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Reed and Murkowski Release Chairman's Mark of Interior, Environment & Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

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Location: Washington, DC

Today, Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) jointly released the starting point for their FY 2015 funding bill. Known as the "Chairman's mark," this draft recommends funding levels and serves as the basis of the subcommittee's appropriations bill for the new fiscal year, which begins in October.

Reed and Murkowski issued a joint statement: "Today we release the Chairman's mark of the Fiscal Year 2015 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. While we recognize that Congress is still debating proposals relating to the wildland firefighting budget that could significantly impact our work, we want to offer this draft document as an important step towards the negotiation of a fiscally responsible and balanced Fiscal Year 2015 Interior appropriations bill. This draft bill supports key programs to protect the health of our economy and environment and we are committed to working together with our colleagues on the complex issues in this bill to better manage our nation's resources."

Overall, the draft bill provides $30.644 billion, an increase of $586 million above the funding level for fiscal year 2014. Highlights include $10.8 billion for the U.S. Department of the Interior, which includes expenses for the National Park Service ($2.63 billion) and the Fish and Wildlife Service ($1.45 billion). The draft bill also provides $8.18 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Included in the EPA allotment is $1.4 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $907 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which help create jobs and provide clean water to communities throughout the country by supporting water infrastructure modernization projects. At this level of funding, Reed estimated that Rhode Island could receive about $18 million for local clean water projects throughout the state.

The draft bill also makes available more than $4.25 billion for firefighting and hazardous fuels reduction activities on federal lands, including fully funding the President's request for wildfire suppression for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior. The draft bill includes a bipartisan proposal to authorize wildfire suppression as an eligible activity for disaster funding.

To strengthen cultural programs and support the arts, the bill includes $825 million for Smithsonian Institution programs and facilities construction. It also provides $150 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support arts and humanities programs.

"I'm pleased to release a draft bill that will help advance economic growth while protecting public health and the environment. We need to make smart investments in America's scientific, natural, and cultural resources and this bipartisan blueprint is a step in the right direction," said Chairman Reed.

Reed also noted the draft bill contains key funds that, if enacted, will benefit Rhode Island environmental priorities: funding for the operations of national wildlife refuges; $90 million for Brownfields projects to help clean up contaminated land, create jobs, and protect public health; and funds for Heritage Area Partnership programs. Within the latter category, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor funds will be continued at $650,000.

To help keep the Ocean State's coastal water clean and ensure beachgoers can safely swim, Reed included $9.5 million nationwide for the Beaches Protection grants program.

He also included $27 million for the National Estuary Program. Individual amounts for the 28 estuaries will be set by EPA, but the bill includes a funding level that would allow the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program to receive about $600,000. The state will also benefit from $8 million for the Southern New England Estuaries Geographic Program, which will provide grants to Rhode Island and Massachusetts stakeholders to work on watershed restoration projects.

Lastly, Reed included language in the Chairman's mark authorizing the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and National Historical Park. However, Reed noted it would be an uphill fight to keep this provision of the bill in the final version because the House of Representatives in previous years has been unwilling to create a new national historical park through the Interior appropriations bill.

SUMMARY: Interior & Environment Chairman's Mark provides $30.644 billion, an increase of $586 million above the funding level for fiscal year 2014.

$10.8 billion for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Included in this funding are expenses for the National Park Service ($2.63 billion), the Fish and Wildlife Service ($1.45 billion), and the Bureau of Land Management ($1.1 billion).

$8.18 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Included in the funding for EPA is $1.4 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $907 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which helps create jobs and provide clean water to communities throughout the country by supporting water infrastructure modernization projects.

$4.25 billion for firefighting and hazardous fuels reduction activities on federal lands, including fully funding the President's request for fire suppression requirements for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior. The draft also includes language to authorize wildfire suppression as an eligible activity for disaster funding.

$5.58 billion for U.S. Forest Service programs, including funding for the operations of national forests and forestry grants for States.

$7.1 billion for American Indian and Alaska Native Programs to help improve the quality and accessibility of education, health care, and law enforcement programs.

$825 million for Smithsonian Institution programs and facilities construction.

$150 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support arts and humanities programs.

$340 million to the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service for the purchase and protection of lands through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

$475 million for the operations of national wildlife refuges funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

$20.3 million for Heritage Area Partnership programs funded by the National Park Service. Within this amount, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historic Corridor area funds will be continued at the current level of $650,000.

$9.5 million to restore proposed cuts to the EPA Beaches Protection grants program.

$1.054 billion for EPA categorical environmental grants to states. Within this amount air quality grants receive $228 million, water pollution control grants receive $231 million and nonpoint source grants receive $159 million.

$8.7 million to restore proposed cuts to the EPA Environmental Education grants program.

$27 million for the National Estuary Program. Individual amounts for the 28 estuaries will be set by EPA, but the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program is estimated to receive about $600,000.

$8 million for the Southern New England Estuaries Geographic Program, which will provide grants to RI/MA stakeholders to work on watershed restoration projects.

Language continuing a "Buy America" preference for iron and steel products used in projects that utilize the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.
$90 million for Brownfields projects to help clean up contaminated land, create jobs, and protect public health.

Language authorizing the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and National Historical Park.

The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill and the accompanying report in mid-July. The House bill provides $30.2 billion, and seeks to slash Environmental Protection Agency funding by $717 million from last year's level, a 9 percent cut. The House version also contains several controversial language items.


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