Our ENS Federal Report provides a summary and the status on select legislative and regulatory actions.
We normally issue a Report when both Chambers are in session.
ENS Federal Report – June 23, 2017
This week, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke defended the department’s $11.7 billion Fiscal Year 2018 when he appeared before House and Senate committees. In the course of the hearings, committee members expressed skepticism over the budget’s funding of staff suggesting that the 4,000 staff position cuts envisioned threatened the Interior’s ability to meet federal lands management responsibilities. The proposed reductions in force are consistent with a mandate from the White House to department and agency heads to report to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with a comprehensive plan to achieve near-term workforce reductions and cost savings. Draft agency and department plans must be submitted to OMB by June 30th with a detailed final plan presented by September.
Responding to the concerns, Zinke stated that he supports the need to shrink middle and upper management in Washington and to shift personnel to state and local offices where their expertise is needed most.
Earlier this week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced plans to eliminate over 1,200 employees by early September through buyouts and early retirements. The Administration has proposed a 31 percent cut to USEPA’s budget for FY 2018.
House Republicans to Discuss Options for Moving FY 2018 Spending Bills
The House Republican Conference continued internal discussions this week over the path forward for Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bills. According to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), several options are being discussed, all involving the bundling of individual spending bills with the intent to get most of the “heavy lifting” done prior to the August recess.
Next week, Republicans on the House Committee on Budget are expected to release a budget resolution calling for a $150 billion cut to mandatory (Medicaid and other entitlement programs) spending over the next ten years. It is reported that the resolution will set spending levels at $511 billion for domestic discretionary programs that includes environmental programs. If the overall spending number is adopted, it would represent a $4 billion cut from the FY 2017 budget, suggesting that spending reductions envisioned under the Trump budget would be formally rejected under the budget resolution.
Forest Health/Wildfire Protection and Water Storage Legislation Secure House Passage
The House voted 233-180 to pass H.R. 1654, which would establish the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as the lead agency for the purposes of coordinating all reviews, analyses, opinions, statements, permits, licenses, or other approvals or decisions required under federal law for new construction or expansions of dams, and above-ground water storage on federal land.
The House voted 300-118 to pass H.R. 1837, which would allow electric utilities to submit to the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management long-term management plans to guide vegetation control and maintenance activities on or adjacent to rights-of-way containing electrical infrastructure on federal lands. The bill would expedite the removal of hazardous trees or other vegetative overgrowth the risk of forest fires and electrical grid blackouts. The legislation now proceeds to the Senate.
House Moves Energy Legislation
On June 22, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy moved five energy bills to the full committee. Full committee action on the legislation has yet to be announced. The Subcommittee approved:
H.R. ____, Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017. The discussion draft would modernize federal policies by designating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency for licensing hydropower projects.
H.R.____, Enhancing State Energy Security Planning and Emergency Preparedness Act. The discussion draft would enhance the energy emergency planning requirements of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to strengthen the capability of states to secure the energy infrastructure of the United States against physical and cybersecurity threats; and mitigate the risk of energy supply disruptions.
H.R. 2786, to would promote the development of small conduit hydropower facilities.
H.R. 2883, Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act would establish a predictable and transparent process to permit the construction of cross-border pipelines and electric transmission facilities.
H.R. 2910, Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act would promote better coordination among FERC and other agencies involved in siting interstate natural gas pipelines
Department of the Interior Seeks Input on Regulatory Repeal-Replacement-Modification Process
On June 22, the U.S. Department of the Interior (USDOI) published a request for information in the Federal Register seeking public comment on how to the USDOI can “improve the implementation of regulatory reform initiatives and policies and identify regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification.” This action complies with President Trump’s Executive Order (E.O.13777) – Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda. No deadline for the submittal of comments was provided in the notice.
Administration Appointments Announced
Brock Long as Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was approved by a 95-4 vote in the Senate on Tuesday.
Dennis Lee Forsgren, Jr. was appointed to become Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water. Forsgren spent several years working on Capitol Hill for the House Committees on Transportation & Infrastructure and Natural Resources. He also served as Assistant Administrator for Legislative Affairs at National Aeronautic and Space Administration from 2003-2005. The appointment is not Senate confirmable.
Next Week in Congress
Senate Committee on Appropriations hearing on the USEPA budget
House Committee on Natural Resources markup of H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 (Rep. Bruce Westerman R-AR), which seeks to provide additional management options to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire federal forests managed under the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
House Committee on Natural Resources hearing on Examining Policy Impacts of Excessive Litigation Against the Department of the Interior
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Nutrition and Forestry – hearing on Conservation and Forestry: Perspectives on the Past and Future Direction for the 2018 Farm Bill