Date: 12/06/1995 08:29 am (Wednesday)
From: PATRICIA SCOTT
BALLA","JIM BUTCH","MEL COTE", . . .
Subject: Legislative Update - Week of Dec.4
Legislative Update - Week of December 5
EPA Appropriations Bill Sent Back to Conference
The conferees are scheduled to begin meeting this week on EPA's
Appropriations bill, which was rejected by the full House last
week by a vote of 216 to 208. Although the specific charge to
the conferees was to increase the allocation for veterans medical
benefits, it was clear many Members voted against the bill
because of its proposed cuts to housing and environmental
programs. (The GOP accused House Democrats of using veterans
issues to defeat the bill and send it back to conference --the
bill actually contains $400 million above last year's level for
veterans medical benefits).
While most of the House "riders" were dropped from the conference
report, several restrictions on EPA's authority were retained,
including language that would remove our $404 (c) authority to
override Army Corps of Engineers wetlands permits. The report
also included language addressing several issues raised by the
earlier riders. While the conferees agreed, for example, to
restore funds deleted by the House for the Gulf of Mexico
program, the report language expresses concern over the "current
scope, cost and long-term direction the agency has planned" for
the Gulf program and demands that EPA perform a "thorough study
and evaluation of this program and its total expenditures... "
Even if the bill cleared Congress last week, Clinton was expected
to veto it because of the overall funding levels. In the
Statement of Administration Policy, the White House also cited
the $ 404 (c) rider as one of the major issues of disagreement.
Clinton reportedly said he will sign the measure if Congress adds
an additional $1.6 to $2 billion to the overall spending bill.
Our funding bill is one of six appropriations bills that have not
yet been signed into law. With the continuing resolution due to
expire next Friday, Dec. 15, it is unclear whether another
partial government shutdown may occur. Because the remaining
appropriations bills are seen as leverage in making the President
accept a seven year balanced budget, they have become part of the
overall discussions on the budget bill. Negotiations began on
the measure last week between House and Senate leaders and the
White House, with little progress to date.
Clinton has strongly objected to the House and Senate-passed GOP
balanced budget proposal because of cuts in Medicare and
Medicaid, as well as language to open the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge to drilling and provisions affecting mining
patents. He is expected to veto the GOP proposal today,
Wednesday, and submit his own proposal to Congress this week.
Farm Provisions in Budget Bill
Clinton also has said he prefers smaller cuts in farm programs
than the GOP proposal. Their bill seeks to cut some $12.3
billion from farm programs over the next seven years. It
includes some provisions from Congressman Pat Robert's "Freedom
to Farm" proposal, which would guarantee farmers fixed, but
declining payments over the next seven years.
The bill also caps the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays
farmers to take environmentally sensitive land out of production,
at 36.4 million acres. It would also give farmers an "early out"
option in which they could put land back into production after
providing written notification to the Secretary of Agriculture.
A new Livestock Environmental Assistance Program, funded at $100
million, would be established to help livestock producers with
conservation measures. Finally, the bill eliminates permanent
easements under the Wetlands Reserve Program, which pays farmers
to take fragile wetlands out of production, and allows for 15
year contracts instead.
Safe Drinking Water Act
Last week the Senate passed S. 1316, amendments to the Safe
Drinking Water Act, by a vote of 99-0. Sponsored by Rep. Dirk
Kempthorne (R-ID), the bill has received considerable bipartisan
support. Several amendments were adopted during debate,
including an amendment to include a watershed protection
demonstration program. Another amendment strikes from the bill
the section directing EPA to identify and rank sources of
pollution with respect to the relative degree of risk to public
health and the environment. Under that section, EPA also would
have been required to evaluate the costs / benefits of
SRF: The bill authorizes $1 billion a year from through 2003
for states to build or update treatment plants, develop
alternative water supplies, consolidate small systems or replace
unhealthful water supplies. States would be able to transfer up
to 50% of their allocations from their SDWA fund and Clean Water
Act SRF to reflect the most important state priorities.
Source Water Protection: The bill authorizes a new source
water quality protection partnerships program to encourage
"locally-driven, voluntary incentive-based efforts" by public
water systems, local governments and private parties.
In the House Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) is working on
his own drinking water bill, which is expected to introduced
shortly. His bill is expected to be more narrow, focusing on the
creation of the SRF and a source water protection program.
The conference report for NOAA (under Commerce, Justice, State
Appropriations bill) is expected to reach the House floor today.
The bill, however, faces a potential Presidential veto because it
replaces provisions to place 100,000 police officers on the
street with a block grant.
The bill increases overall funding for NOAA by about $20 million
over 1995 levels. Funding for Coastal Zone Management Grants was
also increased to $46.2 million, which is a $700,000 increase
over FY '95. Funding for Ocean and Atmospheric Research (OAR)
faced a decrease of $14 million from FY' 95, down to $226
Although the bill increases funding for the National Marine
Fisheries Service, it zeroes out some research programs,
including funding for marine mammal, bluefin tuna and protected
The Conference Report on the Interior Appropriations bill may be
voted on this week. The report has been rejected twice by the
House, largely over provisions on mining reform and logging in
the Tongass National Forest.
Tentative Markup Scheduled for Private Property Rights
S. 605, is scheduled to be marked up on Thursday before the
Senate Judiciary Committee (although it has been on the committee
calendar for the last four weeks). The bill will compensate
landowners when their property has been devalued by 33% or more
due to government regulations. The bill also directs federal
agencies to implement clean water and species protection laws
that achieve the "least impact" on private property. A recent
Congressional Budget Office Study estimates that actual
compensation to landowners would probably be less than the
additional administrative costs to implement the bill because
"most of the cases that would be resolved . . . would be small
administrative claims involving minor dollar amounts." The CBO
report went on to say, however, that it had no basis for
estimating what the government would have to pay out if property
owners pursued According to staff on the House Agriculture
Committee, the only changes in the Farm bill this year will be
done in the Budget Reconciliation bill. Other changes to the
conservation programs and other discretionary programs will be
tackled next year in what one staffer called "Farm Bill II."
Action on Senate ESA bill Delayed Until Next Year
S, 1364, Sen. Kempthorne bill to overhaul the Endangered Species
Act, reportedly will not be acted on until next year because of
other committee business. A group of prominent botanists,
zoologists, microbiologists and ecologists recently wrote a
letter to Sen. Kempthorne saying his bill was " scientifically
indefensible" and that it would " gravely damage our nation's
efforts to protect endangered species. "Defenders of Private
Property, however, are generally pleased with the bill,
particularly its provisions to provide compensation to private
Today, Dec. 8 Joint Hearing before the Hour National Security
Subcommittee on Military Research (Chairman Curt Weldon, R-PA)
and Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans (Chairman Jim Saxton, R-NJ)
Re: Disposal of Radioactive and Toxic Wastes in the Arctic
Seas by the former Soviet Union and deep ocean disposal. EPA
Witness: Bob Huggett or Fred Hansen
Tuesday, Dec. 12 Senate Environment and Public Works
Hearing (Chairman John Chafee (R-RI))
Re: Clean Water Issues - CSO, SSO, and municipal stormwater,
including reauthorization of the SRF. Tentative Witness: Bob