- Annual spending bill includes millions for California priorities like fire suppression, water infrastructure, and air quality -
Oct 29 2009
Washington, DC – The Senate has approved the Conference Report for the Fiscal Year 2010 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced today. Senator Feinstein chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, which authored the annual spending bill in the Senate.
The conference agreement also includes a stop-gap spending measure, called a Continuing Resolution, which extends the 2009 Fiscal Year until December 18.
The House approved the legislation on Thursday, and it will now be sent to the President for his signature.
“This spending bill will be the largest investment in our nation’s infrastructure and environment in decades – with considerable increases for clean water and sewer projects, wildfire suppression, Indian public health, and America’s public lands,” Senator Feinstein said. “I’d like to thank my colleague, Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, for his help in crafting this bill and getting it passed.
“One important part of this bill is the extension of the Continuing Resolution, which expires at midnight on Friday – so it was critical that we adopt the conference agreement and send it to the White House to be signed into law.”
The spending bill conference agreement will total $32.24 billion, which is $4.7 billion (or 17 percent) above enacted FY 2009 levels.
Among some of the bill’s key funding provisions:
- $3.6 billion for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure – an increase of $1.6 billion, or 119 percent, above the enacted 2009 level.
- $1.855 billion for Interior Department and Forest Service fire suppression activities – an increase of $526 million, or 40 percent, above the enacted 2009 level.
- $6 billion for basic operations at National Parks, National Forests, and National Wildlife Refuges and on Bureau of Land Management lands – an increase of $350 million, or 6 percent, above the enacted 2009 level.
- $6.7 billion for the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs – an increase of $670 million, or 11 percent, above the enacted 2009 level.
Below are some of the highlights of the funding provisions included in the bill. A detailed summary of the bill is available online at the Senate Appropriations Committee website (http://appropriations.senate.gov/).
The bill includes a total of $3.6 billion for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. That’s an increase of $1.9 billion, or 119 percent, above the 2009 level.
“It’s unacceptable that a number of communities across the country still lack reliable access to clean drinking water in the 21st Century,” Senator Feinstein said. “The funding will allow state and local water authorities to begin to tackle 1,479 critical drinking water and sewer infrastructure projects. And, when you factor in the $6 billion that was included in the stimulus bill, we are providing nearly $10 billion this calendar year to state and local water authorities. That’s a major investment in our public infrastructure and will also have the benefit of generating thousands of new jobs.”
The bill also contains significant funding for California water infrastructure projects requested by Senator Feinstein, including:
- $875,000 for the East Palo Alto Water Supply Improvement Project (East Palo Alto, CA)
- $875,000 for the Martin Slough Interceptor Project (Eureka, CA) (jointly requested with Senator Boxer)
- $875,000 for the Santa Monica Water System Reliability Project (Santa Monica, CA)
- $875,000 for Elk Trail Water System Improvements (Shasta County, CA)
- $875,000 for the South Orange Coastal Ocean Water Desalination Project (Fountain Valley, CA) (jointly requested with Senator Boxer)
- $875,000 for Westminster Stormwater System Improvements (Westminster, CA)
- $7,000,000 for the San Francisco Bay Restoration Grants (Senator Feinstein requested an increase of $1 million over the President’s budget request)
Firefighting and fuels reduction on federal lands:
“Catastrophic wildfires are a real and growing threat to the Western United States, and pose a grave danger to lives, property and our precious wilderness,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s vital that we reduce the risk by removing the hazardous fuels that feed these fires, fuels such as dead, downed and dying trees and shrubs. This bill will do exactly that by enabling the Forest Service and Interior Department to reduce hazardous fuels on 3.5 million acres of federal lands at risk of wildfire.
“And for the first time in a decade, the bill will provide our federal firefighters with the suppression funds they need at the front end of fire season. The $1.8 billion in this bill for fire suppression means our firefighters won’t have to borrow from other federal accounts, as they have in recent years, so they can do their important work without the added burden of wondering where the money will come from.”
The conference agreement provides a total of $1.8 billion for Interior Department and Forest Service fire suppression activities. That’s an increase of $527 million, or 40 percent, above the 2009 level.
Within those amounts, $474 million is designated for newly authorized Wildfire Suppression Reserve Fund accounts for the two departments, as authorized by the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act (FLAME) Act of 2009, included in Title V of the bill. The FLAME Act of 2009 includes a number of firefighting budget reforms to help create a dedicated, steady and predictable funding stream for wildfire suppression activities. FLAME Act Funds have been established through the bill for the Forest Service and Department of the Interior to cover the costs of large or complex wildfire events and as a reserve when amounts provided for wildfire suppression and Federal emergency response in the regular Wildland Fire Management appropriation accounts are exhausted.
The bill includes a total of $556 million for hazardous fuels reduction work on federal lands, an increase of $36 million, or 7 percent, above the budget request. Within that amounts is $10 million for the newly authorized Forest Landscape Restoration Act, which was enacted as part of the Omnibus Public Lands bill of 2009. The new law established a funding mechanism for consensus-based forest restoration projects for 50,000 acres or more (landscape-scale) that are designed to benefit local economies. It also provides $110 million for State Fire Assistance grants, a $20 million increase above 2009.
The bill contains millions in funding requested by Senator Feinstein for California projects to help address the threat of catastrophic fires, including:
- $5,000,000 for the Lake Tahoe Community Fire Protection Project to help water agencies in the Tahoe Basin improve their water distribution systems in order to better prepare for fire danger (President’s budget requested $1 million; Senators Feinstein and Boxer jointly requested an additional $4 million)
- $5,000,000 for California Fire Safe Councils Community Fire Risk Reduction Grants to implement community fire plans (President’s budget requested $3 million; Senator Feinstein requested $2 million)
- $2,500,000 for small forest products infrastructure assistance grants to clear U.S. Forest Service lands of hazardous fuels and provide assistance to transport the fuels to sawmills
- $500,000 for the Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS) biomass program to decrease the risk of catastrophic fire in Calaveras County
The bill includes $10 million in emissions reductions grants for California: $5 million for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and $5 million for the South Coast Air Quality Management District – both of which have pollution levels that are ranked among the worst in the nation.
The bill also includes a new $10 million competitive grant program for air quality districts ranked in the top five for annual ozone or particulate matter pollution, for which multiple California air districts can compete.
“California’s South Coast region and the San Joaquin Valley are the only two non-attainment air quality areas in the country that EPA has proposed to designate as ‘extreme’ for ozone pollution, and also have the highest levels of fine particulate matter pollution in the country. This means that these regions could lose federal highway funds as soon as 2011. This terrible air pollution leads to serious adverse health risks, such as increased cancer rates (exceeding 1 in 400 near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach), primarily caused by diesel emissions. This is deeply troubling and a real public health crisis,” Senator Feinstein said. “The California Air Resources Board estimates that achieving Clean Air Act attainment status would prevent as many as 3,500 premature deaths, thousands of hospital admissions, and lost workdays due to respiratory illnesses each year. This federal funding will go a long way towards helping these communities meet this urgent and difficult task.”
Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard Cleanup:
The bill includes $8 million for Hunters Point Naval Shipyard Remediation in San Francisco, CA. This funding is consistent with the previous two years of enacted federal spending in the Interior bill.
“We know that a transformed Hunters Point could be a welcome addition to the Bay Area community, with the promise of new jobs, economic development, parks and affordable housing – but the effort to clean up this former naval shipyard is still ongoing. These funds will ensure that the federal government continues to do its share in the cleanup effort.”
Bolstering our public land management agencies:
The bill provides a total of $6 billion for basic operations at National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and on Bureau of Land Management lands. That’s an increase of $350 million, or 6 percent, above the 2009 level, and includes $160 million to cover the full amount of fixed costs incurred by the agencies.
The funding in the bill will allow, for example, the National Park Service to retain 3,000 park rangers, law enforcement rangers and maintenance personnel as part of the Service-wide effort to prepare the parks for the Centennial in 2016. The Fish and Wildlife Service will receive the funding necessary to conduct endangered species consultations, habitat conservation projects and address in earnest its climate change initiative.
The bill will also provide more than $10 million to help the Park Service to continue the drug eradication program started last year – so that law enforcement personnel can work with other federal and state agencies to eradicate illegal drug operations in national parks.
Protecting public lands through the Land and Water Conservation Fund:
The bill provides a total of $450 million for Land and Water Conservation Fund activities. That’s an increase of $158 million above the 2009 level. Direct protection and conservation of land through acquisitions at the 4 federal land management agencies totals $278 million. In addition, the bill provides $76 million for conservation easements through the Forest Legacy program; $56 million through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund for acquisitions associated with Habitat Conservation Plans; and $40 million for state grants through the Park Service’s State Assistance program.
Helping the most vulnerable in Indian Country:
The bill provides a total of $6.6 billion for the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. That’s an increase of $670 million, or 11 percent, above the equivalent 2009 level. Of that amount, $4 billion is provided for IHS health programs, including increases over the 2009 level of $154 million for hospital and health clinic care, and $144 million for off-reservation contract care.
The bill also provides $2.6 billion for the education, law enforcement, and economic development programs under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Increases over the 2009 level include $81 million, or 11 percent, for K-12 and tribal college programs, and $83 million, or 27 percent for law enforcement. The law enforcement increase include additional funding for hiring of police officers to combat the growing methamphetamine problem, and well as increased staffing at BIA and tribal detention centers.
Civil Rights Oral History Project:
The bill includes a provision that was unanimously approved by the Senate to direct $250,000 in Smithsonian salaries and expenses to a Civil Rights Oral History Project. The project is a joint effort between the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress, to collect oral histories of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement and preserve them for future generations.
“Many courageous individuals risked their lives to bring real and necessary change as part of this nation’s Civil Rights Movement,” Senator Feinstein said. “This project will help to ensure that we never forget their commitment and dedication.”
Senator Feinstein was the lead Senate sponsor of the measure that authorized the project, which was signed into law on May 12, 2009 (P.L. 111-19). The legislation was co-sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn); Thad Cochran (R-Miss.); Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.); and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) were the lead authors in the House of Representatives.