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McCollum Opening Statement at Appropriations Committee Markup of FY2018 Interior-Environment Bill

July 18, 2017
Press Release

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The activities funded under the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee keep our families safe from pollution, meet our commitments to Native Americans, conserve our natural resources, preserve our history, and foster the cultural life of our nation.

These activities are critical, which is why I am deeply disappointed that the FY 2018 Chairman’s mark for this subcommittee proposes a cut of $824 million below the FY 2017 enacted level.This level is simply too low.  It is a step backwards. A cut of this magnitude endangers our nation’s natural and cultural resources.

Once again, the Environmental Protection Agency is hit hardest by the cuts recommended in this bill. The EPA is slashed by $528 million, shouldering a whopping 64 percent of the Subcommittee’s overall cut. When we held our Subcommittee’s EPA budget hearing, several of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle rejected the Trump Administration’s reckless budget request.

President Trump’s proposed cuts were unquestionably damaging and irresponsible. But this Committee also must acknowledge the deep cuts the EPA has already endured over the past seven years. In fact, since FY 2010, the EPA has been reduced by $2.2 billion and has 2,000 fewer staff. Adjusted for inflation, the Environmental Protection Agency has already been cut 30 percent below FY10 levels.

Despite these alarming figures, the Chairman’s mark cuts the EPA even further. If enacted, the cuts in this bill will further undermine the EPA’s ability to keep our families and communities healthy and to protect our environment for future generations. These cuts will even weaken the basic enforcement that keeps deadly toxins out of our air and water.

In years past, my Republican colleagues have justified cuts to the EPA by citing their objections to the agency’s regulatory decisions. Today, however, Republican control of the White House and both chambers should be enough to influence policy, without resorting to funding cuts that will cripple the EPA’s ability to function.

Every American, regardless of political party, wants clean air and clean water for their families, and a habitable planet for our children and grandchildren. What we, as Members of this Committee, have to decide is, what are we willing to invest to achieve those goals?

Refusing to fund the work needed to protect the public health and our environment is short-sighted and reckless. But that is exactly what is proposed in this bill.

While I strongly oppose the bill’s cuts, I am pleased that it rejects some of the Trump administration’s worst proposals.

The bill reflect our Committee’s non-partisan approach to meeting federal commitments to our Native American brothers and sisters, and it rejects the cruel cuts proposed by the Trump administration. I am very pleased that the bill recommends an increase of $106 million for programs critical to Indian Country, including new resources that will help meet pressing education, health care, and criminal justice needs.

The bill also continues funding for important grant programs within the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Fund.

However, I am disappointed that the Majority’s leadership missed an opportunity to take action on the common-sense reforms championed in Chairman Simpson’s wildfire disaster funding bill. Instead, the costs of wildfire suppression continue to rage out of control.  This year, we will spend $3.4 billion, or 11 percent of the subcommittee’s total allocation, on wildland fire. This status quo is unsustainable. It undercuts our subcommittee’s ability to fund core functions of the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior. It is imperative we push for a solution.

I must also express my dismay with the 16 partisan riders in this bill. These extraneous provisions may benefit polluters, but they do nothing to help the American people.

These riders undermine clean air and clean water standards, put the health and safety of American families at risk, and roll back protections for endangered species.

Mr. Chairman, you’ll be hearing more from me about these awful riders later in our markup, but let me just give one example now. This bill includes a rider that interferes with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. By threatening this critical rule on air pollution,
the Majority is playing politics with a rule that will prevent hundreds of premature deaths from toxic air each year.

Riders like these are ideological poison-pills that harm the public interest. They simply do not belong in this bill.

Just over two months ago, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a strong bipartisan appropriations bill that stripped out dozens of riders and provided vital funding for the important agencies under the purview of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee.

So coming off that recent success, I am frustrated and disappointed to find us considering a partisan bill, which will not become law in its current form. This bill fails to meet the needs of the American people, and needlessly puts the health and safety of American families at risk. I strongly oppose this approach.

But there is a better way: the omnibus we passed in May ensured that the health and safety of the American people and the well-being of the environment were protected. I hope that we can achieve that same bipartisan success this year. I look forward to working together with Chairman Calvert and my colleagues through this year’s appropriations process to produce a responsible bill that both parties can support.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.