June 16, 2015

Udall Statement Objecting to Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Funding Bill

Will offer amendments to remove damaging policy riders, address inadequate funding levels

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, announced that he will oppose the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior Appropriations bill unless it is amended to remove dangerous policy riders and address inadequate funding levels. Click HERE for more information about the bill.

At today's markup of the Subcommittee's bill, Udall said that while he appreciated that the bill includes strong funding for some New Mexico national parks and wildfire funding, he is "deeply disappointed" that the funding levels in the bill lock in sequestration and shortchange the National Park Service, Tribal education and health care, and other important programs. Udall has worked to eliminate the damaging across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.

He said he is even more concerned about several ideological policy riders added to the bill, which would undermine environmental laws that keep communities safe and set back efforts to reduce global warming emissions. "This bill takes dead aim at core environmental laws that have-for decades-protected the health of our communities, our families, and our environment," he said during today's subcommittee markup. "It weakens the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and other important laws, and would weaken them permanently."

Udall will offer amendments to remove the policy riders and deliver more realistic funding levels during a scheduled markup by the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

"I hope that we can address some of these concerns so that the Chairman and I can work together going forward to support the good things in this bill-like wildland firefighting reforms-and support the needs of our constituents back home," he said. "But until then, I want to make it clear that I oppose this bill and the damaging riders that it contains."

The following is Udall's opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Let me begin by saying-despite my deep objections to the bill that we're going to consider today, I'd like to thank my Chairman, Senator Murkowski.

I'd also like to thank her Subcommittee staff, including her clerk, Leif Fonnesbeck, and her professional staff, Emy Lesofski, Chris Tomassi, Nona McCoy, and LaShawnda Smith.

I'd also like to thank my Subcommittee staff-Rachael Taylor, Ryan Hunt, and Melissa Zimmerman, along with our staff assistant, Teri Curtin.

It's no secret that we have to deal with a number of very difficult issues in this bill. I really appreciate the fact that Chairman Murkowski and I can disagree-but that we still work together in an open and collegial manner.

I appreciate the funding she's provided in this bill for projects back home in New Mexico, including support for our two newest national parks, Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

I'm glad to see that this bill supports the President's request for $1 billion in supplemental firefighting funding.

And I'm also pleased to see that the bill includes a proposal to authorize disaster funding for wildland firefighting.

The reforms proposed for the wildland firefighting budget are a little different than the bipartisan legislation we've seen from Senators Wyden and Crapo-but the language that she has included will help us work toward the goal that I know we both share: ending the cycle of fire borrowing.

Even with these good things, however, I am deeply disappointed by this bill, and I cannot support it.

With respect to funding, this bill is more than $2 billion below the level that the President proposed. And the Subcommittee's funding level is still more than $1 billion below the level that this bill received in 2010 - six years ago.

We're not even keeping pace with inflation at the levels this bill provides.

I know Chairman Murkowski done her best to address the needs of agencies funded by this bill-given the amounts she had to spend. But it's clear that our allocation is forcing some very difficult choices.

We can see in this bill that locking in sequestration means that we end up underfunding education and health care for Tribal communities.

The budget caps don't allow enough funding to protect our treasured public lands or to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The allocation that we've been given has led to funding for water and sewer projects being slashed-at the same time our nation is in the midst of an infrastructure crisis.

The difficult choices in this bill underscore perfectly why it's so important that Democrats and Republicans join together to pass another Ryan-Murray budget deal and increase funding for discretionary spending priorities.

But the bigger problem with this bill is the ideological policy riders that it contains.

This bill takes dead aim at core environmental laws that have-for decades-protected the health of our communities, our families, and our environment. And for decades were bipartisan.

It weakens the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and other important laws.

And would weaken them permanently. Let me give you a few examples.

This bill includes a policy rider that guts the Administration's proposed Clean Power Plan to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

It blocks implementation of the Administration's Clean Water Rule -weakening protections for some of the nation's most important wetlands and drinking water sources.

It contains a provision that would delay the Administration's ability to set a new ozone standard, despite the well-known public health effects of ground level ozone.

It weakens the Federal Superfund law, the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act. And on, and on, and on.

Although many of these provisions are dressed up as funding limitations-what we're seeing here is nothing less than a back-door attempt to rewrite the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws.

These riders don't belong in the appropriations process. We need to do our work setting spending priorities for the agencies funded in this bill.

With that in mind, I'm willing to allow this Subcommittee move this bill forward today. I also support the Chairman's request to defer any amendments to this bill until we mark up in Full Committee on Thursday. Deferring amendments has been the tradition of this Subcommittee for many years.

But I want to put everyone on notice that I expect to offer amendments to strip out these troubling policy riders-and to address the Subcommittee's inadequate funding allocation on Thursday.

I hope that we can address some of these concerns so that the Chairman and I can work together going forward to support the good things in this bill-like wildland firefighting reforms-and support the needs of our constituents back home. And I know she's worked very hard on that.

I hope we can get there. But until then, I want to make it clear that I oppose this bill and the damaging riders that it contains.