CONSOLIDATED SECURITY, DISASTER ASSISTANCE, AND CONTINUING APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009 -- (House of Representatives - September 24, 2008)
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, while there are some positive steps taken in this legislation to help those hurt by recent disasters, additional funding for cleaning up unexploded ordnance around the country, and some important funding for our veterans, I am extremely disappointed that this bill does not include an extension of the Secure Rural Schools program. The expiration of this program would be a true disaster for my state of Oregon. While the Pacific Northwest states may be the hardest hit by expiration of the program, more than 40 other states from California to Louisiana to Texas will also feel significant impacts.
Clackamas County, in my district, could lose nearly $12.5 million in funding that is crucial to its public and ecological health. In addition to having to lay off teachers and other school employees, other important county programs will be curtailed. Clackamas has already discontinued their road maintenance program this year. The county is also planning to close community health clinics because it is unable to continue the necessary level of funding.
I hope that the House leadership will figure out some way to extend this safety net for rural counties before the end of the year.
I also oppose this bill because it is letting our decades-long moratorium on drilling offshore expire. This means that, starting next week, the Interior Department can prepare leases for oil rigs as close as 3 miles off our coasts.
While I may disagree with my Republican colleagues about the environmental and economic impact of drilling on our nation's coasts, there is little disagreement about how this will impact gas prices--because it won't.
Even the Bush administration's own Department of Energy agrees that more drilling will make no difference for at least a decade, and even then any impact on the price at the pump would be insignificant.
I had hoped that we would at least be able to include provisions of the House-passed energy bill that extended the moratorium to 50 miles off shore, but it appears that even that reasonable compromise is not enough for those who want to keep America addicted to oil.
I don't think this is the end of the story, and I hope the new Congress and new administration will move quickly to enact sensible protections for our coastal communities.
Lastly, I feel that holding funding to fiscal year 2008 levels for many important domestic programs from education to health to transportation will further hurt families at a time when they are already being squeezed by higher food and energy prices and a slumping economy.