As an avid outdoorsman, a clean environment and strong conservation programs are of the utmost concern to me. Protecting the environment can go hand in hand with our efforts to expand our economy. I am working with my colleagues in Congress to develop legislation that is based on sound science and will continue to aid us in our effort to maintain and strengthen our environment. It is one of my top priorities that we continue to balance growth with stewardship. By reducing rates of pollution in more cost-effective manners, we can ensure that our "green" policies are economically and environmentally sound.
Water Resources Development Act.
Coordinating the protection of our nation's water systems and ecological habitats is one of the most important tasks assigned to Congress. In order to meet this goal, Congress directs the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to not only manage the major navigable water was in the United States but also to provide oversight for ecosystem restoration as well as municipal water and wastewater infrastructure. In order to provide the Corps of Engineers with the sufficient tools and guidance to complete this mission, the House recently passed H.R. 1495, the Water Resources Development Act. This essential piece of legislation gives the Corps the authorization to study water resources problems, construct and design necessary solutions, and provide updates to the Congress on the progress of these activities. The priorities laid out in H.R. 1495 are crucial to maintaining and protecting our water infrastructure, which I was proud to vote in support of this bill when it was brought before the House and passed by a vote of 394-25 on April 19, 2007.
Unfortunately, the WRDA legislation was vetoed by the President on November 11, 2007. While I certainly understand and appreciate the fiscal concerns this legislation raises, the necessity of implementing strong environmental protections should not be overlooked. Like the President, I am seriously concerned about the fiscal situation facing our country. At the same time, however, we cannot overlook the important role the environment plays in both our economic and national security. As a result, I joined with 340 of my colleagues in the House to override the President's veto. The Senate followed suit several days later and WRDA was enacted into law despite objections from the Bush Administration.
Renewable Energy Standard.
Recently, the House considered comprehensive energy reform legislation. While I was unable to support the overall proposal, I was pleased to support an amendment offered by Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) that establishes a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for electric suppliers. This amendment would require electric utility companies, other than rural electric cooperatives and governmental entities, to provide 15 percent of their electricity using renewable energy resources by the year 2020. This policy, which builds on a RPS already in place in the Wisconsin, is an important tool that will diversify our country's energy portfolio, provide consumers with environmentally friendly and cost effective electricity, and encourage investment in alternative energy producing technology. At the same time, studies conducted by the Department of Energy show that a national RPS, such as the one proposed by the Udall amendment, would reduce the cost of natural gas. The Udall amendment was successfully included in these energy bills with my support by a vote of 220 to 190.
Protecting the Great Lakes.
As stated earlier, recent reports have indicated that there continue be serious issues facing the environmental health of the Great Lakes such a dangerous levels of bacteria and large blooms of algae. Given these outstanding issues, I was seriously concerned when it was reported that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management had issued a permit allowing British Petroleum (BP) to increase the amount of ammonia they were allowed to dump into Lake Michigan. With the lake systems currently plagued by pollutant such as mercury, PCBs, ammonia, DDT, and others I was extremely concerned that more of these toxic substances were going to be allowed into such an important water resource. In fact, the Great Lakes contain nearly 20 percent of the world's freshwater and supply more than 30 million Americans with their daily drinking water. To that end, I was proud to vote in support of legislation that expressed Congress' disapproval of this action and pleased to see it pass the House with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 387-26 on July 25, 2007. The Senate must take up this measure soon so that a clear message will be sent that Congress will not tolerate continued exploitation of such an important natural resource.
Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act.
The Great Lakes contain nearly 20 percent of the world's freshwater and supply more than 30 million Americans with their daily drinking water. Because of their great importance to our nation, it is essential that we do all we can to protect the lakes. That is why I have cosponsored legislation such as H.R. 1350, the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act. Overall, this bill provides $23 billion over 10 years to enact a comprehensive set of environmental protection initiatives, including measures to prevent pollution, control invasive species, and curtail the loss of wildlife habitats. Among other significant provisions include the following:
* $12 million for competitive grants designed to protect and conserve fish and wildlife habitat;
* $20 billion over five years to assist communities with upgrading and improving their wastewater infrastructure;
* $10 million per year for projects designed to lower the mercury content in the Great Lakes basin; and
* $50 million per year to help restore and remediate waterfront areas.
The funding would be distributed to a Great Lakes Advisory Board of governors, mayors, federal representatives and others that would distribute the funding among all of the Great Lakes states. This effort would be very complementary to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) ongoing efforts to coordinate the efforts of the Great Lake States. All levels of government and the private sector must continue to work together on this important initiative.
Many catfish farms began using Asian carp in the 1970s as a means of effectively removing algae and other build-up affecting overall pond function. Unfortunately, due to the large flooding in the area during the 1990s, many of the catfish farm ponds overflowed and released the Asian carp into nearby streams and the Mississippi River Basin. The carp have since made their way up the Mississippi River, competing with indigenous fish for resources and endangering local ecosystems.
Congress has already acted on this issue and is working with the Army Corps of Engineers in association with the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration to provide funding and assistance for mitigating the effects the Asian carp are having on the Great Lakes. Beginning in 2002, the Army Corps began construction on a temporary electric barrier as a means to slow the spread of the Asian carp. This barrier, which was built and activated in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, emits a pulsating current into the water that causes the Asian carp to turn back rather than continue upstream and into the Great Lakes Basin. This barrier has proven to be extremely effective at controlling the spread of the fish, and in 2004, Congress acted with my support to authorize $6.8 million to construct a permanent barrier. While this amount represents nearly 75 percent of the total estimated cost, the initial amount projected has proven to be insufficient to complete construction.
I have continued to support this important, multi-state project and have signed several letters to that extent. Protecting the Great Lakes from this aggressive invasive species is extremely important from both an ecological and economic perspective.
While the electronic barrier is a good first step, it is clear that more needs to be done. That is why I have cosponsored H.R. 553, the Great Lakes Asian Carp Barrier Act. This bill would direct the Secretary of the Army to upgrade and complete the barrier system and conduct a study on a range of options and technologies that would reduce the impacts or hazards that may reduce the effectiveness the barrier. The bill also provides a credit equal to the amount contributed by the state towards completing the barrier. Finally, the Army Corps of Engineers would be required to conduct a feasibility study of other options to prevent the spread of invasive species. Currently, H.R. 553 is pending in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure strong environmental and ecological protections are put in place to ensure the safety of the Great Lakes.
During the 110th Congress, I am serving as the Republican House Co-Chair of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. I am happy to serve in this capacity and believe in supporting policies that help sportsmen. Consisting of more than 300 members of Congress, the Caucus promotes and helps pass legislation that affects sportsmen. This includes issues that are related to conservation efforts, gun rights, and other hunting-related concerns.