Print Friendly, PDF & Email

House Appropriations Committee Approves Budget Top-Line Numbers

This week, the House Committee on Appropriations approved fiscal year 2020 budget topline numbers for the twelve appropriations bills.  The numbers were approved 30-22.  It is the desire of Democrat Party leadership to have the twelve FY2020 appropriations bills on the House floor by June.

The committee has already begun FY2020 appropriations work, reporting out FY2020 appropriations bills for Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch this week.  As part of the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill, $60 million in funding is directed to clean up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found at military bases.

Below are the approved top-line budget numbers.

  • Agriculture-FDA $24.3 billion, a 6 percent increase over current levels.
  • Financial Services – $24.6 billion, a 5 percent increase over current levels.
  • Commerce-Justice-Science – $66.4 billion, 4 percent increase over current levels.
  • Defense $622 billion, a 3 percent increase over current levels.
  • Labor-HHS-Education – $189.9 billion, a 6 percent increase over current levels.
  • Homeland Security $49.7 billion, a less than 1 percent increase over current levels.
  • Energy-Water – $46.4 billion, a 4 percent increase over current levels.
  • Interior-Environment $37.3 billion, a 5 percent increase over current.
  • State-Foreign Operations $48.4 billion, a 5 percent increase over current levels.
  • Transportation-HUD – $75.8 billion, a 7 percent increase over current levels.
  • Military Construction-VA $105.2 billion, an 8 percent increase over current levels.
  • Legislative Branch$4.9 billion, a 2 percent increase over current levels.

House Committee Examines Wildfire Issues and Community Options

On May 9, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held an oversight hearing on Wildfire Resilient Communities.

During the hearing, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) expressed the need to increase “survivability” of communities from the threat of major wildfires and the importance of collaboration to improve forest health.  Patti Hirami, Acting Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), testified that this year USFS has “treated more than 1.05 million acres to reduce hazardous fuels and we are on track to meet our target of 3.4 million acres for the year.”  In addition, Hirami highlighted the need for Congress to support additional funding to address over $5.2 billion in deferred maintenance on roads, and bridges that are critical to providing access to federal lands for wildfire response and management activities.

Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) highlighted a partnership between the USFS and Denver Water to protect sensitive watersheds from high-intensity wildfires.  Representative Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) stressed the importance to increase the pace and scale of forest management to reduce the threat to communities from wildfire.

Additional testimony was provided by: Dr. Ray Rasker, Executive Director for Headwater Economics (Montana); Dr. Steve Quarles, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety; Marko Bey, Executive Director, Lomakatsi Restoration Project (Oregon); and, Brian Veerkamp, Supervisor, El Dorado County.

On May 8, Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced the Resilient Federal Forests Act (H.R. XXXX).  Key provisions include:

  • Action/No-Action environmental analysis for collaboratively developed projects.
  • Categorical Exclusion to expedite the creation of early seral habitat for critical wildlife habitat improvement.
  • The establishment of a pilot arbitration program as an alternative to litigation.

House Approves Disaster Assistance Measure

This week, the House approved a new disaster aid bill (H.R. 2157) by a vote of 257-150.  Attempts by Congress to pass a $17 billion federal disaster relief bill had been stalled due to a clash between President Trump and Democrats over disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated that the Senate must pass the disaster aid package before the Memorial Day recess.

H.R. 2157 includes the following provisions:

  • $600 million for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, $25.2 million for the Commonwealth;
  • For the Northern Mariana Islands, $5 million for American Samoa for disaster nutrition assistance in response to the Presidential declared major disasters and emergencies;
  • $500 million for the Emergency Conservation Program for efforts related to Hurricanes Michael and Florence and of wildfires occurring in 2018 (this includes funding for USFS wildfire suppression); and,
  • A four-month extension of the National Flood Insurance Program.

WOTUS Timetable Update

This week, it was reported that Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division Jeffrey Clark stated that the repeal and replacement process for the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule will be finalized by the end of this year.  For the last two years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been undergoing a two-step process to repeal and replace the 2015 WOTUS rule.

Under the Clean Water Act, WOTUS determines which of the nation’s waterways and water bodies fall under federal jurisdiction.  In 2015, the rule was revised and expanded the rule’s federal jurisdictional scope.  Opponents of the 2015 rule change argue that the 2015 change equates to an overreach of federal authority.

Legislative Activity This Week

H.R. 2440, Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act. – House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure reported out the bill by voice-vote.

New Legislation

H.R. 2533, To assist community water systems affected by PFAS contamination, and for other purposes. – Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)

H.R. 2566, To require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to revise the Safer Choice Standard to provide for a Safer Choice label for pots, pans, and cooking utensils that do not contain PFAS, and for other purposes. – Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL)

H.R. 2577, To amend the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 to include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances on the Toxics Release Inventory, and for other purposes. – Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY)

S. XXXX, PFAS Accountability Act. – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Reports and Regulation

USBR New Grant Opportunity – Bureau of Reclamation makes up to $3 million available for 2019 Water Marketing Strategy Grants funding opportunity

Forest fires accelerating snowmelt across Western US (Nature) – Article on the findings that forest fires are causing accelerated snowmelt due to decreased canopy cover.

Congress Next Week

May 15, 2019

House Committee on Natural Resources – Hearing on U.S. Department of the Interior Budget and Policy Priorities for FY 2020

Senate Committee on Appropriations – Hearing on Budget U.S. Forest Service FY2020 Budget Request

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – Oversight Hearing on CEQ

House Committee on Appropriations – Subcommittees on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies, and Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Mark Ups of FY2020 Appropriations Bills

May 16, 2019

House Committee on Natural Resources – Hearing on Examining the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Proposal for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Geological Survey

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology – Hearing on The Future of Forecasting: Building A Stronger U.S. Weather Enterprise