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Simpson Protects Idaho Water from EPA

Idaho Congressman Upholds Western Priorities as House Committee marks up Interior Appropriations Bill

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today protected Idaho priorities in the House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for FY16.  The bill, which sets out the budget for the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was marked up by the full House Appropriations Committee.  Simpson, who sits on the subcommittee, defended a number of important provisions in the bill that protect western interests, including language preventing the EPA’s recently-finalized rule expanding federal jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act.

During the markup, Simpson successfully fought off an amendment intended to strike this language, claiming that the only certainty that the EPA has provided with its new rule is the certainty that all water will eventually be subject to Clean Water Act regulation.

“There is no way that you cannot eventually take this rule to say that it doesn’t impact groundwater, because groundwater is connected to other waters,” Simpson said during the markup.  “The EPA has gone way overboard beyond what Congress ever intended with the Clean Water Act.”

Simpson also defeated an amendment to strike three sections of the bill addressing the Endangered Species Act.  The bill included a provision similar to Simpson’s 2011 language that reinstated the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to remove wolves from the endangered species list that applies to gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes.  Wolf populations in both areas have vastly exceeded recovery goals.

“When the Endangered Species Act was originally passed, it was broadly supported,” said Simpson.  “But today it isn’t doing what it was intended to do.  Instead, interest groups are using the ESA to control land and water by suing federal agencies over each and every decision they make.  The ESA hasn’t been reauthorized for over 25 years, and Congress needs to update this law.”

The bill included a number of important Idaho priorities, including full funding for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).  The bill also fully funds wild land fire accounts at the 10-year average, providing $3.6 billion for both Forest Service and DOI fire-fighting accounts, a $52 million increase over FY15, and a $75 million increase for hazardous fuels management.

The bill passed the full committee and now awaits consideration on the floor of the House of Representatives.