Chairman Simpson Opening Statement on FY 2013 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill for Subcommittee Markup

Jun 20, 2012

Welcome to the subcommittee markup of the fiscal year 2013 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill.  I want to thank our colleagues, especially Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks, for joining us today. 

I also want to personally thank Mr. Moran and each of the Members for their active participation and the bipartisan spirit that continues to be a hallmark of our subcommittee’s deliberations. 

While I know that Mr. Moran, Mr. Dicks, and my Democrat friends will not be able to support this bill in its present form, 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.

Before I get into the details of the bill, I’d like to take a moment to recognize a couple of people.  For Mr. Dicks, today’s subcommittee markup is his last markup of a bill that he loves so much (the Interior bill generally, not THIS bill)!  He has served on this Subcommittee for nearly 36 years and served as its Chairman for three years.  Norm—and I say this sincerely—this subcommittee just won’t be the same without you.  All of us at this table and in this room today thank you for your service and wish you and Suzie all the best and continued good health.  (Applause)

Two other Members of the subcommittee—Mr. Hinchey and Mr. Lewis—are joining Mr. Dicks in pursuit of a life beyond Congress.  Both have made valuable contributions to this Committee, the Congress, and our country.  We wish them both well. (Applause)

Now, on to the bill . . . . Again this year, our subcommittee has made oversight a top priority.  We conducted 16 budget hearings this year—which I believe is more than any other subcommittee—carefully reviewing the programs and budgets under our jurisdiction.   

The fiscal year 2013 Interior and Environment bill is funded at $28 billion which is $1.2 billion, or four percent, below the FY12 enacted level and $1.7 billion, or six percent, below the budget request. 

The subcommittee has made very difficult choices in preparing this bill.  While the bill makes significant spending reductions across many agencies and programs, it also prioritizes funding to address the needs of several 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.  This is a critical investment during what land managers predict is likely to be a very challenging and dangerous fire season. 

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 staffed at sufficient levels.  The Subcommittee believes that funding of park operations ought to remain the highest priority of the Service. 

Finally, this bill also makes critical investments in Indian Country—an area of particular interest to the bipartisan Members of this subcommittee.  This bill continues to make investments in human health and wellness programs in Indian Country affecting health care, education, crime prevention, and Self-Determination.  

Overall, the Department of the Interior is funded at $10.3 billion which is $57 million, or one percent, above last year’s enacted level.  Secretary Salazar and I have had many candid conversations this year about the work of the Department.  There are some things in this bill he will support.  There are other areas where funding isn’t where he would like it to be.

For instance, the Committee has noted throughout this and past years the critical need for a significant improvement in the level of coordination of climate change activities, budgets, and accomplishments across the bureaus within the Department of the Interior.  These improvements have yet to be realized.  As a result, climate change funding bill-wide is reduced by $101 million, or 29 percent.

The bill also makes significant reductions in funding for land acquisition.  Land acquisition is funded at $322 million in the current fiscal year.  The President requested $450 million for land acquisition in fiscal year 2013.  We fund it at $66 million in this bill but I suspect that, like last year, that number will change by the time we complete our work later this year. 

It’s also worth noting that mandatory funding for PILT payments is scheduled to expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  PILT payments are made to 49 of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  As of today, much uncertainty remains over whether this authorization will be extended in the Transportation bill.  For this reason, the Subcommittee has included bill language extending by one year the mandatory authorization for full PILT funding in fiscal year 2013.

Again this year, there is a great deal of concern over the sheer volume of regulatory actions being pursued by agencies in the absence of legislation and without clear congressional direction.  This is particularly true with the EPA.  Wherever I go, the biggest complaint I hear about the Federal government is how the EPA is creating economic uncertainty and killing jobs.   

This isn’t a partisan issue.  Members of both parties believe that the EPA has crossed the line in a number of areas.  The responsibility to determine whether or not to expand that authority rests solely with Congress—and not the EPA.  We have included a limited number of provisions in the base bill to address some of these issues.  I fully expect us to see additional efforts to rein in the EPA at full Committee.

I know there will be criticism over spending reductions to the EPA accounts.  Overall, funding for the EPA is reduced by $1.4 billion, or 17 percent, from fiscal year 2012 enacted levels.  It’s worth pointing out that the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds are funded at the same level we proposed in last year’s bill—just over $1.5 billion.    

I’ll close with this thought:  This is the beginning of a long process.  I do believe that by the end of this process we’ll all come together, as we always do, to find common ground.  In that spirit, I look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Moran and the Members of the Subcommittee.