U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, voted to oppose the inadequate funding and dangerous poison pill riders on the subcommittee’s Fiscal Year 2016 funding bill.
Despite opposition from Udall and all of the Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, the bill was approved and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“This bill is critically important for New Mexico, and that’s why I was so disappointed with the terrible funding levels that would undermine priorities from national parks to Tribal education and health. I had no choice but to vote against it,” Udall said. “I will continue to fight for essential funds to support the vital infrastructure needs of this country, fulfill our trust obligations, restore cuts to clean air and clean water programs, and directly support the American public’s enjoyment of the lands and cultural institutions that they have entrusted to us.”
The funding levels in the bill lock in damaging across-the-board cuts known as sequestration and shortchange the National Park Service, Tribal education and health care, and several other Interior Department and related programs.
Udall, who has worked to eliminate sequestration, offered an amendment during today’s full Committee markup to restore funding, but it was not agreed to.
Udall said he was just as alarmed by the ideological policy riders in the bill, which would permanently weaken core environmental laws that have for decades protected our air, water, health, and iconic species. He offered two additional amendments―one to strip all 11 riders, and another to strip a rider that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting global warming-causing pollution. Both amendments were not agreed to.
“I cannot stand by and watch while our nation’s most important environmental laws are dismantled through policy riders that have no place in a funding bill,” Udall said. “These riders are a back-door attempt to weaken our bedrock environmental laws. They’re nothing more than a special interest giveaway to polluters, and I will keep fighting against this effort to roll back environmental protections that Americans value.”
More information about the funding levels and the riders are available on the Appropriations Committee’s Democratic Page HERE.
The following are Udall’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery at the markup:
Let me begin by saying—despite my deep objections to the bill that we’re going to consider today, I’d like to thank my Chairman, Senator Murkowski, and her Subcommittee staff.
I have a lot of respect for her and for the good working relationship that we share.
I appreciate all she has done in this bill to fund priorities for my home state of New Mexico, especially given how tight the Subcommittee’s allocation is.
I’m pleased that she has supported the President’s request for $1 billion in supplemental firefighting funding in anticipation of the difficult fire season we are certain to face.
She also deserves credit for including language to authorize disaster funding for wildland firefighting, so we can end the cycle of fire borrowing and budget for fires like we do for other natural disasters.
Senate Democrats tried to pass similar legislation last year—only to get blocked by House Republicans—so I’m pleased to see a colleague on the other side of the aisle champion these reforms.
Even with these good things, however, I am deeply disappointed by this bill—and I will oppose it.
The allocation this Subcommittee has been given is more than $2 billion below the President’s request—which means that this bill doesn’t provide enough funding to support our nation’s trust responsibility for Indian tribes or to protect our treasured public lands.
Priorities like the Park Service Centennial and the Land and Water Conservation Fund are shortchanged. And the bill slashes funding for the EPA State Revolving Funds by 23 percent—resources that our states desperately need to upgrade aging sewer and drinking water infrastructure.
These funding levels just don’t make sense—and they’re prime examples of why we need to work together, on a bipartisan basis, to put in place another Ryan-Murray deal and increase funding for discretionary spending priorities.
As troubled as I am by the funding levels, however, I am even more concerned by the dangerous policy riders this bill contains.
It takes aim at bedrock environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
And it would weaken them permanently—ignoring the will of a broad bipartisan majority of Americans, who believe in protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Let’s talk about some of the specifics.
This bill includes language to block implementation of the Administration’s Clean Water Rule—language that will weaken protections for some of the nation’s most important wetlands and drinking water sources.
The bill allows a road to be built through the heart of a national wildlife refuge—setting a precedent that threatens habitat and wilderness protections for other public lands across the country.
It includes a provision that guts the Administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired power plants—ignoring the fact that climate change is real and threatens our nation.
If that wasn’t enough—the bill also contains a provision that would delay the Administration’s ability to set a new ozone standard, despite the well-known public health effects of ground level ozone.
This bill also serves as a back-door attempt to weaken the Clean Air Act. And there are additional provisions that weaken other environmental laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
These riders are terrible policy. They’re nothing more than a special interest giveaway to polluters. And they also have a proven track record of derailing the appropriations process.
The Interior bill has ended up in a continuing resolution twice during the past six years—in large part because Democrats and Republicans couldn’t resolve their differences over many of these same policy riders.
The President has made it clear that he will not sign bills that include similar provisions to roll back environmental protections.
And, as this Committee has frequently discussed, we already have our work cut out for us to reach agreement on spending levels to allow any bills to go forward.
We shouldn’t make our work any harder by hijacking this process with ideological policy riders.
I want us to get appropriations bills done, and done right.
I want to work together with Chairman Murkowski to support the good things in this bill—including disaster funding for wildland firefighting and funding for our states back home.
And I want to work with all my colleagues to pass a budget deal that lets us meet other critical conservation needs.
But I cannot stand by and watch while our nation’s most important environmental laws are dismantled.
If this bill moves forward this morning, I plan to offer an amendment to remove the harmful provisions from the bill. Until then, however, I will have to oppose this bill and the damaging riders that it contains.