February 2005 E-newsletter
My office is publishing this electronic newsletter as a way to keep you informed about what is happening in Washington and in the district. You can also log onto the congressional website at http://www.house.gov/markudall for more information about constituent services, upcoming events or to read recent statements on various issues. Please feel free to share this newsletter with friends or direct them to my website. I hope you will find this newsletter to be helpful and informative.
Thank you for your interest,
1. BUSH BUDGET IRRESPONSIBLE, OUT OF TOUCH WITH AMERICA'S REAL NEEDS
Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO) released the following statement in reaction to President Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2006:
"The President's budget continues more of the irresponsible fiscal policies that have plunged our nation into record debt and job losses. Insisting on a generous tax cut for the wealthiest Americans means there is less to invest in transportation, jobs, health care and education.
"The President's budget takes a meat cleaver to vital programs, cutting funding for education, transportation, environment, agriculture, law enforcement and health care. He proposes making permanent a tax cut targeted to help the wealthiest Americans and cutting the deficit in half in ten years. The numbers just don't add up; in fact, the President's budget doesn't even include future costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the trillions of dollars he wants to borrow to privatize Social Security.
"This budget sends the wrong message to our children. The President's budget will drown our nation in red ink as far as the eye can see. It will put our nation deeper into debt and make it harder to meet our growing health care, education, transportation, and homeland security needs. And the cuts in K-12 math and science education will make our children less competitive in the high-tech sector and the global economy.
"Congress should reject the President's budget and approve a financially sound blueprint that helps all Americans achieve financial security, invests in programs that create good paying jobs, lowers health care costs, improves education and protects our homeland."
2. BUSH ADMINISTRATION CUTS HUBBLE TELESCOPE FUNDING
Congressman Udall, ranking member of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, released the following statement regarding the Bush administration's plans to end the life of the Hubble telescope:
"I am greatly disappointed that the Bush administration's 2006 budget does not include funding for a Hubble repair mission.
"In my view, the best news of last year for Hubble was when the National Research Council report called it the most powerful astronomical facility ever built,' and recommended that NASA commit to a shuttle servicing mission to Hubble, one that would accomplish the objectives planned for the original mission, including the installation of the two new instruments.
"After all that we have learned from the Hubble assessment report and all that we know about Hubble's potential to produce even more spectacular science for years to come, it is incomprehensible to me that this administration would so hastily ignore the panel's scientific recommendations and shut down the planned repair mission.
"There has been a tremendous outcry from the academic community and scientists worldwide, as well as from the general public. As a member of the House Science Committee Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, I will fight to make sure that there is adequate funding for keeping Hubble alive and for making it more productive than it has ever been."
3. UDALL NAMED TO TOP DEMOCRATIC SLOT ON HOUSE SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE AND AERONAUTICS
Congressman Udall was named the top ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. As the top ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Udall will help oversee America's space exploration programs, including NASA, space policy and astronautical and aeronautical research and development programs.
This Subcommittee's primary jurisdiction includes: legislative, oversight, and investigative authority on all matters relating to astronautical and aeronautical research and development and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its contractors. Its jurisdiction also includes national space policy, international space cooperation, space commercialization, the National Space Council, space applications and space communications, including those related to Homeland Security, earth remote sensing policy, civil aviation research and development and demonstration programs of the Federal Aviation Administration and space law.
Udall will also serve on the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards, which oversees R&D programs at the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and technology programs at the Department of Commerce. NOAA and NIST have federal labs in Boulder, CO.
4. BIPARTISAN GROUP OF HOUSE AND SENATE MEMBERS WORK TO PROTECT STATE HUNTING, FISHING RIGHTS
Rep. Udall and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have teamed up to protect a state's right to regulate hunting and fishing within its own borders. The two lawmakers introduced legislation today to protect states from a recent court ruling that could possibly undermine the ability of each state to distinguish between residents and non-residents when issuing hunting and fishing licenses.
The cosponsors of the legislation include Senators John Ensign (R-NV), Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) Rep. Bill Otter (R-ID).
States have traditionally regulated hunting and fishing within their own borders. However, a recent ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals could undermine that right. The court called into question a state's authority to set different tag limits for residents and non-residents.
The bill would also affirm the traditional authority of individual states. The regulation of wildlife has traditionally been within a state's purview and the lawmakers said it is in the best interest of the state and federal governments to ensure that states retain the authority to regulate wildlife.
5. BILL WOULD GUARANTEE FULL FUNDING FOR PILT PROGRAM
U.S. Reps. Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs) and John Salazar (D-Manassa) have introduced legislation that would provide full, permanent funding for the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program, a program in which the Interior Department gives payments to counties to make up for property taxes they can't collect on federal lands that are located within their boundaries.
"Many rural counties rely heavily on PILT monies to fund a wide variety of services such as law enforcement, fire fighting, hospital care and education. President Bush's 2006 budge proposes a severe 12 percent cut in the funding available for PILT.
Currently, PILT is funded through a line item appropriation every year, which historically has fallen well below the amount authorized or necessary. For fiscal year 2004, Congress provided $224.3 million for PILT, which is about two-thirds of the $331 million authorized by law and calculated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). H.R. 788, The PILT and Refuge Revenue Sharing Permanent Funding Act, is similar to a bill that former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO) introduced in the 108th Congress. It would mandate that both PILT and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Refuge Revenue Sharing Program be funded at their fully authorized amounts, as determined every year by BLM.
While both programs are significant, PILT is particularly important for counties in Colorado and other states that include large expanses of federal lands. In 2004, counties in Colorado received more than $17.6 million out of a total of $225 million distributed nationwide.
The bill has been referred to the House Resources Committee, of which Udall is a member.
6. UDALL CALLS FOR END OF DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL'
Congressman Udall has joined a group of Capitol Hill lawmakers in sponsoring legislation which would overturn the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and replace it with a new law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the armed forces.
Udall said: "Our country's national security is stronger when every qualified American who wants to service is allowed to do so. This is a military readiness and a national security issue. As we continue to engage in the fight against terrorism, our nation cannot afford to lose qualified and dedicated troops, linguists and other specialists in the military. It's time that we end Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. It's wasting valuable talent, it's wasting American tax dollars, and it's eroding our military readiness."
H.R. 1059, The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, sponsored by Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA), repeals the 1994 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and replaces it with a non-discrimination policy in the U.S. armed forces. The bill also prohibits the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security from establishing, implementing or applying any personnel or administrative policies, or taking a personnel or administrative action, in whole or in part, on the basis of sexual orientation. It is designed to prevent the military from re-instituting discriminatory polices once "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed. In addition, the bill does not prevent the military from regulating conduct as long as it's done in a sexual orientation-neutral manner. Furthermore, the measure allows persons who have been discharged in the past for homosexuality or homosexual conduct to reapply for entry into the Armed Forces.
Introduction of the legislation comes on the heels of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which concludes that over 10,000 individuals have been discharged under the law. Eight-hundred specialists with critical skills have been fired, including 322 linguists, 54 of whom specialized in Arabic. Meanwhile, the DoD is spending $50 million annually to recruit and train linguists to fill critical shortages The report reveals that to date, Don't Ask Don't Tell has cost the government $191 million, which does not include costs associated with discharging officers, or trained, skilled specialists.
The bill has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee for action.
7. REACTION TO RESIGNATION OF CU PRESIDENT BETSY HOFFMAN
Congressman Udall, whose district includes the University of Colorado at Boulder, released the following statement regarding President Betsy Hoffman's resignation announcement:
"I respect President Hoffman's decision to step down. She was a tireless advocate for the University of Colorado at the federal level. I know she loved the job and dearly wanted to see the University through needed reforms in the athletic department and to move beyond the controversies that have embroiled CU.
"I know that those of us who care deeply about CU believe that the prospect of new leadership in the president's office will help the University begin the process of restoring public confidence."
8. UDALL SECURES $16 MILLION FOR TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS IN COLORADO
Congressman Udall announced that the federal transportation spending bill that the House approved on March 10 includes $16 million for projects in Colorado's Second Congressional District. H.R. 3, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (TEA-LU) is a blueprint for federal transportation funding for the next 4 years.
Udall's share of transportation funding includes:
* $5 million for U.S. 36 road improvements, safety enhancements, commuter rail, and HOV and Bus Rapid Transit lanes and bikeway improvements;
* $4 million for Interstate 70 to address capacity needs and improve safety from C-470 west to Glenwood Canyon, with a focus on environmental studies;
* $2 million for the U.S. 36/Wadsworth Interchange reconstruction in Broomfield;
* $1 million for the U.S. 36/McCaslin Blvd. Interchange reconstruction;
* $4 million to improve and widen State Highway 44 from Colorado Boulevard to State Highway Authorized funding for Bus Rapid Transit projects for U.S. 36 and Roaring Fork Valley.
H.R. 3 provides $284 billion through 2009 and provides $225.5 billion for highways and $52.3 billion for mass transit. Congress has delayed action on the bill for over a year because of disagreements over funding levels in separate House and Senate bills.
9. BILLS WOULD CLEAN UP ABANDONED HARDROCK MINES IN THE WEST
Congressman Udall has introduced legislation that would promote the cleanup of abandoned and inactive hard rock mines and improve the water quality of many rivers and streams in Colorado and throughout the west. This is Udall's third attempt at legislation to clean up mines, but this year he is introducing two separate but complementary bills which he hopes will make it easier to move them through Congress.
Many historic mines across the west are a source of environmental damage, leaching acids and heavy metals into streams and rivers. State and federal agencies have worked to remedy this problem, but the number of sites and the expense involved has made progress slow. Volunteer good Samaritans have been willing to clean up some of these sites, but they have been deterred by the potential liability exposure under existing water quality laws. Udall's legislation would remove financial and liability roadblocks that hamper cleanup efforts.
Under the first bill, the Abandoned Hardrock Mines Reclamation Funding Act, existing hardrock mineral producers that gross more than $500,000 annually would pay a sliding-scale fee that would go into the fund, which in turn would be used to help pay for the cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines. States that have not completed an inventory of these mines would be eligible for grants from this fund, up to $2 million annually, to assist in the completion of this inventory.
The second bill, The Abandoned Hardrock Mines Reclamation Facilitation Act, would create a new program under the Clean Water Act under which qualifying individuals and entities could obtain permits to conduct cleanups of abandoned or inactive hardrock mines. These permits would give some liability protection to volunteers to clean up these sites, while also requiring the permit holders to meet certain requirements. The permitee would have to create a plan on how the cleanup will occur, which would be subject to review by the EPA and the public. Permit-holders and contractors, including cooperating mining companies, would be shielded from some liability under existing law. Although the bill provides some liability protection, permit-holders would still be required to make sure that they do not adversely affect water quality through their efforts and would be held accountable if they did so.
Udall said that such protection would encourage more efforts to resolve problems like those at the Pennsylvania mine near Keystone, CO, where each minute, the tunnel of the mine releases between 30 and 200 gallons of orange-tinted, highly acidic water into Peru Creek. Volunteers abandoned their efforts to clean up the mine when they learned that they could be held liable under the Clean Water Act for creating a point-source discharge.
The bills also include a number of changes that Udall and his staff worked out with western states, the mining industry and the environmental community. Those changes include allowing mining companies to actively participate in the cleanup of mines, providing for a distribution of cleanup funds to western states to do the cleanup and providing an offset of the fee assessed on active mines in case a royalty is later assessed on hardrock mining on federal lands. Those doing the cleanup would also be able to recoup the value of any residual mineral assets discovered during the cleanup process.
The following are other examples of abandoned mine remediation efforts in Colorado that were discontinued based on a fear of liability (from Environmental Law Reporter, April 2003):
* Thomson Creek, Pitkin County. In 1987, the CO Division of Minerals and Geology (DMG) constructed a wetland treatment system at Thomson Creek. The wetland is still functioning, but the DMG won't undertake any maintenance work to extend the life and utility of the wetland out of fear of Clean Water Act (CWA) liability.
* Creed, CO. In 1991, DMG created a demonstration wetland project near Creed to reduce heavy metal loading from a mine. DMG determined that the wetland shouldn't be activated due to CWA liability. The wetland is not functioning and needs to be rehabilitated. No one is willing to assume responsibility.
* Boston Mine, La Plata County--In 1992, the DMG built a wetland to treat acid coal mine drainage. The system was overwhelmed by the high volume of metals in the water and DMG refused to refurbish the system out of fear of CWA liability.
* Marshall #5 Mine in Boulder County--DMG built a wetland designed to reduce metal loading from an abandoned coal mine. In order to activate the system, the DMG needed the relevant water rights holder to agree to divert water into the treatment system. Fearing liability under the CWA, the water rights holder refused to agree to divert the needed water. As a result the wetlands, while constructed, remain unused.
* Animas River Stakeholders Group, a non-profit in Silverton, CO, has avoided direct treatment projects in the area because of fear of CWA liability.
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Member of Congress