|Simpson's I&E Report: an Interior and Environment Appropriations Update from Chairman Simpson|
|Next Week’s Hearings:
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
9:30 a.m.—Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey is scheduled to testify before the subcommittee on the BLM’s budget request.
1:00 p.m.—U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt is scheduled to testify before the subcommittee on the USGS budget request.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Thursday, March 8, 2012
A Look Back at the Week:
Simpson began the hearing by providing some statistics to explain the subcommittee’s commitment to these issues. “In 2007, Amnesty International highlighted the disturbing fact that 34% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes,” Simpson said. “In February of 2008, the CDC reported that 39% of Native women will face domestic violence. In July 2010, the DOJ testified that a National Institute of Justice-funded analysis of death certificates found that, on some reservations, Native women are murdered at a rate more than ten times the national average. These are appalling statistics.
“These are also the very statistics I’m thinking about when I ask agencies like the IHS and the BIA to account for the funds we’ve been appropriating. What are we collectively doing to get these numbers down, down, and down further still? For these and other statistics like them—relating to crime, relating to health—these are our true measures of success. Or, in this case, failure.”
During the IHS hearing, Simpson focused on dental care available in Indian Country, as well as staffing for new clinics and IHS’s ability to meet contract health obligations. The BIA hearing focused on Indian education programs and efforts to combat crime and violence on reservations.
EPA: Simpson Scrutinizes EPA Budget Request, Questions Regulatory Agenda
Simpson started the hearing by reminding the subcommittee about the drastic change in the agency's budget since he became chairman of the subcommittee. “When we met last year in this room to discuss your 2012 proposal, I noted that we were at a critical juncture as we had not yet finished our work on the fiscal year 2011 budget,” said Simpson. “Since then the Appropriations Committee has had a productive year and passed spending bills for both fiscal year 2011 and 2012. In doing so we reduced discretionary spending in the Interior and Environment bill by over $3 billion, of which $1.85 billion came from the EPA budget. This amounts to an 18 percent cut to EPA's budget in one calendar year."
Simpson expressed long-standing concern about the guidance EPA issued last year regarding which waters are subject to EPA regulation under the Clean Water Act, an issue that has troubled Idaho’s farmers and water users for years.
“I’m concerned about this guidance because many of the groups advocating for it want EPA to control all the waters of the United States. Many of us in the west think that the current ‘navigable waters’ definition is the right definition,” said Simpson.“It is not a matter of whether or not we should protect waters from degradation but of who is protecting them. I think that is a responsibility of the states.”
Simpson also expressed his continued concern that EPA is imposing an unnecessary regulatory agenda on the American people that is hurting the economy and surpassing the agency's authority. Referring to a recent cover story in The Economist entitled, "Overregulated America,” he said, “Currently EPA has 26 regulations under review at OMB, including the Clean Water Act guidance that defines navigable waters. The one thing I came away from this article with is that I am concerned that EPA’s cost-benefit analysis is not public or transparent. The agency needs to keep this subcommittee informed about its regulatory agenda as we put the budget together.”
FWS: Simpson Talks Wolves, Invasive Species during Fish and Wildlife Budget Hearing
“In Idaho it is difficult to think of the Fish and Wildlife Service without thinking first and foremost of threatened and endangered species,” Simpson said at the beginning of the hearing. “Whether it’s to save snails or slickspot peppergrass, the last thing Idahoans want is the federal government telling them what they can’t do on their own land or otherwise disrupting a sustainable way of life they’ve known for generations. There has got to be a better way to properly balance recovery with people’s livelihoods.”
Simpson questioned the agency regarding funding for wolf management in Idaho and Montana. Last year Simpson included language in the FY11 continuing resolution that directed the Service to reissue an earlier decision to remove wolves in those states from the endangered species list. Simpson aims to ensure that the states of Idaho and Montana have adequate funding to defray the costs of ESA requirements to monitor wolf populations for five years post-delisting.
Chairman Simpson also raised the issue of quagga and zebra mussels, which pose a serious threat to water infrastructure in Idaho. In FY12, the subcommittee allocated $1 million in the Fish and Wildlife Service budget for mandatory inspections and decontaminations at infested federally-managed water bodies, which the Director indicated would be focused on preventing boats at infested Lake Mead from spreading into Idaho and other western states.
“I’m also concerned that when I meet with stakeholders who do invasive species work on the ground, they complain that very little of the money that is appropriated for these purposes actually gets on the ground,” said Simpson. “I recognize that this is not necessarily a Fish and Wildlife Service issue; I’m talking about invasive species funding across the board, much of which is in the Department of Interior or USDA. This subcommittee intends to focus on invasive species in general and how we are spending that money, because ultimately we want the money on the ground, addressing the problem."
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