Simpson's I&E Report:
Simpson Tackles Wildfire, Sage-Grouse with DOI Secretary
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson on Tuesday, discussed the need to budget accurately for wildfire suppression costs and concerns about a possible sage-grouse listing with the Secretary of Interior. Secretary Sally Jewell testified before the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, on which Simpson sits, regarding the Department of Interior’s budget request for FY15.
Simpson’s bill, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, was a main topic of conversation during the hearing. The bill aims to end the current practice of “fire borrowing,” where agencies must transfer money from non-fire accounts when fire suppression costs exceed the budget. The bill would fund catastrophic wildfires, which are 1% of all wildfires but make up 30% of the cost, similarly to other natural disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. The budget request includes similar language.
“It’s important for people to understand that we aren’t trying to spend more money on wildfires. We already spend whatever it takes,” said Simpson. “What we want to do is stop borrowing money from other accounts to pay for fire suppression. We need to get this wildfire fighting bill done.”
Simpson also expressed concern about the pending decision of whether or not to list sage-grouse as an endangered species and the states’ role in that process. “Some of the states are complaining that they aren’t being involved as much as they thought they would be,” he chided Jewell. “They have concerns that the Department is not fully engaged with the states in looking at state management plans.”
The hearing also focused on the need to find long-term funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program and drought issues in the West.
Idaho Congressman Discusses Major Concerns of EPA’s Overreach on Navigable Waters during Budget Hearing for Army Corps of Engineers and Addresses Maintaining Water InfrastructureIdaho Congressman Mike Simpson hosted leaders of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) in two hearings before the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss Fiscal Year 2015 budget issues on Wednesday. Simpson, who chairs the subcommittee, oversees the budgets for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Testifying for the Army Corps of Engineers was Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy and Chief of Engineers Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick. Acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley testified for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Regarding the navigable waters rule, Simpson said, “It is stunning to me that the Administration claims this proposed rule is supported by science, but that’s hard to believe when you look at the sequence of events.” After the hearing, Simpson said, “The Obama Administration clearly wants to use its regulatory agenda to control every drop of water in the country. This is completely unacceptable and an infringement on state rights.”
In the Bureau of Reclamation hearing, Simpson talked about maintaining aging water infrastructure with flat budgets, future year planning, and BOR's work with the Corps to study the possibility of increasing water storage at the Ririe Reservoir in Bonneville County, Idaho. “It would seem we—the executive branch and legislative branch together—have some tough decisions to make,” said Simpson. “Either we reevaluate the number and breadth of actions we promise to deliver or, if these really are strong national priorities compared to national priorities in other policy areas, we figure out a way to better reflect that in Reclamation’s budget.”
In the Army Corps hearing, Simpson also expressed concern that the Administration has not been following congressional direction in implementing the civil works program.
Idaho Congressman demands to know why EPA releases rule prior to receiving conclusion of scientific results – says agency just fired the first shot over the bow
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson on Thursday, blasted the Environmental Protection Agency over the rule it proposed earlier this week to expand the Obama Administration’s jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was scheduled to testify before the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, of which Simpson is a member, on the FY15 budget request, but the controversial proposed rule dominated discussion. During the hearing, Full Committee Chairman Hal Rogers vowed that the EPA’s attempts to drastically expand its authority would fall flat in Congress and that much of the fight would take place in the Appropriations Committee.
Simpson didn’t hesitate in expressing his complete opposition to the proposed rule. “You say you want to create certainty,” he said during his comments, “but you just fired the first shot over the bow in the west, because this is war. Water is obviously vitally important in Idaho.” He added, “Just because the EPA or the Army Corps doesn’t regulate it under the current rule doesn’t mean that it isn’t regulated. The states regulate it.”
Simpson also complained that the EPA chose to issue the proposed rule before the Science Advisory Board has completed its review of the science on the connection between water bodies, which is one of the major issues at stake in the new proposal. “Why would you issue this proposed rule prior to getting the results of the science advisory board? It tells me two things . . . either one, you don’t care what they are going to say, or two, you already know what they are going to say.” He continued, “You’re going out for 90 days of public review, but the public won’t have this information in time to give a legitimate comment.”
Simpson has joined a number of other westerners in signing a letter to the EPA expressing deep concerns about the proposed rule and asking EPA to withdraw it. Simpson is also a cosponsor of H.R. 3377, the Defense of Environment and Property Act of 2013, which would clearly define “navigable waters” to prevent either the EPA or the Corps of Engineers from impinging on state’s power over land and water use.
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