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Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DICKS. I rise to state my opposition to H.R. 2584, the FY 2012 Interior and Environment appropriations bill.

But before I state the reasons for my strong opposition, I want to, again recognize Chairman Simpson, Ranking Member Moran and their staffs for all the hard work that was necessary to put together the FY 2012 Interior and Environment appropriations bill. I also want to repeat my gratitude to the majority for being inclusive when developing this bill.

That being said, however, the low allocation foisted on the Interior Subcommittee made it impossible to develop a bill that is responsible and reasonable, so it is no surprise that the resulting bill will harm the environment and our ongoing efforts to preserve America's natural heritage. Two key examples of this potential damage are that the bill includes the lowest level of spending in the Land and Water Conservation Fund in more than 40 years, and funding levels for EPA not seen in more than a decade.

Overall, the allocation for the bill is 7 percent below the amount enacted in the current year, a level that will have a negative impact on our natural resource agencies and on the Environmental Protection Agency. After the EPA took a substantial cut of 16 percent in the current fiscal year, 2011, the Republican majority is now proposing a further reduction in the agency's budget of 18 percent. You add that together, it's a 34-percent reduction in just this year.

This bill would substantially diminish the capacity of EPA to carry out its responsibilities, which may actually be the goal of some of my colleagues on the other side. But the repercussions will be felt across the Nation, including an ever-growing backlog of water treatment infrastructure projects and a decline in air and water quality.

As was pointed out in a recent Washington Post article, the vast majority of the EPA's funds pass through to States and localities that are already squeezed by budget cuts.

These infrastructure projects create jobs in communities all across the country and provide one of the most basic services taxpayers expect--clean water. The Bush administration's EPA administrator estimated that there was a $688 billion nationwide backlog of clean water infrastructure projects, and that total is even larger today. That backlog will not disappear if we just ignore it, but as we have seen in so many cases this year, the majority has decided to push this problem further down the road.

In addition to the clearly insufficient levels of funding across the board in this legislation, we were surprised that the majority also included a wish list of special interest riders to the bill that will handcuff the EPA and the Department of the Interior. These types of riders are largely ideological, have no impact on deficit reduction, and will be rejected by the Senate and the President, hopefully.

It seems that special interest riders have become the new earmarks--and I support earmarks. This bill was made even worse when the majority adopted more special interest riders with amendments that were approved at full committee, and I fear that there will be more policy amendments offered on the floor as we consider this bill.

One of the riders is language that would effectively block any funding to the Fish and Wildlife Service for new listings under the Endangered Species Act. As Mr. Moran said, there are 260 candidate species waiting to be listed, and they will not receive the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.


The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. MORAN. I yield 1 additional minute to the gentleman.

Mr. DICKS. Here is the situation that the Fish and Wildlife Service faces in the administration of the ESA. Speaking of that 260, of that total, there are just under 30 species that are poised for listing in the near future. The spending provisions in this bill would block further activity to protect these declining species. And remember, if you delay listing too long, a species will go extinct, thus making recovery impossible.

I also will be strongly supporting the amendments that aim to remove these riders. These amendments include an attempt to protect Grand Canyon National Park and the folks who depend on the Colorado River for drinking water from the potential danger from new uranium mines. Another amendment that I strongly support will increase funding for sanitation facilities for Native American communities.

In closing, I do want to reiterate my praise expressed at subcommittee mark for Chairman Simpson, Mr. Moran, Mr. Cole and other subcommittee members for the funding levels for programs serving American Indians. It is gratifying that this subcommittee's bipartisan commitment to tribal programs forged over the last few years has been continued by the new majority.


Mr. DICKS. I support my friend from Virginia's (Mr. Moran) amendment which would increase funding for the Indian Health Service sanitary facilities construction program. The amendment would provide $18 million for this important health program, which would bring the funding level back up to the enacted level for this year. The offset for this increase comes from a couple of programs that help support the private sector energy and livestock industries.

I think this amendment is a very good deal for the American taxpayer. And, by the way, if you've ever been out in Indian country, one of the problems that they have is a lack of sanitary facilities. I can think of the Skokomish Indians in my district in Mason County, Washington, where they have a very serious need for new sanitary facilities. And across Indian country, this is still a major problem. In fact, there was a group of scientists a few years ago who were asked, What was the greatest thing that happened in the 20th century to improve health care? They came up with sewers and sanitary facilities as the thing that improved health care around the world the most substantially.

The Indian Health Service program to construct sanitary facilities that would benefit from this amendment improves the lives of some of our poorest fellow citizens. The Indian Health Service program provides funding for people who often lack basic sanitary facilities, such as the delivery of potable water to their homes. For me, the choice is simple. I urge my colleagues to choose to help provide basic sanitation to Native Americans by making small cuts to programs that assist the energy and livestock industries. This is a good amendment and should be adopted.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. DICKS. I want to commend Chairman Simpson for opposing this
amendment. This is an amendment that goes way too far. This bill is $3.8 billion, almost $4 billion below what the President requested. It's $2 billion below the FY11 level, which we just passed a few months ago, and it would have a devastating effect on our environment.

When I hear people talk about growing the economy by cutting the budget, I wonder what school of economics they attended. In fact, there was an outstanding article just a few weeks ago in The New York Times that really laid out the basic problem we have in this economy, and that is that consumer spending has dropped by 7 percent. Normally, in previous recessions, it only went down 3 percent.

So then when you cut State and local government funding, when you cut Federal funding, you make a bad situation worse in terms of consumption. And that is why the economy has slowed down, and that's why it's not going to go up as a result of these kinds of reckless cuts being offered by the other side.

Let me give you one example. The former EPA administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, from New Jersey, did a study of what the backlog on wastewater treatment facilities was. And it was $688 billion, and this was in 2002. It's definitely gone up.

And yet we're slashing, and would slash again, the amount of money for the Clean Water Revolving Fund and the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund and the State and Tribal Assistance Grants. Those are exactly the programs that we should be plussing up in order to get people back to work. It's infrastructure. That's one thing we used to be able to agree on, both Democrats and Republicans in this House, that we need infrastructure work. This will put people to work.

How are you going to get the deficit down? Not by slashing government spending. You're going to get it by putting people back to work. When you put them back to work, they start paying taxes, they start buying goods, and that will drive down the deficit. It will drive down unemployment.

This reckless amendment from the gentleman from Kansas, again, would make this bad situation even worse in terms of job creation. So I am pleased that the majority is resisting this ill-thought-out amendment, and I urge its defeat.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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