MCCOLLUM OPENING STATEMENT AT SUBCOMMITTEE MARKUP OF FY2019 INTERIOR-ENVIRONMENT APPROPRIATIONS BILL
Before I turn to the bill before us, I would like to thank the Chairman and his staff for their collaboration on another successful omnibus.
The Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus sent a clear message that Congress rejects Trump’s reckless whims, which would exploit our natural resources, desecrate our environment, and jeopardize the health of millions of Americans.
We were able to come together and pass a bipartisan appropriations bill that stripped out dozens of ridersand provided vital funding for the important agencies under this subcommittee’s purview.
The foundation for our success was laid in February, when Congress passed a bipartisan budget agreement to increase non-defense discretionary spending for two years.
I am frustrated that even though the topline 302(a) spending level is set in law, the Majority is once again carrying out a secretive, piecemeal approach to the subcommittees’ 302(b) allocations. This lack of transparency places the entire Committee at a disadvantage and undermines our work.
This year, the Interior and Environment subcommittee allocation is $35 billion and is equal to the Fiscal Year 2018 enacted level.
While I would have written some things differently, the Chairman’s bill maintains many of the investments that we made in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus. I am pleased that funding for health care, education, and criminal justice needs in Indian country continue to be a nonpartisan priority for this subcommittee.
The bill also continues last year’s efforts to address the backlog of deferred maintenance on federal lands, and continues funding for important grant programs within the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Fund.
Unfortunately, once again the majority proposes to slash the EPA. Even though the proposed reduction is far more restrained than in past years, a $100 million cut is untenable.
The cuts target air and water quality programs, and reduce funding to enforce against polluters. If enacted, they will undermine the EPA’s ability to keep our families and communities healthy, and to protect our environment for future generations.
I must also express my opposition to the $18 million provided in this bill for the Department of the Interior to begin carrying out Secretary Zinke’s massive and ill-conceived reorganization.
As I have said many times in this Subcommittee, I am not opposed to the idea of reorganization at the Department. But we should not be rushing to fund this major undertaking when there has not been sufficient input from stakeholders, or a complete explanation to this Committee of the details and associated costs.
Just last week, our subcommittee listened to the testimony of more than 80 tribes. Not one tribe supported the reorganization.
The overwhelming majority strongly opposed it, because it is not well thought out and it runs roughshod over our treaty obligation to conduct consultation.
I fear that the reorganization, as currently imagined, will have long-term harmful effects on the ability of the Department to fulfill its mission. I truly believe that this committee has a responsibility to ensure that the Department does proper planning and conducts meaningful consultation. Until this is done, we should not allow the Department to begin implementation.
I am also disappointed that the bill fails to address, or even acknowledge, that EPA leadership is deficient in meeting its fiduciary responsibilities.
Last month, the Government Accountability Office determined that EPA violated Section 710 of the Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, and the Anti-deficiency Act.
These violations stem from EPA’s failure to notify this Committee of the purchase of a $43,000 soundproof privacy booth in Administrator Pruitt’s office.
EPA has yet to provide the Committee with the statutorily-required Anti-deficiency Act report regarding this violation. This is not an isolated case of financial abuse by EPA leadership. Currently, there are 11 federal investigations examining Administrator Pruitt’s spending and management practices.
His sweetheart deals with lobbyists and his extravagant travel on the taxpayer’s dime are appalling. I am profoundly disturbed by reports that while in Italy, on a trip that cost more than $120,000 of federal funds, Administrator Pruitt knowingly dined with a Cardinal who is facing sexual abuse charges, and then took steps to hide the dinner from the public.
Frankly, I am furious that Administrator Pruitt still has a place on President Trump’s cabinet. EPA desperately needs our oversight. If the Agency’s leadership does not have a moral compass, we must step in and be the back-stop to protect taxpayers from Administrator Pruitt’s wasteful spending.
Finally, I must also voice my objection to the dozen policy riders included in this bill. They would undermine clean air and clean water standards, put the health and safety of American families at risk, and roll back protections for endangered species.
With Republican control of the White House and both chambers, I do not understand why the Majority continues to impose riders like these on the appropriations process.
Mr. Chairman, I see the effort you have put into this bill and I commit to working with you throughout the fiscal year 2019 process.
For two years in a row, this Committee has shown that when we come together in a bipartisan fashion, we are able to negotiate an omnibus that is in the best interest of the American people.
I hope we can continue this track record.
Thank you, I yield back.