Chair Grijalva Secures Major Wins on Uranium Mining, Border Environmental Impacts as House Passes Crucial Environmental Funding Bills
Washington D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) successfully included two amendments to the recently approved H.R. 3055, the House of Representatives appropriations package for environmental and other agencies. One blocks implementation of a Trump executive order that could make it easier to mine uranium near the Grand Canyon and elsewhere in the U.S.; the other prevents the Department of the Interior from transferring jurisdiction over federal public lands to the Department of Homeland Security for the purposes of wall-building or other border enforcement.
Formally, Grijalva’s border amendment defunds the implementation of President Trump’s Feb. 15 presidential proclamation of a national emergency at our southern border. Section 2 of that proclamation reads as follows:
Sec. 2. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and, subject to the discretion of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretaries of the military departments, shall take all appropriate actions, consistent with applicable law, to use or support the use of the authorities herein invoked, including, if necessary, the transfer and acceptance of jurisdiction over border lands.
Grijalva’s other amendment, co-offered by Committee Vice Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Subcommittee Chair Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), states that no funds may be used to treat uranium as a “critical mineral” for the purposes of expedited permitting, or to offer other unnecessary giveaways to uranium mining companies under the administration’s critical mineral strategy.
H.R. 3055 includes five previously freestanding appropriations bills. Together, the package provides crucial funding for the Department of the Interior and to conservation and science programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which President Trump’s budget proposal nearly eliminates. The package also funds the departments of Commerce, Justice, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs, in addition to other related programs and agencies.
“I’m thankful for the work that the Appropriations Committee, led by Chair Nita Lowey and subcommittee Chair Betty McCollum, did to pass today’s bills in a way that elevates environmental issues and reflects the American people’s priorities,” Grijalva said. “A Democratic House majority means conservation and science get the funding they need, not starvation budgets and Republican excuses about keeping Big Oil happy. What a government chooses to support should reflect what the people value, and these bills reflect the public demand for action on climate change and strong conservation of our natural resources. These bills, and my amendments, put families and the environment first, and that’s what a responsible Congress should do.”
Additional Democratic priorities included in the bill that Chair Grijalva has championed include:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – Including Climate Change Research and Mitigation
The bill provides a total of $5.5 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including:
· Provides $186.5 million for NOAA climate research, an increase of $27.5 million over the FY 2019 level.
· Doubles funding for NOAA’s Title IX National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund from $30 million this year to $60 million in FY 2020. This competitive grant program funds natural infrastructure solutions to help protect coastal areas threatened by rising sea level and other impacts of climate change.
· Also includes a solid funding increase for NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management grants, providing $81 million for FY 2020.
· Provides increased funding to enhance the National Weather Service’s ability to accurately forecast extreme weather events.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
· The bill provides $13.79 billion in discretionary funding for the Interior Department – $833 million more than the current level and $2.41 billion above the President’s budget request.
National Park Service
· $3.39 billion is provided for the NPS, an increase of $649 million above the President’s request and $168 million more than the FY 2019 level.
· This includes $122 million for the Historic Preservation Fund for State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, Save America’s Treasure grants, civil rights site preservation grants and funds for HBCUs.
· It also includes funding to support 500 new staff at National Parks across the country.
Bureau of Land Management
· Provides $1.4 billion in discretionary funding for the Bureau of Land Management, an increase of $224 million above the President’s request and $66 million above the FY 2019 enacted level.
· Within this amount is $73 million for sage-grouse conservation – $5 million more than the current level and $28 million more than the President Trump’s budget request.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
· Provides $1.7 billion for USFWS – $324 million more than the President’s request.
· State and Tribal Wildlife Grants are funded at $71 million – $6 million more than the current level and more than $39 million above the President’s request.
LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND
· Provides $523.9 million for the LWCF, including $244 for the federal program and $280 million for the state program. This is $491 million more than the President’s request and $85 million above FY 2019.
· The LWCF has strong bipartisan support. It has protected conservation and recreation land in every state and supported tens of thousands of state and local projects.
WILDFIRE DISASTER FUNDING
· This bill provides $5.21 billion for wildland fire funding - which includes $2.25 billion in cap adjusted fire suppression funding. The total funding is $1.6 billion above FY 2019 and $49 million more than the President’s budget request.
· Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education: $3.5 billion, an increase of $739 million above President Trump’s budget request and $432 million above the FY 2019 enacted level.
· Indian Health Service: Provides $6.3 billion for the Indian Health Service, an increase of $537 million above the current level and $431 million more than the President’s request.
Increased Oversight Funds for Department of the Interior
Nearly $56 million for the Office of Inspector General, approximately $4 million above the enacted level and $4 million above the president’s budget. Report language directs the Department to use the increase of funds to hire auditors, investigators and mission support staff to meet workload requirements.
$1 million increase for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. This increase is directed to be used for the hiring of additional personnel to assist the Department with its compliance and backlog of FOIA requests.
Halting Trump’s Department of Interior Reorganization
The Interior funding bill denies funding for President Trump’s unjustified reorganization of the Department of the Interior, noting in the bill, “On numerous occasions the Committee has sought background information to substantiate the costs of the reorganization but has not received even the most rudimentary data explaining how such costs eventually pay for themselves or translate into better service for the American public.”
Oil Leasing at the Department of the Interior
The bill requires the Department of the Interior to report all regulatory waivers, departures, and alternative compliances it approves when issuing offshore drilling permits.
The bill also requires the Department of the Interior to set a revenue floor for any Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lease sale in FY 2020. The provision requires a minimum bid necessary to meet the Administration’s unrealistic revenue projections.
Requiring Environmental Review for Boundary Waters
Language included in the bill specifies that no action to advance mining in the Boundary Waters area of Minnesota should occur until outstanding questions are answered and a key environmental study is completed and reviewed:
“Until the departments address the question of whether mining, especially copper-sulfide ore mining, is appropriate on National Forest System lands in the Rainy River Watershed, no action to advance mining in this area should occur... Accordingly, the Committee directs the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Forest Service, to reinstate and complete the Rainy River Watershed mineral withdrawal study…. Further, the Committee directs that the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture shall…forego taking any action that would advance mining within the watershed during the period of study and review.”
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