Date: 03/25/1996 07:00 am (Monday)
From: PATRICIA SCOTT
NEL-MIMI,DEWALD-TOMMY, . . .
Subject: Legis Update - March 22
The House and Senate are scheduled to be in session through
Friday, March 29th. Following a Spring recess, they will
reconvene on April 15.
Yesterday, March 21, Congress passed another short-term
continuing resolution ( #11!!) that will fund EPA through next
Friday. The current CR expires at midnight tonight. This will
give Congress one more week to complete negotiations on the
omnibus spending bill for the remainder of FY '96. Because the
House and Senate passed different versions of the omnibus
spending bill, the differences will be reconciled in a joint
House/Senate conference, which will likely involve negotiations
with the White House. The conferees were named yesterday.
Last week the Senate agreed to an amendment offered by Senators
Kit Bond (R-MO), Frank Launtenberg (D-NJ) and Barbara Mikulski
(D-MD) to increase EPA's budget by $727 million. The amendment
$125 million for the CWA SRF;
$175 million to the drinking water SRF;
$50 million for building and facilities;
$87 million to programs and management;
$50 million to Superfund
The Administration had requested approximately $960 million in
additional funds for EPA.
Several legislative riders are included in the omnibus package,
including one that removes EPA's 404 (c) authority to override
COE wetlands permits.
Two amendments to modify other environmental riders were
defeated. Senator Reid (R-NV) offered an amendment to restore
funding for Endangered Species Act listings (defeated 51-49) and
Patty Murray offered an amendment to modify the timber salvage
provisions that were passed into law last year (defeated 54-42).
The Administrator is scheduled to testify before the House VA,
HUD and Independent Agencies Subcommittee on April 16 and 17 on
the President's FY 1997 Budget Request. On Monday, the President
unveiled his $1.64 trillion '97 budget. It was strongly
criticized by the Republican leadership for failing to cut
spending and balance the budget.
Conferees Finish Work on Farm Bill
The House and Senate conferees just completed their action on the
Farm Bill. Although we do not yet have a copy of the conference
agreement, press reports indicate that the environmental and
conservation provisions are very strong. Final action on the
bill is expected shortly. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman
announced that he will recommend that the President sign the
bill. (An update on the farm bill will be sent out next week).
Senate Passes Small Business Regulatory Relief
Earlier this week the Senate passed S. 942, a bill sponsored by
Kit Bond (R-MO) that seeks to provide regulatory relief for small
businesses. The bill will
give private entities the right to sue federal agencies that fail
to assess the effects of a proposal rule on small businesses.
The bill allows small entities to legally challenge an agency's
findings, and if a court determines that the federal action was
arbitrary, capricious, an abuse or discretion not in accordance
with the law, it may delay the rule for small entities and direct
the agency to rewrite the regulation. It is predicted the House
will move quickly to pass a similar bill. House leaders
abandoned efforts to pass a more comprehensive regulatory reform
bill on March 5 after some Members and the Administration voiced
opposition to provisions to mandate periodic reviews of
regulations to determine whether they should be continued,
modified, combined with another rule or allowed to expire.
Senate Passes Grazing Bill Reform
Yesterday, by a vote of 51 to 46, the Senate passed S. 1459, a
comprehensive grazing reform bill, which will loosen restrictions
on hundreds of millions of acres of federally owned ranch land
and overrule many regulations the Interior Department implemented
last year. The bill, sponsored by Senator Pete V. Domenici
(R-NM), is strongly opposed by over 150 environmental groups, who
say it favors grazing interests over objectives like wildlife
conservation, hunting and recreation. During debate, a
substitute bill offered by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) was tabled.
Action on Private Property Rights Bill Postponed until after
S. 605, the Omnibus Property Rights Act of 1995, which will
compensate landowners when their property has been devalued by
33% or more due to government regulations, is on the Senate
calendar and is awaiting floor action. The bill directs
federal agencies to implement clean water and species protection
laws that achieve the "least impact" on private property. S.
605 was slated to be voted on next week, but action on the
measure has been postponed until after the Easter break.
The House passed a private property rights bill in March of last
Wetlands Mitigation Hearing/ Clean Water Act
A wetlands mitigation banking hearing was held last week before
the full Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.
Bob Perciaisepe testified alongside H. Martin Lancaster,
Assistant Secretary for Civil Works. The concept of mitigation
banking was widely endorsed by the panel and by Senators John
Chafee (R-RI), chairman of the full EPW Committee, and Launch
Faircloth (R-NC), chairman of the wetlands subcommittee. A
representative from North Carolina's Department of the
Environment testified about a public-private mitigation proposal
pending in N.C.'s legislature. He said the N.C. proposal will
expedite the time it takes to get a wetlands permit, cut
expenditures and restore wetlands in a more meaningful way. A
representative from the National Wildlife Federation, however,
expressed some reservations about mitigation banking on a large
scale, arguing there there has been a "very poor track" record
of on-site compensatory mitigation thus far.
The committee is looking to include a wetlands mitigation banking
provision as a part of an overall wetlands reform package in a
larger clean water bill, which is reportedly going to be released
over the next few weeks.
This Spring, the Senate is expected to hold CWA hearings on: 1)
industrial flexibility, 2) wet weather, and 3) coastal and
nonpoint source issues. A hearing on municipal issues was held
on December 13.
Senator Bennett Johnston (D-LA) has reportedly threatened
Senator John Chafee that unless he moves a CWA bill, he will seek
to attach wetlands amendments to other legislative vehicles.
The President has promised to veto H.R. 961, which passed the
House last May.
Coastal Zone Management Act Reauthorization Passes Full Resources
Last week the House Resources Committee approved by voice vote a
bill to reauthorize the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA).
The bill is expected to be voted on by the full House soon,
possibly later this month. It has broad bipartisan support and
many governors and environmental groups have endorsed the
During markup, Congressman Jim Saxton (R-NJ), the bill 's
sponsor, offered an amendment to reduce the funding levels in his
original proposal to make them more in line with the amounts
appropriated for FY "96. The bill now provides $ 50 million for
each of the next five fiscal years for administration, resource
management and coastal zone enhancement grants. The bill also
authorizes about $4.5 million each of the next five fiscal years
for the National Estuarine Reserve System.
Marine Sanctuaries Act
On Wednesday, a House Resources Subcommittee heard testimony on
the reauthorization of the Marine Sanctuaries Act. Funding
authorization for the program expires at the end of FY '96 and
the committee is looking at possible changes to the law. Jeff
Benoit from NOAA and Mike Hirschfield with the Center for Marine
Conservation were two of the key witnesses.
The committee will also be looking specifically at the management
plan for the Florida Keys, as well as proposals to designate the
Northwest Straits of Puget Sound and Thunder Bay, Lake Huron as a
Safe Drinking Water Act
In December, the Senate passed a comprehensive SDWA
reauthorization, which received considerable bipartisan support.
It 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.
Bob Perciasepe testified before two House Committees on the SDWA
reauthorization at the end of January. He emphasized that the
Administration would oppose any bill that did not make "public
health protection" its number one priority.
On March 7, the House Transportation Committee cleared H.R.
2747, which authorizes a three-year, $2.25 billion drinking water
account to be made part of the existing SRF under the Clean Water
Act. The bill allows states to use 10 percent of their loan
money for source water quality protection programs. The House
Commerce Committee is currently working on a more comprehensive
SDWA rewrite. It is unclear if this bill will be merged with or
will supersede H. R. 2747.
Endangered Species Act
Last year, the House Resources Committee voted out of committee a
comprehensive ESA reform bill, H.R. 2275, introduced by Rep. Don
Young (R-AK) and Richard Pombo (R-CA).
An oversight hearing on ESA was scheduled for this week by the
Resources Committee, but Democrats on the committee were
threatening to boycott, arguing that the focus on the hearing was
merely on problems associated with the law. The committee
intends to hold a number of other hearings on ESA issues, perhaps
as many as one a month!
Sen. Dirk Kempthrone (R-ID) introduced a comprehensive ESA
rewrite, S. 1364 on Oct. 26. Similar to the Pombo-Young bill,
the Kempthorne proposal will redefine the definition of an
illegal "taking" to include only direct actions against a
protected species and not to include habitat modification and
emphasizes incentives, including compensation for private
property, rather than penalties to encourage conservation.
A group of prominent botanists, zoologists, microbiologists and
ecologists 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 property owners.
Please call me at 260-1956 if you would like copies of any
legislation, transcripts, record statements, etc.