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Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALMER. Madam Chair, I commend the gentleman from California for his and his colleagues' work on this bill.

Madam Chair, my amendment would eliminate funding for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant program, saving taxpayers $100 million. Funds from this program have gone to a number of questionable items, including $750,000 for cherry pickers in Utah, $1 million for electrified parking spaces at a truck stop in Delaware, and $1.2 for a new engine and generators for a 1950s locomotive in Pennsylvania.

This program was intended to be a short-term effort to assist States and local governments in meeting diesel emissions standards, but has joined a long list of temporary government programs for which there is no end in sight.

As Ronald Reagan famously said that, ``The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this Earth is a government program.''

One of the things I have learned as a freshman Member of Congress is that we have an office tasked with holding Federal agencies accountable and reporting on their programs. That office is the Government Accountability Office. One of the things that has surprised me is how rarely we act on their recommendations. I hope that won't be the case with this program.

The GAO has noted that funding to reduce diesel emissions is fragmented across 14 programs at the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Surely we can make do with one less.

The $100 million provided in this bill represents an increase of 100 percent compared to last year's bill and an increase of 100 percent compared to the omnibus bill passed in December.

With a national debt exceeding $19 trillion, and growing every day, we cannot afford to double the budget of a program that clearly duplicates, at least in part, 13 other programs, and has a marginal impact at best.

The program was originally authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and was reauthorized for 5 years in 2010. This authorization expired in fiscal year 2016, making any appropriation an unauthorized one.

Congress should not provide $100 million for a wasteful and unauthorized program, and I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.


Mr. PALMER. Madam Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's concerns. Over the last 30 years or so, the air quality in the United States has improved dramatically, despite the fact that we have seen huge increases in vehicle miles traveled, a 30-something percent increase in our GDP, and a 30-something percent increase in population. Yet, we have seen dramatic improvement in air quality, and I appreciate the fact that government programs have had a part to play in that.

In regard to the savings, the EPA has said that for every dollar we spend, we will get $14 in benefits. I would also like to point out that they also say that the Clean Power Plan will help the economy and that EPA regulations haven't lost jobs. I think the EPA estimates on savings are a little suspect.

The program was funded at $30 million in FY 2015 and $50 million in 2016. Now we are considering a bill to increase it to $100 million in 2017. We cannot afford to continue spending without limits and pretend as if there are no consequences. Keep in mind that there are 14 programs. Surely, we can consolidate these into one effective program.

I also think it is important to note that this was supposed to expire after the first authorization. It was reauthorized for 4 more years. And that expires this year, making any appropriation for FY 2017 another wasteful, unauthorized program.

The Republican Study Committee budget recommended elimination and noted that the grants have gone to a number of wasteful programs.


Mr. PALMER. May I inquire as to how much time I have remaining?


Mr. PALMER. In regard to the EPA, the gentleman from California cited an EPA finding on the benefits and my response to that--that it is not a regulatory program--but that is beside the fact. What it is, is a duplication of other programs. It is unauthorized and it is wasteful.

Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. PALMER. Madam Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.


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