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McCollum Floor Statement Opposing 8-Bill Appropriations Package, Cuts to Interior-Environment Programs

September 6, 2017
Statements For the Record

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor opposing H.R. 3354, House Republicans' eight-bill omnibus appropriations package, and particularly its deep cuts to environmental protection:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I would like to thank Chairman Calvert and his staff for their open and collaborative approach. This subcommittee has a challenging portfolio of issues and I commend the Chairman’s efforts to find solutions in yet another difficult budget year.

Unfortunately, the FY 2018 Interior-Environment subcommittee allocation is $824 million less than last year’s enacted level. This devastating cut to the allocation shortchanges the protection of our nation’s natural and cultural resources, and has real consequences for American families and communities.

Adequate funding for the Interior, Environment Division is critical at a time when the Trump Administration is attacking the science behind climate change and rolling back regulations that protect the water we drink and the air we breathe.

We are at a defining moment in history. Our actions to combat climate change now will impact the world we pass on to our children and grandchildren. We cannot afford to disregard the overwhelming scientific evidence that the planet is warming, sea levels are rising, and glaciers are melting. 

We have all seen the destruction inflicted by Hurricane Harvey. As the waters recede, the Environmental Protection Agency is playing a key role in keeping Americans safe. Once again, we are reminded of the importance of agencies like the EPA both during times of crisis and on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, EPA receives the most significant programmatic cut to this Division. Slashing the Environmental Protection Agency by $534 million will severely impact the agency’s ability to protect human health and safety and ensure clean air and clean water for all Americans. The Agency’s budget is already $2.2 billion below FY10 levels. It is irresponsible to cut the EPA even further. 

The bill also cuts programs critical to managing public lands and reduces funding necessary for endangered species listing protection. The American people expect us to be good stewards of our public lands and wildlife, but this bill falls short on that commitment.

Despite this bill’s shortcomings in environmental protection and resource conservation, I want to express how proud I am of this subcommittee’s nonpartisan approach to addressing issues facing our Native American brothers and sisters.

I am pleased that the bill recommends an increase of $108 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level for programs critical to Indian country. The health, education, and safety of tribal communities is a federal responsibility that our subcommittee takes very seriously. That is one bright spot in this bill.

Unfortunately, this bill falls far short in too many other areas, both as a result of our low allocation and as a result of a wildfire suppression costs that are burning a hole in this bill.

Since the start of this year, more than 1.1 million acres have burned. As a result, the U.S. Forest Service does not have adequate funding in the current fiscal year to combat these disasters. They will need to borrow funds from non-fire accounts, making it harder for the Service to conduct preparedness activities to reduce the severity of wildfires.

That’s why every member of the Interior subcommittee is a cosponsor of Chairman Simpson’s Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. I am very disappointed that the Majority’s leadership missed an opportunity to include those common-sense reforms in this legislation. That is why I have called for emergency funding for wildfire suppression activities in the next disaster supplemental.

Finally, in addition to the irresponsible cuts to the EPA and natural resource programs, I must express my concern and disappointment with the partisan riders in this bill that pander to special interests at the expense of the public good.

These riders jeopardize protection and recovery for vulnerable species, restrict protection of our oceans, undermine clean water and clean air safeguards, and even prevent the development of renewable energy.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is not sufficient to the needs of the American people.

I know that we can do better than this. Congress needs a bipartisan budget agreement that increases non-defense discretionary spending levels.  

Despite my current opposition, I intend to continue to work with Chairman Calvert through this year’s appropriations process to produce a responsible bill that both parties can support. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I yield back.