Senator Feinstein Urges Swift Senate Approval of the $32.1 Billion Interior Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2010
Sep 17 2009
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today urged the Senate to approve the $32.1 billion Fiscal Year 2010 Interior bill. Senator Feinstein chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, and will manage the floor debate during consideration of the annual spending bill.
“I’m proud that this bill will provide the largest investment in public infrastructure in the history of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee -- and will help create thousands of new jobs to put more Americans back to work,” Senator Feinstein said. “I believe Senator Alexander and I have been fair and conscientious in crafting this bill, and I urge my colleagues to let us move forward with this measure as soon as possible.”
The subcommittee’s 302(b) allocation is $32.1 billion in non-emergency, discretionary spending. That amount is $4.5 billion, or 16 percent, above the equivalent 2009 enacted level, and $225 million, or 0.7 percent, below the president’s request. The spending bill requires approval by the full Senate before it can be reconciled with the House version of the spending bill in conference.
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).
- $1.8 billion for Interior Dept and Forest Service fire suppression activities – an increase of $527 million, or 40 percent, above the enacted 2009 level.
- $6 billion for basic operations at National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and on Bureau of Land Management lands – an increase of $350 million, or 6 percent, above the enacted 2009 level.
- $6.6 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.
A detailed summary of the bill is available online at the Senate Appropriations Committee website (http://appropriations.senate.gov/).
Following is the text of Senator Feinstein’s opening statement, as delivered on the Senate floor this morning:
“Mr. President, I’m pleased to join my distinguished colleague, Senator Alexander, in presenting the fiscal year 2010 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
This is the first year Senator Alexander and I have worked together as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and I’m pleased to report that it could not have been a better experience.
We have consulted on several occasions and worked through several different issues. As a result, I think we have produced a fair, balanced, and workable bill. I want to thank him very much, and also thank his able staff for all their hard work and cooperation.
In total, the Fiscal Year 2010 Interior Appropriations Bill provides $32.1 billion in non-emergency discretionary spending. That amount is $4.5 billion above the equivalent 2009 enacted level, but $225 million below the President’s request. I want to stress that: this bill is $225 million below the President’s request. The reason is that to be consistent with the subcommittee’s 302(b) allocation for both budget authority and outlays, our allocation is substantially lower than that of the House of Representatives. Therefore, our bill is necessarily constrained; we cannot spend above our allocation. So, there are going to be several items that will need to be conferenced in that regard.
Because the committee report, which spells out all of the funding details, has been publically available for more than two months, I won’t go through each and every line item. But I would like to emphasize the great strides we’ve been able to make in five critical areas:
- water and sewer infrastructure;
- wildfire suppression and prevention on public lands;
- bolstering our public land management agencies;
- investment in the Land and Water Conservation Fund; and
- helping the most vulnerable in Indian Country.
First, the bill provides $3.6 billion for water and sewer infrastructure projects. I’m very proud of this. That’s a very significant increase over last year’s level of $1.6 billion. In fact, this is the largest single commitment of funds that has ever been provided in an annual appropriations bill.
Let me say something about this. I can say that I’m old enough to remember when everyone could drink out of every tap anywhere in America. So you can imagine what I thought when I saw the front of the New York Times, with the young lad from West Virginia, with fillings in most of his teeth because he couldn’t drink water properly out of the tap. Or when there was other evidence of people in that great state bathing in water that created skin lesions. That should not happen in the United States of America. Therefore, this increase in water and sewer infrastructure, I think, is extraordinarily important.
Additionally, we will have report language in our bill – I hope, with consultation from the Ranking Member – that will instruct EPA to put much more regulatory authority in the area of water quality, so that we don’t run into this again. This is something that I haven’t had a chance to discuss with the Ranking Member, but I do intend to do it.
When you factor in the $6 billion that was included in the stimulus bill in February, we are providing nearly $10 billion this calendar year to our state and local water authorities. That’s a major investment in the public infrastructure. It’s one that, as a former mayor, I strongly support, and one that I’m very pleased, along with the Ranking Member, to be able to accomplish. This money will allow our state and local water authorities to begin to tackle 1,327 wastewater and drinking water projects all across the nation.
For those that may not be aware, the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers these grants, has estimated that over a 20-year period, our communities will need to spend $660 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure repairs and renovations.
Obviously, we can’t provide that level of funding during these tough budgetary times, but what we were able to provide, with our reduced allocation, will go a long way toward helping our communities tackle their crumbling infrastructure and provide their residents with more reliable and cleaner water. It will also have the benefit of creating thousands of construction jobs to put more Americans back to work.
Second, the bill provides $1.8 billion for wildland fire suppression activities. It’s very important that we’re providing that level of funding because that’s the same amount that’s been spent, on average, in each of the last three fiscal years.
For the first time in more than 10 years, we will be providing our federal firefighters the resources they need well before they run out of money.
The fact that we’re providing this level of funding is extremely important. By appropriating upfront what we know is actually going to be needed, based on prior experience, we allow the Forest Service and the Interior Department to break the cycle of borrowing from other accounts and then hoping Congress agrees to repay that money. We’ve been criticized for doing this. It is good criticism. And in this bill, it is remedied.
The bill also includes $107 million in grants to help State and local cooperators fund their own firefighting and fuels reduction efforts, that’s a 2 percent increase over the 2009 level.
And it provides $556 million for hazardous fuels reduction projects on Federal lands nationwide, a 7 percent increase over last year. Now that’s critical. My State is burning up. We lost 1.5 million acres from fire last year. So, hazardous mitigation of fuels becomes very critical.
As important as it is to provide our federal firefighters with the funds they need for suppression, it’s just as important that we make fuels reduction funds available so that these agencies can begin to get in front of the problem and prevent these catastrophic wildland fires, or at least reduce their catastrophic potential.
The money provided in this bill will allow the Forest Service and the Interior Department to treat 3.5 million acres of fire-prone federal lands. That’s 3.5 million acres of fire-prone federal land. This will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires like the one being fought right now in Southern California.
Let me say something about that fire. The Station Fire is still burning in the foothills of Los Angeles. The fire has swept through canyons that are drowning under decades’ worth of dense vegetation. As of Tuesday, the fire has burned 160,000 acres, destroyed 183 homes and other buildings, and cost more than $90 million to fight. More than 8,000 firefighters have battled the blaze – and, tragically, two firefighters have lost their lives.
The Station Fire is now the largest fire in Los Angeles County history. It is also a reminder of how important it is to increase funding for fuels reduction and fire suppression. I’m very proud that this bill accomplishes both things.
Third, the bill shores up our public land management agencies by providing a total of $6 billion for basic operations and backlog maintenance at our National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and on Bureau of Land Management lands.
For too long we’ve neglected these agencies and forced program cuts on them by underfunding the fixed costs they incur every year. In this bill fixed costs are fully funded. That’s important.
Included in these funds are $2.2 billion for basic operations for our 391 national parks, an increase of $130 million. These funds will allow the Park Service to continue utilizing the 3,000 seasonal employees that have made a real difference in the condition and enjoyment of our parks. Additional maintenance personnel, additional law enforcement officers, and additional park rangers will all be brought back as of way of enhancing the visitor experience now and preparing our parks for the centennial in 2016. Our national parks are jewels throughout the USA. They cannot be allowed to go into poor condition. They must be maintained and they must be operated properly.
In particular, I also want to point out that the funding being provided in this bill will allow the Park Service to continue the drug eradication program started last year.
I can tell you that, in California, this has become a major problem. There are literally hundreds of thousands of acres in our national parks, taken over by Mexican cartels which have moved into the back areas and set up marijuana production facilities. They are armed, they are dangerous, and it has taken the resources of combined task forces of local, state and federal police officers to take these areas out and eradicate the planning of these projects. More than $10 million is being made available so law enforcement personnel can work with other federal and state agencies to extricate the illegal drug operations that are invading our national parks.
This effort isn’t limited to just the Park Service, though. Included in the $1.56 billion that this bill provides for operations of the national forests is a new, $10 million increase for the Forest Service’s law enforcement program.
These funds mean that the Service will be able to hire up to 50 new law enforcement officers to battle the epidemic of marijuana gardens on public lands. And the bill also contains a $5 million increase to begin cleaning up more than 25,000 acres of forest lands nationwide that have suffered environmental damage because of these drug projects.
Fourth, the bill increases the protection and conservation of sensitive lands by providing $419 million through the Land and Water Conservation Fund activities.
Of that amount:
- $262 million is set aside for the 4 federal land management agencies for conservation of sensitive lands that provide habitat to wildlife and recreation to visitors;
- $55 million is for conservation easements through the Forest Legacy program;
- $54 million is for acquisitions associated with habitat conservation plans; and
- $35 million is for state grants through the Park Service’s state assistance program.
Finally, the bill helps some of the most vulnerable among us by providing a total of $6.6 billion for the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
That’s an 11 percent increase over the 2009 enacted level and includes increases of $450 million in direct health care services; $81 million in K-12 and college education programs; and $83 million in law enforcement programs, which will allow for additional police officer staffing on the streets and in detention centers.
With these funds, more than 10,000 additional doctor visits will take place that would not otherwise happen. This means additional infant and child care to prevent problems before they happen. It means additional alcohol and substance abuse treatment, which is truly a plague in Indian Country. And it means additional public health nursing visits so those in the rural areas are not left out.
Funding provided through the Bureau of Indian Affairs will improve programs and infrastructure at the Bureau’s 183 schools. The $81 million increase in education programs will allow the Bureau to substantially increase the number of schools that meet the Adequate Yearly Progress goals spelled out in the No Child Left Behind Act. For the first time, and I’m proud of this, nearly half of all schools will meet this important milestone.
Additional funding for law enforcement programs will allow the Bureau to increase staffing throughout Indian Country.
But it’s not just funding for staff that will make a real difference. The bill includes a threefold increase in funds for repair and rehabilitation of detention facilities. Too often Bureau police officers are forced to spend useless time transporting detainees sometimes hundreds of miles to be incarcerated in adequate detention facilities. These funds will allow the Bureau to repair several local facilities so that officers spend less time in transit and more time on the street.
All in all, Mr. President, I believe Senator Alexander and I have been fair and conscientious in crafting this bill, and I urge my colleagues to let us move forward with this measure as soon as possible.
I want the Ranking Member to know that I am very proud of this bill, not only because it is a good bill, but because it is the first start that we have had together.
I look forward to more years when we can build our fire suppression, our care and concern of our national parks, the Smithsonian and all of the 19 institutions it represents, the Kennedy Center, and all of the various departments that we are concerned with in this appropriations bill.
It is necessarily, I believe, dull to put forward figures. But as both of us have learned from our prior lives, budgets and appropriations condition policy. So, I think this is not only a good appropriations bill; it is also a very good policy bill for the departments that are included within the bill. And it’s been a sheer delight for me to work with you. I’d like to now defer to the Ranking Member, Senator Alexander, for any comments he’d like to make.”