Hosts briefing with outgoing Secretary Salazar to discuss budget, litigation costs
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, today held a subcommittee briefing with outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The briefing gave subcommittee members the opportunity to discuss ongoing issues and challenges with Salazar as he wraps up his tenure as Secretary of the Department that manages many of the public lands in the United States.
During the briefing, Chairman Simpson focused many of his comments and questions on the cost of frivolous litigation. Simpson expressed deep concern that frivolous lawsuits are siphoning funding away from critical priority programs and legitimate land management responsibilities but are unaccounted for in the budget. “The truth is that there are people on both sides of the issue who, if they don’t get their way, will just sue,” said Simpson. “And as budgets decline, litigation goes up. This is a major challenge that we face: how do we protect the public’s ability to have a say in how their public lands are managed while limiting wasteful, frivolous lawsuits?”
Salazar underscored the point in his response, saying that, as Secretary of the Interior, he is currently the defendant in over 3,000 legal cases against the Department.
Simpson and Salazar also discussed the impact of the nation’s fiscal challenges on the Department and agency operations, as well as the need for consolidation and reorganization among federal agencies. Simpson’s subcommittee has scheduled a number of hearings on the President’s FY14 budget request, which is expected to be released in April.