WASHINGTON, DC -- This week, the House Appropriations Committee is working to pass the final five remaining appropriations bills to fund federal government operations in fiscal year 2018. The Committee passed two of those bills today, including the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (KY-05) voted for the legislation, which provides $31.4 billion for Interior and Environment related agencies, including $75 million to continue the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot Program to revitalize coal communities.
The funds are targeted to important investments in the nation’s natural resources, including $3.4 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat devastating wildfires. The legislation also contains several policy provisions to rein in harmful and unnecessary regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies.
"I'm very pleased that this bill will continue the successful AML Pilot Program that is actively turning old abandoned mine land into productive areas for job creation, tourism and other economic development projects in our struggling coal-producing states," said Congressman Rogers, who first championed the AML Pilot Program in 2016. "This bill also cuts more waste in the EPA and focuses funding on providing clean water across the country."
The bill now heads to the House floor for consideration.
Wildland Firefighting and Prevention – In total, the bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.4 billion – fully funding the 10-year average for wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. This is $334 million below the FY 2017 level. Most of this reduction is the result of the transfer of the Forest Service’s hazardous fuels reduction program to its National Forest System, as requested by the Administration. The legislation also includes $575 million for hazardous fuels management, which is $5 million above the FY 2017 level.
Federal Payments to Local Communities – The bill provides $465 million for the “Payments In Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) program. PILT provides funds for local governments in 49 states to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their counties.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The bill funds the EPA at $7.5 billion, a reduction of $528 million below the FY 2017 enacted level and $1.9 billion above the Administration’s request.
- The legislation supports the President’s proposal to reshape the agency’s workforce by providing resources requested to offer buyouts and voluntary separation agreements to employees.
- This bill also reflects the Administration’s goal to rein in outdated, unnecessary and potentially harmful regulations at the EPA. For example, it includes language authorizing the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretary of the Army to withdraw the Waters of the United States rule.
- EPA Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds – The bill includes a total of $2 billion for these funds, including $1.1 billion for the Drinking Water fund and $863 million for the Clean Water fund.
- EPA Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Funds – The bill includes $30 million, equal to the FY 2017 enacted level and $10 million more than the President’s request.
Office of Surface Mining (OSM) – The OSM is funded at $213 million in the bill – $40 million below the FY 2017 level. This includes $75 million to continue a pilot program to accelerate the reclamation of abandoned mine lands, which will help boost community redevelopment and economic growth. The legislation also continues state regulatory grants at $68.6 million.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) –The bill contains $1.2 billion for the BLM, a decrease of $46 million below the FY 2017 enacted level, including a $20 million decrease for federal land acquisition.
National Park Service (NPS) – The legislation contains $2.9 billion for the NPS, a decrease of $64 million below the FY 2017 level. Much of the reduction is in land acquisition activities. Within the total, the bill retains $55 million targeted to park operations and maintenance to help reduce the deferred maintenance backlog.
U.S. Forest Service – The bill includes $5.2 billion for the Forest Service. Approximately half of this funding – $2.5 billion – is targeted to wildland fire prevention and suppression. The bill also includes a provision prohibiting the Forest Service or BLM from issuing new closures of public lands to hunting and recreational shooting, except in the case of public safety.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – The FWS is funded at $1.5 billion in the bill, a $38 million decrease below the FY 2017 enacted level. Core responsibilities and grant programs are level funded. The legislation prioritizes funding to reduce the endangered species delisting backlog and refuge maintenance backlog, to fight invasive species, to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, and to prevent the closure of fish hatcheries.
Smithsonian Institution – The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $885 million in the bill, $22 million above the FY 2017 enacted level. This level is sufficient to allow all current operations and programs to continue.
National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities – The bill includes $145 million for each of the endowments, $5 million below the FY 2017 level for each endowment.
Eisenhower Memorial Commission – The bill provides $16.6 million for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission ($1.6 million for salaries and expenses and $15 million for construction). Bill language extends the authority to build on the current site.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – The bill provides $275 million for LWCF programs – $125 million below the current level but $211 million above the President’s request. State and local recreation and battlefield preservation programs are prioritized, while strategic investments in federal land acquisition are recommended.
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) – The CSB is funded at $11 million, equal to the FY 2017 level. The Administration proposed to terminate this program.
The following amendments to the bill were adopted by the full committee today:
Rep. Calvert – The Manager’s amendment makes technical and noncontroversial changes to the bill and report. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Rep. Harris -- The amendment limits funds for activities related to wind turbines less than 24 nautical miles from the State of Maryland shoreline. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Rep. Aderholt -- The amendment changes bill language requiring that all iron and steel used in water infrastructure projects be sourced within the United States. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Rep. Stewart – The amendment makes changes to bill language regarding the management of wild horses and burros. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
The bill was approved on a vote of 30-21.
For a summary of the bill, please visit: https://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394981
For the text of the bill, please visit: https://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/fy18_interior_xml.pdf
For the bill report, please visit: https://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/23918.pdf