STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - July 30, 2007)
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By Mr. McCain:
S. 1900. A bill to authorize appropriations for the United States Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Mr. McCain. Mr. President, I am pleased to introduce legislation to continue Federal support for the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution. Congressman Grijalva has introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives.
In 1998, the Congress enacted legislation to establish the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution with the purpose of offering an alternative to litigation for parties in dispute over environmental conflicts. As we know, many environmental conflicts often result in lengthy and costly court proceedings and may take years to resolve. In cases involving Federal Government agencies, the costs for court proceeding are usually paid for by taxpayers. While litigation is still a recourse to resolve disputes, the Congress recognized the need for alternatives, such as mediation and facilitated collaboration, to address the rising number of environmental conflicts
that have clogged Federal courts, executive agencies, and the Congress.
The Institute was placed at the Morris K. Udall Foundation in recognition of former Representative Morris K. Udall from Arizona and his exceptional environmental record, as well as his unusual ability to build a consensus among fractious and even hostile interests. The Institute was established as an experiment with the idea that hidden within fractured environmental debates lay the seeds for many agreements, an approach applied by Mo Udall with unsurpassed ability.
The success of the institute is far greater than we could have imagined. The institute began operations in 1999. Agencies from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Interior and Agriculture, the U.S. Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and others have all called upon the Institute for assistance.
Among its many accomplishments, the Institution has also assisted in facilitating interagency teamwork for the Everglades Task Force which oversees the South Everglades Restoration Project. The U.S. Forest Service requested assistance to bring ranchers and environmental advocates in the southwest to work on grazing and environmental compliance issues. Even Members of Congress have sought the institute's assistance to review implementation of the Nation's fundamental environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, to assess how it can be improved using collaborative processes.
The demand on the institute's assistance had been much greater than anticipated. At the time the Institute was created, we did not anticipate the magnitude of the role it would serve to the Federal Government. The institute has served as a mediator between agencies and as an advisor to agency dispute resolution efforts involving overlapping or competing jurisdictions and mandates, developing long-term solutions, training personnel in consensus-building efforts, and designing international systems for preventing or resolving disputes.
This legislation simply extends the authorization for the Institute for an additional 5 years. Support for the institute's service is an investment that will ultimately benefit the taxpayers by preventing costly litigation. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.