McCollum's FY 21 Interior Funding Bill Protects Boundary Waters from Twin Metals Mine
Led by Chair Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.), the House Appropriations Committee today approved the fiscal year 2021 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill. In total, the bill includes $36.76 billion in federal funding, and includes bill language stating, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to review or approve a mine plan proposed within the Rainy River Watershed of the Superior National Forest.” The language prohibits the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service from taking any action on the Twin Metals sulfide-ore copper mine project adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).
Chair McCollum released the following statement:
“The Trump administration continues to block the results of a taxpayer-funded study meant to determine the environmental impacts of sulfide-ore copper mining on the Rainy River Watershed from the American people – instead choosing to advance and fast track a mine project adjacent to the Boundary Waters at every opportunity. But the BWCAW – the most-visited wilderness in America – must not be polluted and damaged from toxic mine waste. It is our obligation to ensure decisions about our public lands are based on the best available science, and it is imperative that we protect special places like the Boundary Waters for future generations. My bill includes a measure to ensure no funds are spent to review or approve a mine plan in the Rainy River Watershed.
“With this bill, House Democrats also reject the dangerous anti-science policies and funding cuts proposed by the Trump administration. Instead, we are focused on protecting the environment and keeping our communities safe and healthy. Last year, House Democrats secured significant new investments in environmental protection and land conservation. For fiscal year 2021, we are building on those successes. Our priorities are ensuring clean air and water to protect our children’s health, protecting our public lands, biodiversity, and endangered species, and confronting climate change. This bill reflects the priorities of the American people.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our entire nation, but there are pronounced racial disparities, and Native American communities are disproportionately feeling the impact. This bill continues to invest in the health, safety, and future of Indian Country. We have more work to do – but this bill is another step towards upholding the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations.
“As the American people confront our nation’s legacy of racial injustice, this bill is taking action to remove hateful Confederate symbols from our national parks. Democrats are committed to helping our nation combat the crises of climate change, tribal health disparities, and racial injustice, and this bill invests resources to face these challenges head on.”
This legislation makes significant investments in protecting and preserving public lands, building resilience to climate change, strengthening America’s environmental workforce, and ensuring access to safe drinking water. Additional highlights include:
- Environmental Protection: The bill includes $9.38 billion for the EPA, increasing funding by $318 million, with $3.58 billion for EPA’s core science and environmental program work and $15 million for Environmental Justice activities.
- Mississippi River Restoration and Resiliency Strategy: The bill urges the Department of the Interior, including the National Park Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to participate and coordinate as an essential federal stakeholder with the Environmental Protection Agency as it leads efforts to develop a federal government-wide Mississippi River restoration and resiliency strategy focused on improving water quality, restoring habitat and natural systems, improved navigation, eliminating aquatic invasive species, and building local resilience to natural disasters.
- Public Lands: The bill includes $13.83 billion for the Department of the Interior, increasing funding by $304 million, with $1.3 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, $1.6 billion for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and $3.22 billion for the National Park Service.
- Clean and Safe Drinking Water: The bill will make communities safer and healthier by providing investments to ensure that all Americans have access to clean and safe drinking water:
- $2.76 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds;
- $189 million for targeted grants for drinking water contaminants and wastewater treatment for lead, nitrates, and other health hazards;
- $90 million for Brownfields cleanups; and
- $12.9 million in additional funding for EPA for scientific and regulatory work on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), needed to establish drinking water and cleanup standards.
- Great Lakes: The bill includes $555 million for Geographic Programs which help with restoration of nationally significant bodies of water like the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Long Island Sound. This is an increase of $45 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and $224 million above the president’s budget request.
- Environmental Justice: The bill includes $15 million in funding for EPA Environmental Justice activities, an increase of 47%, for improving the environment in communities where it’s needed most.
- International Conservation: The bill rejects the president’s proposed elimination of the U.S. Forest Service International Program, increasing its funding as well as funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service International program. These investments will help combat poaching and wildlife trafficking, help prevent the spread of invasive species, and help reduce global transmission of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19.
- Indian Country: Provides increased funding for Indian health care and education, with:
- $6.5 billion for the Indian Health Service; and
- $3.5 billion for Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and Office of the Special Trustee.
- Arts and Humanities: The bill invests $170 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, an increase of $7.75 million above the 2020 enacted levels and a rejection of the President’s budget request proposal to eliminate the agencies.
- Emergency Infrastructure: The bill provides additional $15 billion in emergency infrastructure investments for the Bureau of Indian Education, Environmental Protection Agency, and Indian Health Service.
*Note: In FY 2021, Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) allocations will shift from discretionary to mandatory appropriations. For clarity, comparisons are for non-LWCF programs.
Additionally, the bill contains provisions important to Minnesotans and to the American people:
- Removing Confederate commemorative works: This bill includes language requiring the National Park Service to remove all Confederate commemorative works. It also includes language authored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries that prohibits funds for the purchase or display of the Confederate flag in national parks, with the exception of specific circumstances where flags provide historical context.
- Policy provisions that protect our environment now and for future generations:
- A provision to block oil and gas drilling off the coasts of states like Florida, California, and Maine.
- Provisions to protect the pristine wilderness of Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge and the Tongass National Forest.
- A provision to end the issuance of permits to import sport-hunted trophies of elephants and lions from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, or Zambia.