Date: 02/15/1996 05:18 pm (Thursday)
From: PATRICIA SCOTT
ALD,BROSSMAN-MARTIN,BUIE-LYNDA,BURGAN-BARRY, . . .
Subject: Legis Update - Feb. 15
Congress is currently in recess until the week of
February 26. Final action on the fiscal year 1996 appropriation
bills is expected when Congress reconvenes.
Although there is some interest among House and Senate
leaders to resurrect the balanced budget discussions, there are
still major policy differences. House Budget Committee Chairman
John Kasich (R-Ohio) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete
Domenici (R-N.M.) have been holding some meetings in an effort to
forge a consensus coalition. But even if an agreement can be
reached, a deal is highly unlikely before the March 15 deadline
when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires.
If a balanced budget agreement is not reached by March
15, the Republican leadership is reportedly considering an
omnibus spending package that would lump all the remaining
spending measures into one single bill. The bill would fund EPA
and other departments without signed appropriations bills through
October 1, 1996. (Five of the thirteen appropriations bill,
which should have been enacted by October 1, 1995, have not yet
been signed into law). House Speaker Gingrich predicted that
the (yet-to be-drafted) omnibus spending bill will likely come to
the House floor the week of March 4.
Because the amount of discretionary funding is set at a
fixed rate, the so-called 604 (a) allocation, (which is based on
this year's budget resolution, H.Con.Res. 67), there is not a lot
of money that can be shifted around for the remaining spending
bills. Senate Appropriations Chairman Mark Hatfield, however,
says he is hopeful that he can find "a little more money for
EPA." Because a number of agencies and departments have been
operating at reduced levels under the four CRs, these bills have
produced an overall savings of about $7 billion, which
theoretically, could be used to bridge some of the overall
congressional and administration funding differences.
Reportedly, the House and Senate will pass different measures
that will then go to conference.
Action on Farm Bill
Last week, the Senate passed a farm reauthorization bill.
The bill includes provisions from Congressman Pat Roberts'
"Freedom to Farm" proposal, which provides farmers with fixed,
but declining payments over the next seven years. It differs,
however, from the House proposal in that it expands conservation
and environmental incentives programs.
It creates a new Environmental Quality Incentives Program
(EQIP), which combines several existing conservation programs.
EQIP would provide financial and technical assistance to farmers
to protect soil and water quality. Included in EQIP is a new
Livestock Environmental Assistance Fund (LEAP) that will provide
$100 million annually in technical assistance to farmers who
conduct management practices to protect water, soil or related
resources from degradation due to livestock production.
The bill caps the Conservation Reserve Program at 36.4
million acres, but it does provide for targeting of
environmentally sensitive lands. It also makes changes to the
Wetlands Reserve Program, so that one-third of the acres would be
under permanent easements, one-third in 30-year easements and
one-third in restoration cost-sharing agreements. It limits
the amount of wetlands that can be enrolled in the program at
975,000 acres through 2002.
The Senate bill also contains $200 million for land
acquisition in the agricultural areas of the Everglades.
The former 5-year farm bill expired in December and with
the planting season here, there is strong pressure on the House
to take action. There are, however, significant disagreements
among House Members, as well as among the House and Senate over a
number of key issues.
Safe Drinking Water Act
The House is expected to act H.R. 2747, a bill to
reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), when it returns
from its February recess. In December, the Senate passed a
comprehensive SDWA reauthorization, which received considerable
bipartisan support. The Senate bill overhauls the current
standard setting process, increases monitoring flexibility, and
authorizes a $1 billion SDWA State Revolving Loan Fund. The
bill also 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.
On Jan. 31, Bob Perciasepe testified before two House
Committees on the SDWA reauthorization. Perciasepe said that
H.R. 2747 is a useful starting point, but said that its SRF
authorization levels are not sufficient to meet the Clinton
Administration's goal of a establishing a sustainable level of
several hundred million dollars per year. He also emphasized
that the Administration would oppose any bill that did not
consider "public health protection" its number one priority.
On Feb. 27 and 28, the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Water Resources Subcommittee (Chairman Congressman Sherry
Boehlert (R-NY)) is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Water
Resource Development Act (WRDA). No EPA witness is scheduled to
On Feb., 28 Administrator Browner and Bob Wayland are scheduled
to meet with Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly (D-CT) and Members of
the Connecticut delegation to discuss wetlands issues associated
with the Route 6 highway project.
On Feb. 29 The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD and
Independent Agencies is scheduled to hold a hearing on the NAPA
This Spring, the Senate is expected to hold several CWA hearings.
They are likely to be grouped according to the following: 1)
industrial flexibility, 2) wet weather, and 3) coastal and
nonpoint source issues. A hearing on municipal issues was held
on December 13.
Wyden Wins Oregon Special Election
Former Congressman Ron Wyden (D-OR) won the election in Oregon to
replace departing Senator Bob Packwood (R-OR). Ron has a strong
environmental record (92% "LCV" rating in '94), which he credited
in his victory over his Republican challenger, Gordon Smith.