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McCollum Statement to Rules Committee Regarding H.R. 3354

September 6, 2017
Statements For the Record

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.), Ranking Member of the House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following statement to the House Rules Committee opposing the House Republican majority's closed process for the consideration of H.R. 3354, and particularly Division A, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018:

Chairman Sessions, Ranking Member Slaughter, and Members of the Rules Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss Division A, the FY 2018 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

I would like to be clear that I believe consideration of this entire bill on the House Floor should be under an open rule. That is the traditional process for appropriations legislation, and it is being undermined by the use of structured rules. Furthermore, appropriations bills should be considered independently and not lumped together in an unwieldy package.

This omnibus continues down a partisan path of slashing funding that supports the health, safety, and well-being of the American people. The important programs in the Interior, Environment bill suffer from a low 302(b) allocation that was devised by the Majority in a process that was neither open nor transparent. This subcommittee's allocation is $824 million less than last year’s enacted level. A cut of this magnitude 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, rolling back regulations that protect clean air and water, and even halting health studies that examine whether some mining practices harm nearby communities. 

We are at a defining moment in history. Our actions to combat climate change now will impact the world we pass onto 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. Last month, I witnessed this firsthand at Glacier National Park in Montana. The Park’s glaciers are receding at an accelerated rate, with just 25 remaining in a landscape that once held 150.  Across the West, including in Glacier, the frequency and intensity of wildfires continues to worsen. In fact, last week a wildfire destroyed one of the Park’s historic chalets.

We have all seen the destruction inflicted by Hurricane Harvey.  As the waters recede, the Environmental Protection Agency will play a key role in keeping Americans safe. Once again, we are reminded about the importance of environmental protection in our daily lives. As Members of Congress, we must meet our responsibility to adequately fund the EPA so it can carry out its mission.

This bill does not do that.

 The Majority has chosen to slash funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by $534 million.  The EPA is shouldering 65 percent of the overall cut to this subcommittee. The EPA protects human health and safety, and ensures clean air and clean water for all of us. The Agency’s budget is already $2.2 billion below FY2010 levels, and it is simply irresponsible to further cut the EPA. 

I must also express my concern and disappointment with the partisan riders in this bill that pander to special interests at the expense of the public good. They 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. These riders do not belong in this bill.

Despite my disappointment in these riders, the lack of an open floor process, and the wholly inadequate allocation for the Interior-Environment bill, I do want to express my appreciation for the hard work of Chairman Calvert, his staff, and all the Members of our Subcommittee. It has been my pleasure to work together on this bill, and I thank him for his open and collaborative approach.

I am particularly proud of our subcommittee’s nonpartisan effort to address issues facing Native Americans. Despite our low allocation, the bill recommends an increase of $108 million over the FY 2017 enacted level for programs critical to Indian Country. The health, education, and safety in tribal communities is a federal responsibility that our subcommittee takes very seriously. That is one bright spot in this bill.

Mr. Chairman, I request that when H.R. 3354 comes to the floor, it be considered under an open rule so the House can have a thorough and informed debate on the bill. The American people deserve open consideration of federal funding and policy decisions that affect the health of our environment and our communities and are fundamental to the legacy we leave for future generations. Again, I thank you and the Members of the Rules Committee for the opportunity to testify on H.R. 3354.