Federal Update for May 2008


The blame game is raging between Bush and Congress as various budget deadlines are essentially ignored. Bush and Congress are accusing each other regularly of failing to listen to proposals and fixes for everything from failing to respond adequately to the energy crisis to the slumping economy. There’s a cut of about $1.8 in the Pacific Salmon Treaty appropriation, similar to last year, and the budget still fails to include Timber-Fish-Wildlife/Forests and Fish funding.

House/Senate budget talks continue and budget leaders hope to reach agreement on a fiscal 2009 budget resolution soon. There are no consequences for having failed to meet the April 15 deadline. But most everyone would rather avoid having to resort to a “deeming resolution” to set a limit — something the two chambers have done in the past when Congress was unable to agree on a final budget. Under the Budget Act, the House may consider spending bills on the floor starting May 15, even if a final budget hasn’t been adopted. If lawmakers do not reach a budget agreement and must “deem” discretionary spending limits for the year, don’t be surprised if each chamber handles it differently. Under the 1974 Budget Act, the annual budget resolution sets an overall level of discretionary appropriations for the year which appropriators then split up among the 12 individual bills. These allocations help facilitate the appropriations process by creating limits on discretionary spending that can be enforced on the House and Senate floors through budget points of order. In the absence of a final budget, lawmakers use deeming resolutions to create those budget enforcement parameters. In the past, the House has preferred to deem its entire budget resolution, while the Senate has focused mostly on setting a discretionary spending limit.


Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, says he’s disappointed by the recent resignation of Interior Assistant Secretary Carl Artman. Dorgan helped push Artman's nomination through the Senate. But after a little over a year on the job, Artman says he will be leaving his post as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs on May 23. "The position was vacant for two years, now it's filled for one year. Now it's going to be vacant again," Dorgan said at a hearing on energy development in Indian Country. "The BIA is not a well-run organization in any event. I had high hopes that Mr. Artman would come in and be very helpful … but this is a huge disappointment." Artman, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, has not given a reason for leaving. Prior to being nominated for the assistant secretary post, Artman served as associate solicitor for Indian Affairs at Interior.

The next in line for the post, at least in an acting capacity, would appear to be Majel Russell, a member of the Crow Tribe of Montana who serves as the principal deputy assistant secretary at the BIA. But she has not kept a permanent office in Washington, D.C., preferring instead to travel back and forth from Montana. So it’s possible that Jim Cason, associate deputy secretary at Interior, could get the nod. He was delegated all of the duties of the assistant secretary after the resignation of entrepreneur Dave Anderson, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe Indians from Wisconsin, in February 2005.


In mid October, Senators Joseph Lieberman, I-CT, and John Warner, R-VA, introduced America’s Climate Security Act of 2007, S 2191. After years of ignoring global warming, the U.S. Senate seemed to finally be considering legislation to cap greenhouse gas pollution. However, national environmental organizations quickly tagged the bill as “Pork for Polluters.” Friends of the Earth says the bill lavishes up to $1 trillion on industries responsible for global warming in the first place, and in return asks for reduction targets well below what scientists say are necessary. FOE says that although some positive changes have been made since the introduction of the bill, it continues to give up to a trillion dollars to the fossil fuel industry. Other entities have said the bill is better than nothing, which is what the federal lawmakers have delivered so far.

The bill creates a regulatory system that caps the amount of global warming emissions covered entities can emit. The cap is gradually reduced over a period of time leading into 2050. Under a cap, emitters must obtain permits, or allowances, from the federal government that are equal to their global warming emissions. The total amount of pollution allowances available to polluters is equal to the total amount of global warming emissions permitted under the cap. Any unused permits may be traded, or sold, to entities requiring more permits. One natural effect of limiting the supply of emission rights through permits, according to FOE, is that it turns them into a vehicle for buying and selling the right to pollute. With current United States global warming emissions totaling more than 7.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, the total economic value of these permits could be tremendous.

A recent survey of economic literature by the Congressional Budget Office suggests that global warming emissions permits could be worth between $5 to $65 per metric ton. FOE uses estimates calculated by Duke University, which indicates that by 2050, the price of one of these permits will increase from $18 to $100 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. The Lieberman-Warner bill caps global warming emissions from about 86 percent of the economy, potentially reaching a reduction target of emission to 60 to 65 percent of U.S. emissions below current levels. A cap initially set at this emissions level would create permits worth over $5 trillion throughout the program’s lifetime, using the average value per ton of carbon, as identified by EPA and Duke University.


The full U.S. Senate has considered legislation, S.2284, that would offer subsidies for development in the very environmentally-sensitive areas that face the most dramatic impacts from global warming. Debate centered on the Flood Insurance and Modernization Act of was at least temporarily halted on May 2 when a motion to consider the bill, sponsored by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-CT. This legislation would clearly have a significant impact on how development decisions are made in coastal areas and natural floodplains, and that would have a significant impact on fish and wildlife. It’s anticipated that these areas will feel the worst impacts of global warming with sea level rise, intensified hurricanes, and increased flooding. Several controversial amendments were debated, including schemes that would: 1) Subsidize insurance in high risk and environmentally sensitive areas; 2) Waive requirements for participation in the flood insurance program for people living behind unsafe Army Corps of Engineer’s levees, etc., and 3) Add wind damage insurance that provides incentives to build in catastrophe prone and environmentally sensitive zones. The original bill was intended to amend the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, to restore financial solvency.

The concept of subsidizing construction in areas such as New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina and, for that matter, along the Chehalis River in the aftermath of the December floods, is worrisome. Obviously, displaced homeowners need help; however, rebuilding in the same areas demonstrates a lack of regard for their safety in the future, as well as the health of watersheds and the fish and wildlife they sustain. The fact is that it is important to discourage development in high-risk areas to avoid such impacts as sea level rise, intensified storms, increased floo
ding, etc. Actions in Congress (as well as the state legislature) do not indicate that much has been learned from the horrific experiences of intensified storms which scientists say are linked to climate change.


For the past 3 state legislative sessions, seed money has been granted to support the Tribal Water “Pathways” Project, which is a tribal initiative to explore alternatives to water adjudication. Working with the US Institute on Environmental Conflict Resolution and the Department of Ecology, the funding has been used to facilitate related planning processes, work with the state Department of Ecology and clear the path for supportive federal legislation. The three pilot tribes include Tulalip, Quinault and Jamestown-S’Klallam.

The Clark Group, a DC-based facilitator supporting tribal water interests in Washington D.C. via a contract with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission funded with the Pathways state seed money, has advised the coordination team to secure congressional introduction of a related bill by this summer. This schedule would boost the chances of securing a committee hearing later this year or early in 2009. Being introduced in the 110th Congress and achieving a committee hearing by the first quarter of 2009 could boost the possibility of passing legislation during the 2009-2010 congressional session. The Pathways project, which has been supported by NWIFC Commissioners, could help keep a foot in the door in cooperative water management as the resource dwindles due to overuse by out-of-stream interests. Strictly a volunteer process for participants, Pathway’s flexible NEPA-like approach must gain support of all participants for any water management agreements developed, and would have the force of law upon being adopted.


After a very long wait, and a yeoman effort, Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, and Rep. Rick Larsen, D-WA have seen Washington's Wild Sky Wilderness Area become reality through H.R.886. Sen. Murray’s count of the days since the effort began reached 3,405. The 106,000-acre wilderness is in the front range of the Cascades, north of the U.S. 2 Stevens Pass highway. It reaches from the north fork of the Skykomish River, a few hundred feet above sea level, to the 6,200-foot summits of Mounts Merchant and Gunn above Index.

Wild Sky sets precedents for protection. The 1984 Washington Wilderness bill omitted lowland virgin forests in such places as the west fork of Cady Creek. The Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area protected peaks above Monte Cristo, the Columbia Glacier and alpine meadows and along the Cascade Crest. But its boundaries featured big dents for big trees. Wild Sky fills in those dents. The goal was to achieve a wilderness where salmon spawn and families can wander through the ancient forest. The debate over Wild Sky featured none of the past wilderness battles during which, for instance, lines of logging trucks showed up in Wenatchee to oppose the then-proposed Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. "We not only passed a wilderness bill, we created a new model of how to create a wilderness bill," Larsen said.

An original proposal for 132,000 acres of wilderness was cut to 106,000 acres. Land used by snowmobiles was deleted from the bill. Yet, a powerful opponent did appear — Congress. Twice, the Senate gave unanimous approval to Wild Sky, only to see the legislation blocked by former House Resources Committee Chair Richard Pombo who proposed a "compromise" to excise low valleys and big trees. Murray and Larsen didn’t buy it. When Pombo was defeated for re-election in 2006, the House promptly passed Wild Sky. But the bill ran into another foe, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who put a hold on it. After months of delay, Murray succeeded in dislodging it.


More than 800 U.S. EPA scientists reported some form of political interference in their work in the last five years, according to a survey of EPA staff by the Union of Concerned Scientists. UCS sent out some 5,500 questionnaires to EPA scientists and received some 1,580 responses. More than half the respondents asserted they had experienced political meddling of one kind or another in their work. Those most likely to report interference worked in offices involved in writing regulations or conducting risk assessments. Industry groups and the White House Office of Management and Budget were cited repeatedly by the EPA scientists as sources of pressure. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to EPA Director Stephen Johnson recently warning of a hearing on the UCS survey results next month. "These survey results suggest a pattern of ignoring and manipulating science in EPA's decision making," Waxman wrote.


The 2007 energy bill includes a provision that prevents federal agencies from contracting to purchase liquid coal and other "dirty fuels," such as tar sands and oil shale, that produce more global warming pollution than conventional gasoline. But now dirty fuel supporters in Congress have introduced legislation that would repeal this provision that will help fight global warming, and energy companies are poised to market dirty fuels to the government at the first opportunity. The Air Force, for instance, is already pushing for a new liquid coal plant on its Malmstrom base in Montana. Liquid coal produces twice the global warming pollution of conventional gasoline. Relying on liquid coal fuel also would increase the harmful effects of coal mining, which means more mining in the Rockies and more mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia. Investing in liquid coal is also financially unsound: while even under the most optimistic scenarios liquid coal could replace no more than 10 percent of our oil use, these plants would cost over four billion dollars each to build. It may be timely to encourage members of Congress to oppose legislation such as HR 5656 or any other legislation intended to repeal the dirty fuels provision of Section 526 of the 2007 energy bill.

FARM BILL, H.R.2419: To Veto or Not to Veto, That is the Question

Farm bill negotiators have released conference details of the Farm Bill they plan to bring to the House and Senate and urged President Bush to change his mind about vetoing it. Most funding would go for domestic and internal food assistance. The bill does address two key Bush requirements: Stay within a negotiated $10 billion increase over the baseline and use an extension of customs user fees as an offset, thus avoiding a tax increase. Among other items, the bill sets a $1 million cap on the adjusted gross income of conservation payment recipients. Bush wants stricter caps on commodity payments, but has not proposed a stricter cap on the incomes of conservation payments recipients. The bill will likely top $300 billion over 5 years. Bush faces a tough fight to sustain his veto, with key senators campaigning to convince him to change his mind.

Federal Priority Bills List for May, 2008

Bills seeing recent action, along with brief descriptions, dates of action and status Please address thoughts and/or questions to Steve Robinson at [email protected] (360 528-4347).

S.1578.RS Title: A bill to amend the Non-indigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 to establish vessel ballast water management requirements, etc. Sponsor: Sen Inouye,
Daniel K., D-HA (introduced 6/7/2007) Cosponsors (1) Latest Major Action: 3/3/2008 Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 589.

S.1620 Title: A bill to provide the Coast Guard and NOAA with additional authorities under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, to strengthen the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, etc. Sponsor: Sen Cantwell, Maria, D-WA (introduced 6/14/2007) Cosponsors (1) Latest Major Action: 6/14/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

H.R.1769 Title: To amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to reduce predation on endangered Columbia River salmon, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep Baird, Brian, D-WA (introduced 3/29/2007) Cosponsors (5) Latest Major Action: 8/2/2007 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

H.R. 1771 (Baldwin): To assist in the conservation of cranes by supporting and providing, through projects of persons and organizations with expertise in crane conservation, financial resources for the conservation programs of countries the activities of which directly or indirectly affect cranes and the ecosystems of cranes. “Crane Conservation Act of 2007 Latest Major Action: 4/30/2008 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be Reported in the Nature of a Substitute (Amended) by Unanimous Consent.

S.1892.RS A bill to reauthorize the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2008. Sponsor: Sen Cantwell, Maria, D-WA (introduced 7/26/2007) Cosponsors (5) Committees: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Senate Reports: 110-261 Latest Major Action: 2/5/2008 Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 568.

S.2284 Title: An original bill to amend the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, to restore the financial solvency of the flood insurance fund, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen Dodd, Christopher J. [CT] (introduced 11/1/2007) Cosponsors (None) Related Bills: H.R.3121
Latest Major Action: 5/7/2008 Senate floor actions. Status: Measure laid before Senate by motion. Senate Reports: 110-214.

H.R.2400 : To direct the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish an integrated Federal ocean and coastal mapping plan for the Great Lakes and coastal state waters, the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone, and the Continental Shelf of the United States, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep Bordallo, Madeleine Z. [GU] (introduced 5/21/2007) Cosponsors (5) Committees: House Natural Resources; House Science and Technology; Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Latest Major Action: 7/24/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

S.2670 Title: A bill to amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to ensure adequate funding for conservation and restoration of wildlife, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Sen Johnson, Tim, D-SD (introduced /27/2008) Cosponsors (1) Latest Major Action: 2/27/2008 Referred to Senate Committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment

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S.2739 (Sen. Bingaman) – Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008.

Title: Related Bills: S.2179, S.2180, S.2483, S.2616 Latest Major Action: 5/1/2008 Presented to President. Makes amendments to various public laws, including the National Trails System Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998, the Omnibus Parks and Public Lands Management Act of 1996, the Oregon Resource Conservation Act of 1996, the Reclamation and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Steel and Aluminum Energy Conservation and Technology Competitiveness Act of 1988, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Compacts of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003.

H.R.2830, the Coast Guard Authorization bill. This legislation provides for a study of “regional response vessel and salvage capability for Olympic Peninsula Coast, Washington.” It also contains a provision prohibiting the discharge of ballast water in national marine sanctuaries.

Title: To authorize appropriations for the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2008, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and title 18, United States Code, to combat the crime of
alien smuggling and related activities, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep Oberstar, James L. [MN-8] (introduced 6/22/2007) Cosponsors (2) Related Bills: H.RES.1126, H.R.2399, S.1892
Latest Major Action: 4/28/2008 Received in the Senate. Read twice. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar.

H.AMDT.969 to H.R.2857 Amendment to add an Energy Conservation Corps, which would seek to address the nation's energy and transportation infrastructure needs while providing work and service opportunities. Sponsor: Rep Inslee, Jay . D-WA, (introduced 3/6/2008)
Latest Major Action: 3/6/2008 House amendment agreed to. Status

H.R.3891 Title: To amend the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act to increase the number of Directors on the Board of Directors of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Sponsor: Rep Brown, Henry E., Jr. [SC-1] (introduced 10/18/2007) Cosponsors (1) Latest Major Action: 4/1/2008. To Committee on Environment and Public Works.

H.R. 3981 Title: To authorize the Preserve America Program and Save America's Treasures Program, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep Miller, Brad [NC-13] (introduced 10/29/2007) Cosponsors (56) Related Bills: S.2262 Latest Major Action: 4/24/2008 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held. Among other things, this bill would establishes the Preserve America Program, under which the Secretary of the Interior, in partnership with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, shall provide competitive grants to specified entities to support preservation efforts through heritage tourism, education, and historic preservation planning activities. It sets forth provisions regarding the designation of communities, tribal areas, and neighborhoods as Preserve America Communities.

H.R.5171 (S.240 ) Title: To reauthorize and amend the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992. Sponsor: Rep Costa, Jim [CA-20] (introduced 1/29/2008) Cosponsors (6) Latest Major Action: 2/1/2008 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

H.R.5451 : To reauthorize the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep Bordallo, Madeleine Z. [GU] (introduced 2/14/2008) Cosponsors (14) Committees: House Natural Resources Latest Major Action: 2/28/2008 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.

H.R.5469 Title: To provide grants for the revitalization of waterfront brownfields. Sponsor: Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [NY-28] (introduced 2/14/2008) Cosponsors (20) Latest Major Action: 2/15/2008 Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

H.R.5608 Title: Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments Act. Sponsor: Rep Rahall, Nick J., II[WV-3] (introduced 3/13/2008) Cosponsors (1) . Latest Major Action: 4/9/2008- Hearing held by the House Committee on Natural Resources. To establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have tribal implications, to strengthen the United States government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes, and to reduce the imposition of unfunded mandates upon Indian tribes.

H.R.5618 : To reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep Bordallo, Madeleine Z. [GU] (introduced 3/13/2008) Cosponsors (10) Committees: House Natural Resources Latest Major Action: 4/30/2008 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Ordered to be reported.

H.R.5741 : To amend the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to improve the conservation of sharks. Sponsor: Rep Bordallo, Madeleine Z. [GU] (
introduced 4/9/2008) Cosponsors(9) Committees: House Natural Resources. Latest Major Action: 4/16/2008 House committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Subcommittee Hearings Held.