some of my friends sitting to my left will be especially critical of the spending reductions to the EPA accounts. While we all recognize the importance of the Clean Drinking Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, it’s worth pointing out that these accounts received $6 billion in the Recovery Act in 2009 and still have nearly $3 billion available in unobligated funding. In calendar year 2009, the EPA received over $25 billion in combined stimulus funding and regular appropriations. So it should come as no surprise that the funding for the EPA is reduced by $1.5 billion, or 18 percent, from current levels.
"While I know our Democrat colleagues will not support this legislation as written, I look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Moran."