Federal Update for August 2006

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Appropriations bills, riddled with earmarks, are a “loaded gun” for House and Senate GOP incumbents heading to the November election. The House plan was to help incumbent Republican lawmakers facing tough reelection showdowns introduce and propel more legislation during the five weeks prior to the election and to have something to “dangle” in the faces of the voters before the election.

The Interior Appropriations Chairs are examples of what’s at stake in this election, as well as what’s in jeopardy if these bills are on the floor prior to the election. Both Interior Appropriation Chairs are feeling the pressure that accompanies the need to “show me the money” at home. Chairman Conrad Burns, Senate Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee has earmarked $60 Million in the Senate spending bill that includes $7.5 million for the Rocky Boy water settlement payment in addition to other big and small projects. Senate Leadership is concerned that there will be some backlash for Burns in trying to manage the bill on the floor when Democrats are scrambling for political points before the election.

The full Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal 2007 Defense, Military Construction-VA, Labor-HHS and Transportation-Treasury bills recently. This marks the first time the committee has finished its work before the August recess in 18 years. Only the Defense and Military Construction-VA bills, however, had a chance to see floor consideration before the recess.

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee has approved a Commerce-Justice-Science bill that, like the House bill, would significantly alter Bush’s budget request. The measure would provide dramatically more for NOAA than either the House or Bush wants. The proposed funding for NOAA is a significant increase over the amount requested by Bush and exceeds the level approved by the House by more than $1 billion. The Senate funding includes $50 million for the National Marine Sanctuaries Program, and an additional $3.8 million for research and management in the newly designated Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Monument. The bill also includes $90 million for Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF), with $10 million targeted to aid the recovery of salmon populations in the Klamath River basin. Pacific Coastal Tribes, including those members of the NWIFC, would stand to receive $7 million under the $90 million scenario, with the Columbia River Tribes in line for $2.0 million. However, the House included $20 million for PCSR which would certainly affect the amounts available to the tribes. Our delegation has also identified the PCSRF as a vehicle for Hatchery Reform Implementation, and without the additional funding provided by the Senate, this necessary program would go unfunded. At $4.4 billion, the amount provided for NOAA would exceed Bush’s request by $753 million and the House level by $1 billion. The National Weather Service would receive $824 million, $40 million more than requested. The draft also would fully fund Bush’s Competitiveness Initiative through the National Science Foundation and Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. NASA would be funded at roughly Bush’s request of $16.8 billion; the House bill would provide $16.7 billion for the space agency. Ranking Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland said she would offer an amendment at full committee to provide another $1 billion in emergency funding to help offset NASA’s costs in returning the space shuttle to flight.

The House Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill (HR 5386), which provides the majority of funding to Northwest tribal natural resource programs (principally through BIA Fish and Wildlife Program/Rights Protection category) passed the House on May 18 and was picked up by the Senate in late June, being the first of the FY 2007 spending bills to advance to the opposite house. Base level funding for Western Washington Boldt Implementation and the Pacific Salmon Treaty seems ensured within it, but across the board recessions remain possible, which could affect these numbers slightly. New successes of note in the House bill include $1 million for mass marking implementation (less than the $1.7 request) and the $6 million for the Puget Sound Partnership (a portion of which may still go to tribes).

The Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill (SR 109-245) includes additional funding of $1 million for the Timber-Fish-Wildlife Program, but concerns exist that this amount might be viewed as an alternative to the House mass marking monies, which were once again nestled by the House within the Timber-Fish-Wildlife account. The Senate did not increase the national Hatchery Rehabilitation account, leaving the funding level at the $500,000 status quo level. Efforts to achieve a base funding increase have not fared well to date, with no new monies added by the Senate. We hope that somehow Senators Inouye, Cantwell and Murray, along with Congressman Dicks can find a way to adjust the Senate Bill or deal with this need in Conference. The shellfish consent decree settlement is back in play, with funding this year expected to be $2 million, to be identified within the Conference from already allocated monies. This would start the payment schedule by the federal government as they address their overall amount of $23.5 million in federal funds (up from $22 million should additional tribes prevail on their treaty fishing rights claim

A healthy, sustainable salmon population means a healthy economy. Salmon are critical to the livelihood of so many Washingtonians as well as an icon of the Northwest. However, over the past decade several species of salmon have been listed as endangered or threatened. That is why I am very excited that I was able to secure $25 million in funding for Washington state salmon restoration. The funding will go towards restoring endangered and listed stocks of Pacific salmon. The funding comes as part of the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) bill. The $25 million directed to Washington state is the largest portion of salmon restoration funding given to any state. The bill also provides $10 million to assist fisherman, fish processors, and related businesses who were impacted by the Klamath River basin disaster. All of this funding will help support our state’s coordinated effort to restore salmon runs and preserve our way of life in the Pacific Northwest. This bill will soon move to the Senate floor.

In 1998, I helped found the Northwest Straits Commission in an effort to restore the marine resources of northwest Washington state. I have been able to include $1.6 million in funding for the program as part of the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. The funding will go towards the Commission’s innovative grassroots approach to protecting the vital waterways in the northwest part of Washington from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Northern Puget Sound to the Canadian border. I helped to form the Northwest Straits Commission because of my belief that there is no substitute for local expertise and experience in conservation efforts. This funding will allow communities to use their own unique ideas to protect the resources they know best. To read more: http://murray.senate.gov/news.cfm?id=258660.

In outlining the FY 2007 Labor, Health and Human Services/Education bill recently, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, bemoaned his position as chair of the HHS-Education Subcommittee, saying it’s not much fun to be an appropriator these days: “We don’t have money to appropriate anymore.” And he said he would suggest that the committee reject the bill, except that “there’s no where else to go.” One anonymous commentary suggested that the legislators and the president take up residence in Iraq, where it’s evident that funding that should be invested in such critical issues as education and the environment is being blown up in misguided armaments today.

The Senate has passed a bill (S 3711) that would open eight million acres of Gulf Coast waters to offshore drilling rigs and remove longstanding protections for other coastal areas. The bill now has to be reconciled with a coastal drilling bill the House passed a month ago which would lift the 25-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling off some of the country’s most fragile coasts. The final reconciled bill will almost certainly lift the drilling moratorium nationwide, so the upcoming Senate vote will therefore decide the fate of the entire U.S. coastline, from Maine to Florida in the east and from Washington to California in the west. Environmental scientists consider offshore drilling the slowest, dirtiest and most expensive way to produce energy. Ironically, opening the coasts to destructive oil and gas drilling would do little, if anything, to reduce gasoline prices while threatening waters and beaches with pollution and potential oil spills. Tourism, property, and commercial and sport fishing wrecked in the wake of a huge oil slick could even cost millions of jobs and severely weaken coastal economies.

The House recently approved two limited energy bills. HR 2730 would establish a $20 billion grant program to fund joint American-Israeli research projects in energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy. H.R. 5611 would require the Department of Energy to partner with industry groups, including the auto and oil industries, to establish a national campaign to educate consumers on how to ensure that their vehicles are operating efficiently. The second bill was widely criticized for simply repackaging information already available to consumers and for sidestepping the need for legislation mandating real improvements in energy efficiency. Both measures were criticized for doing little to address America’s very serious energy crisis and dependence on fossil fuels.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved HR 5863, which would restrict the import of waste contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the U.S. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX and Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, responds to language in the Senate version of the 2007 National Defense Authorization bill that would weaken the current ban on PCBs. The Senate bill would allow the military to petition EPA to waive the ban on imports of PCBs for up to three years. Because the Toxic Substances Control Act currently allows EPA to grant one-year waivers, environmentalists questioned the need for a longer extension of the temporary waiver. The Department of Defense says it asked for the waiver so it could import PCB- contaminated waste from overseas military bases.

The Senate passed S 728 recently, a bill to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986. The $12 billion measure would authorize funding for hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers projects, for flood protection, navigation, environmental restoration, etc. Environmentalists applauded the measure for including needed review of hundreds of Army Corps projects that have been criticized for including biased economic and environmental analyses. The provision calling for independent review of Army Corps projects was part of an amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, and narrowly passed by a vote of 54-46. The major hurdle standing in the way of final reauthorization of the act is a House-Senate conference committee that must resolve major differences in the two versions of the bill. In addition to an almost $2 billion funding gap, the House bill was passed more than a year ago, before the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Intended to be updated every two years, the act has not been reauthorized in six years. HR 2864, another WRDA bill sponsored by Rep. Don Young, R-AK, has passed the Senate. The legislation is intended to provide for the conservation and development of water and related resources and to authorize the Secretary of the Army to construct various projects for improvements to rivers and harbors of the US. The bill would authorize projects for flood damage in several states.

HR 5018, THE Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization bill sponsored by Rep Richard Pombo, R-CA, who chairs the House Resources Committee, has moved to the Union Calendar in the Senate. Rep. Don Young, R-AK, has said the bill offers a sustainable yield concept with the understanding of the ecosystems of Alaska waters. He says the bill will provide an economic base for the fishing communities in Alaska and for those that fish in the most dangerous waters in the United States. He added that HR 5018 represents compromise legislation from all involved parties, including ideas from earlier bills, recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and many suggestions received by the Resources Committee during public hearings. It is modeled after the management framework of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. As Congress works to update the Magnuson-Stevens Act, Sen. Maria Cantwell says she will continue working with Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens to secure provisions important to Washington that improve safety at sea and ensure productive, sustainable fish stocks for our state’s 3,000-vessels-strong fishing fleet.

When Marc Korman of Rep. Brian Baird’s staff asked for input on the Pombo bill, NWIFC Chair Billy Frank, Jr., replied, “there is nothing in the Pombo bill for the tribes.” The bill’s sponsors failed to address the issues submitted by tribes during the D.C. hearing on HR 5018 and HR 1431. Frank’s April 28 testimony on this issue clearly stated that in its totality, this legislation does not add much to the advancement of sound fishery management in federal waters. In it, he reminded Congress that tribes co-manage the fisheries resource in the Pacific Northwest. “Given this fact, and the facts that tribes have depended on the resource for thousands of years, and have proved to be exceptional managers, it is highly inappropriate for their testimony to be so overlooked.”

Despite earlier optimism, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has not moved forward with the Indian Trust Reform Act of 2005. Committee Chair Senator John McCain, R-AR, has in fact announced that there would be no mark-up of the bill (S 1439), which means it cannot yet be considered by the entire Senate. Sen. McCain withdrew any consideration of S 1439, at least until Congress returns from its August recess. At that point, the trust reform bill will be in competition with top priority legislation to be completed before the fall elections. Apparently, the administration expressed concern about the multi-billion dollar cost of returning the money owed to Individual Indian Money account holders, even though the money would come from a special Judgment Fund. Sen. McCain and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, held a meeting with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Attorney General Albert Gonzales on August. Government officials and Native American representatives will work during the August recess to agree on a settlement for individual trust monies that were mismanaged, as has been documented in the Cobell class-action federal court case. The further delay is disappointing turn of events for many tribes and tribal members, particularly since the Indian trust problems have already lasted for 118 years.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved HR 4591, sponsored by Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-OH, a bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to bring the US in line with the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Committee Democrats criticized the bill for creating a cost-benefit regulatory standard not found in any current federal environmental regulations, preempting states’ authority to independently regulate POPs and allowing the federal government to ignore a recent decision by treaty parties to list additional pollutants. The committee rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Hilda Solis, D-CA, and supported by environmental groups to replace the Gillmor bill with text from her own bill (HR 4800), which does not include the damaging provisions.

The House has passed HR 4075, a bill to reauthorize the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The bill includes a number of changes to the landmark statute. Originally passed in 1972, the act prohibits the killing of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals and regulates the trade of marine mammals and marine mammal products. Sponsored by the chair of the House Resources Committee, Rep. Richard Pombo, R-CA, the measure was widely opposed by environmentalists before several improvements were agreed to prior to the final House floor vote. The most significant change made to the bill before the final vote was the addition of a provision that would require commercial fishing operations to reduce their bycatch of marine mammals to nearly zero within seven years. The Senate is not expected to consider the House bill or its own version of an MMPA reauthorization bill this year.

Bush will nominate Carl Joseph Artman (Oneida Nation) as the next Assistant Secretary of Interior for Indian Affairs. Bush says filling the long vacated position will provide a direct link and close working relationship between Indian Country and the Administration. “I look forward to supporting Mr. Artman in representing Native people at the highest levels of the federal government,” said NCAI President Joe Garcia. “This appointment reaffirms the Department of Interior’s commitment to work closely and productively with Indian Country during the remaining years of the current Administration.” Artman currently serves as Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs at the DOI. He previously served as Chief Counsel of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin and has extensive experience in Indian affairs, including land-to-trust, land claims, taxation, gaming and education.
The following pages provide update status on priority federal legislation. Bills seeing action in 2006 are highlighted in bold. Additional information on bills available at http://thomas.loc.gov