February 21, 2019

Udall: Interior & Environment Funding Bill Signed Into Law

Includes critical funding for New Mexico, Indian Country, public health and environment, public lands, PILT, arts & humanities, wildfire suppression and LWCF

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall, lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, announced that the funding bill his subcommittee authored, the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, was signed into law as part of the government funding package which passed Congress last week. The bill provides critical funding for New Mexico’s public lands, infrastructure, environmental protection and stewardship, and programs for Indian Country. 

In committee, Udall successfully fought to keep the bill clean of any new anti-environmental provisions, and the bill represents the first Senate bill of its kind in years to exclude such poison pill policy riders. Udall’s bill rejects the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the EPA, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service – which would have had devastating consequences for New Mexico and Indian Country. The bill also rejects cuts to important land management agencies in New Mexico, including the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Udall fought to fund many priorities that are critical to New Mexico’s economy and way of life: the bill provides $435 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund; a significant increase for wildfire suppression, which will bridge the gap before Udall’s long-term wildfire fix takes effect next year; it fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program important to New Mexico counties; and it includes strong resources for Indian Country health care and education, for arts and humanities programs, and for our public lands and national parks.

“The priorities funded in our subcommittee’s bill will have far-reaching and lasting benefits for New Mexico’s economy and our way of life,” Udall said. “These investments will touch every community and corner of our state. In particular, I’m proud to have secured strong support for our public lands, our outdoor economy, rural infrastructure, clean air and water, and programs to benefit Indian Country. This bipartisan bill is a win for our state and for the entire country, with resources to conserve our public lands and cultural institutions, to safeguard our environment for future generations, and to fulfill our trust and treaty responsibilities to Native communities.” 

New Mexico highlights of the bill include:

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—The bill provides $435 million for federal land acquisition and conservation grants provided through the LWCF. LWCF is deeply important to New Mexico, allowing for the protection of places like Valle de Oro, Brazos Cliffs and Rio Grande del Norte. 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. The president’s budget proposed a negative total for LWCF, in the amount of -$12.9 million, due to rescissions of $46 million from previously appropriated funding.

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.

Wildfire Suppression — Provides $2.05 billion for fire suppression at the Forest Service and Department of the Interior, an amount which covers the 10-year rolling average of actual firefighting expenditures plus an additional $500 million for the Forest Service in case suppression costs exceed the 10-year average, as they have in recent years.

Gold King Mine Spill–Udall secured $4 million for the EPA to continue monitoring water quality in areas affected by the Gold King Mine Spill, and included language to ensure adequate long-term water quality monitoring program be put in place for the states and tribes affected following the Gold King Mine Spill.

Indian Health Service’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse program—$245.6 million, including $10 million for an opioid pilot. The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program is part of an integrated behavioral health approach to collaboratively reduce the incidence of alcoholism and other drug dependencies in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. This includes $2 million for grants and contracts with public or private detox centers that provide alcohol or drug treatment, including Na’Nizhoozhi Center in Gallup, New Mexico.

Resources to Fight Rising Drought— The bill provides $1 million for Water Resources to assess transboundary aquifers, providing new information for state and local officials to address pressing water resource challenges in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Indian Arts and Crafts Act Enforcement– The bill provides $2 million in additional funding for enforcement of federal laws prohibiting the trafficking of counterfeit Native American art in New Mexico and across the country. Udall held an Oversight Field Hearing in Santa Fe on this topic in July 2017.

Forest Health– Udall secured $3 million for forest health institutes, including at New Mexico Highlands University, to enhance the Forest Service’s capacity to execute practical science-based forest restoration treatments that will reduce the risk of severe wildfires, and improve the health of dry forest and woodland ecosystems in the West.

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund– The bill provides $10 million for grant funding to federally recognized Tribes for reclamation of abandoned mine lands that support economic development. These new dollars can help address high priority coal cleanup projects, as identified by the Navajo Nation.

National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities– The bill provides $155 million each for the NEA and NEH to support arts and humanities programs, an increase of $2 million per endowment. The increase was provided after the president once again proposed abolishing these programs, which support arts and cultural programs as well as thousands of jobs in New Mexico and across the country.

Chaco Canyon— The bill includes language to express Congress' support for the delay of the oil and gas lease around Chaco Historical Park until robust tribal consultation and historic preservation studies can be completed.

Acequias and Land Grants — The agreement includes report language requested by Udall and Heinrich that urges the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture Departments to recognize the traditional uses of land grant communities and acequia associations in New Mexico and other states in the American Southwest during the federal land use planning process.

National Landscape Conservation System— $39.8 million to effectively manage national monuments and special management areas, including Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains Desert Peak. This is a $3 million increase to the enacted level, the first since fiscal year 2016.

Overall Highlights

Tribal Programs—The bill provides $5.804 billion for the Indian Health Service, $267 million more than fiscal year 2018 and $380 million more than the President’s budget request.  The agreement provides $4.103 billion for health care services, an increase of $151 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.  Within that amount, the bill fully funds staffing needs for newly constructed health care facilities and includes $10 million in new funds for grants to tribes to address opioid and substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.   Contract support costs are fully funded at an estimated level of $822 million, an increase of $104 million above fiscal year 2018.  The agreement also funds health facilities construction and maintenance at $878.8 million.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)— The bill provides $8.849 billion for the EPA, $25 million more than fiscal year 2018 and $2.658 billion more than the President’s budget request.  The bill rejects the Administration’s proposals to cut research by 45 percent, grants by 48 percent, and enforcement of environmental and public health laws by 25 percent.  It also rejects the request to fund large scale buyouts of 3,500 agency scientists and health experts, which would have cut roughly 17 percent of the EPA’s total workforce.

The bill maintains funding for the State Revolving Funds at the fiscal year 2018 level, including $1.164 billion for Drinking Water and $1.694 billion for Clean Water.  The Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program is increased to support lending of $7.3 billion, $600 million more than fiscal year 2018.  The bill provides $25 million for lead contamination testing at schools and child care centers, $25 million for lead reduction projects in rural areas, and $15 million for water projects in communities working to improve compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is $15 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level for these three programs combined. 

National Park Service (NPS)— The bill provides $3.223 billion for the NPS, $20.5 million more than the fiscal year 2018 level and $521 million more than the President’s budget request.  National Heritage Areas funding is continued at the fiscal year 2018 level of $20.3 million and the Historic Preservation Fund is funded at $102.7 million, $5.7 million more than fiscal year 2018.  Within that amount, the bill provides $49.7 million for State Historical Preservation Offices, $14.5 million for Civil Rights site preservation grants, $8 million for grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, $13 million for Save America’s Treasures grants, and $5 million for historic revitalization grants.  The bill also provides $364.7 million to address construction and deferred maintenance needs at national parks, an increase of $5 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.