September 24, 2019

Udall Advances Strong Investments for New Mexico in Major Interior & Environment Funding Bill

Udall welcomes increased funding for PFAS cleanup, EPA and LWCF, and calls for removal of legacy anti-environmental riders

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M), lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, advanced major funding for New Mexico’s public lands, infrastructure, environmental protection and stewardship, and programs for Indian Country as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill considered in the subcommittee today.  The bill is scheduled to be considered at a meeting of the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

“Our bipartisan Interior bill makes key investments to benefit and strengthen New Mexico, Indian Country, and the entire nation.  The bill provides strong resources to protect our public lands and the thriving outdoor economy they fuel, as well as funding key programs for Native and rural communities. The bill contains a number of New Mexico priorities I fought for, including protecting the greater Chaco Canyon area from oil and gas development and funding to clean up PFAS contamination around the state,” said Udall, Ranking Member of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

“We were able to work in a bipartisan fashion to increase funding for LWCF to the highest level in 15 years and keep this bill free of new poison pill, anti-environment provisions – providing Americans with better access to outdoor recreation while protecting our air and water. We also included major funding for fire suppression at a time when climate change is making wildfires all the more severe, as New Mexicans know all too well,” said Udall.  

“While the bill includes provisions that I believe must be removed in conference – such as the anti-environmental rider that has undermined the multi-state, cooperative sage grouse recovery effort – I am proud of our work to get to this point and believe today’s markup is an important first step.  As the lead Democrat on the committee overseeing funding of Interior and EPA, I am committed to rejecting the devastating cuts proposed by the Trump administration to critical programs for clean air, clean water, public health and public lands,” said Udall.  “And, we must continue to push back on this administration’s attempts to ram through massive reorganization proposals at the Department of the Interior.  I’ll keep fighting for the resources we need to protect New Mexico and the nation’s natural resources and fulfill our trust and treaty responsibilities to Native communities.” 

The bill provides a total discretionary funding level of $35.8 billion, which is $248 million more than the fiscal year 2019 level and $5.46 billion more than the President’s request.  In addition, for the first time, the bill provides $2.25 billion in a wildfire budget cap adjustment to respond to the increasing incidence of catastrophic wildfires across the country.

Key Points & Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill Include:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).—The bill provides $9.01 billion for the EPA, $161 million more than fiscal year 2019 and $2.79 billion more than the President’s budget request.  The bill rejects the Administration’s proposals to cut research by 34 percent, grants by 33 percent, and regulatory and enforcement programs by 29 percent, as well as the elimination of several programs, including Environmental Education, radon risk reduction, lead paint risk reduction programs, and the U.S. contribution to the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund.  This bill rejects all of those proposals and instead funds all EPA programs at the fiscal year 2019 level or higher.  

The bill continues steady funding for the State Revolving Funds, including $1.13 billion for Drinking Water and $1.64 billion for Clean Water.  (Reflecting the agency operating plan incorporating annual rescissions, these numbers are slightly below enacted levels but consistent with actual spending levels).  The Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program is increased to $73 million, which will support lending of more than $6 billion.  The bill provides $29 million for lead contamination testing at schools and child care centers, $20 million for lead reduction projects in rural areas, and $26 million for water projects in communities working to improve Safe Drinking Water Act compliance.  The bill also funds several recently authorized infrastructure grants for the first time in fiscal year 2020, including $20.5 million to address sewer overflow control requirements, $13 million to provide technical assistance for wastewater treatment operators, $5 million to fund school drinking fountain replacement, $2 million to support drinking water infrastructure resiliency, and $1 million for water system workforce training.

National Park Service (NPS).—The bill provides $3.35 billion for the NPS, $133 million more than the fiscal year 2019 level and $614 million more than the President’s budget request.  Within that amount, the bill increases funding for park operations by 2 percent for a total of $2.56 billion.  Historic Preservation Fund grants are funded at $113.2 million, which is $10.5 million more than fiscal year 2019.   It includes increases above fiscal year 2019 of $3 million for State Historic Preservation Offices, $2 million more for Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, $2.5 million more for Historical Revitalization grants, $1 million for Civil Rights preservation grants, $1 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities restoration grants, and $1 million for Save America’s Treasures.  Funding for National Heritage Areas is $21.9 million, which includes an increase of $1.6 million to fund newly authorized heritage areas.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).—The bill fully funds payments to counties through the PILT program, which are estimated at a total of $500 million.

Wildland Firefighting.—The bill provides $3.644 billion for fire suppression, of which $2.25 billion is provided through the wildfire budget cap adjustment authorized in the Fiscal Year 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  This additional funding gives the agencies an assured amount of funding to be used when a fire season exceeds the projection and all regular appropriated funds are spent.  This total is $1.221 billion above fiscal year 2019.  Prior to this reform, the agencies were forced to borrow from their non-fire accounts when this occurred, putting a hold on other activities and straining resources.

Tribal Programs.—The bill provides $6.04 billion for the Indian Health Service, $238 million more than fiscal year 2019 and $132 million more than the President’s budget request.  Within that amount, the bill includes increases of $61 million to meet court-ordered requirements for tribal lease operating costs owed to tribes and $84 million for staffing needs of new health facilities. Tribal programs provided through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) are collectively funded at $3.131 billion, an increase of $51 million above the fiscal year 2019 level.  The bill accepts a budget request to separate BIA and BIE into two separate bureaus.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).—The bill provides $465 million, $30 million more than fiscal year 2019 for Federal land acquisition and State conservation grants provided through the LWCF. The President’s Budget proposed a negative total for LWCF, in the amount of -$27 million, due to rescissions from previously appropriated funding.  LWCF is critical for improving recreational access to our federal lands, protecting iconic landscapes, delivering grants to states and local governments to create and protect urban parks and open spaces, and providing farmers and ranchers with easements to allow them to continue to steward their private lands in the face of development pressures. 

Cultural Programs.—The bill provides $157 million each to the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, an increase of $2 million more for each endowment than the fiscal year 2019 enacted level, rejecting the Administration’s proposal to terminate these programs.  The bill provides $1.047 billion for the Smithsonian Institution, $4.1 million above fiscal year 2019 and $69.3 million above the President’s budget request.  Funding for the National Gallery of Art is increased to $172.2 million, and funding for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts increases to $43.29 million.

 

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