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McCollum Delivers Opening Statement at Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Markup

May 25, 2016
Press Release

On Wednesday, the House Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee conducted a markup of the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior-Environment appropriations bill. As the lead Democrat on the committee, Congresswoman McCollum delivered this opening statement:

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I would like to thank the Chairman 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 another difficult budget year.

The majority’s failure to adopt a budget resolution and its piecemeal approach to the subcommittees’ 302(b) allocations made this year’s work even more difficult. Moreover, such a lack of transparency has placed the entire Committee at a disadvantage and pushed us further from regular order.

The FY 2017 subcommittee allocation is $64 million less than the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This means the needs of many important programs vital to protecting our nation’s natural and cultural resources will not be met as they far outpace a stagnant allocation.

Within this constrained topline number, difficult choices had to be made and, sadly, important programs vital to protecting our nation’s natural and cultural resources did not receive adequate funding.

The most significant programmatic cut is to the Environmental Protection Agency, which would receive $164 million less thanthe FY 2016 enacted level. This cut will impact the Agency’s ability to protect human health and the health of our environment and to ensure clean air and clean water for our families and for our children.

This year, the critical need for the EPA was unmistakable as our nation watched a tragedy unfold in Flint, Michigan where children were poisoned by lead in their drinking-water. So, I find it difficult to reconcile the cuts recommended in this bill with the public health challenges faced by this country.

Flint is a culmination of years of weakening EPA through budget cuts and over-reliance on state agencies to manage federal environmental laws. All of our communities deserve and expect their overnment to provide clean water and basic public health protections.

Residents of Flint were betrayed by their state government and to this day still do not have safe drinking water available from their tap. The levels provided in this bill for the State Revolving Funds are inadequate to deal with the decaying infrastructure in our nation, no less the emergency in Flint, Michigan.

That is why it is appropriate and imperative for this committee to provide additional funds for Flint, Michigan under an emergency designation.

While this bill does not provide funds specifically for Flint, it appropriately includes bill language that providesadditional authority for states to offer debt relief in areas with elevated levels of lead in drinking water.

I am proud of this subcommittee’s non-partisan approach to addressing issues facing our Native American brothers and sisters. While I am pleased the bill recommends an increase of $343 million for programs critical to Indian country, I would be remiss if I did not point out that even with this increase, funding for Native American programs is still $172 million less than the Administration’s request.

Nonetheless, this bill continues ourcommitment to providing Native American students with safe schools that are conducive to learning and it fully funds contract support costs so tribes are not penalized for exercising their self-determination rights.

The bill also recommends $3.9 billion or 12% of the subcommittee’s allocation for wildland fire, but once again the majority has failed to adopt the common sense reforms championed in Chairman Simpson’s wildfire disaster funding bill.

Every member of this subcommittee is a cosponsor of that bill, yet once again the majority has balked, citing committee jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, jurisdictional issues did not hinder the majority from including harmful legislative riders. I must express my concern and disappointment with the 29 partisan riders in this bill.

Such veto-bait provisions that seek to turn back protections for endangered species, restrict control of greenhouse gas emissions, and undermine clean water and clean air protections do not belong in thisbill. Their effect would be to undermine important environmental laws, endanger public health and safety, and deny that climate change is having an impact on our planet.

One of the bright spots in this bill is the continued support for the National Park Service’s Centennial Initiative. The bill recommends an additional $80 million for the Centennial. These funds will strengthen the foundation for visitor services and make essential infrastructure investments.

I am also pleased that an additional $3 million is provided for the Civil Rights Initiative grant program and that funding is included for grants-in-aid to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Finally, I would like to praise the Chairman for working with me to resurrectthe Save America’s Treasures program. This program funds preservation of nationally significant sites, structures, and artifacts. I am proud we were able to restart this important program and I plan to work diligently to make sure it is included in the final bill.

I look forward to working together through this year’s appropriations process to produce a responsible bill that both parties can support.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.