Legislative Update - July 26
The House and Senate are scheduled to adjourn for the
August recess on Friday, August 2. The House is scheduled to
reconvene on September 4 and the Senate on September 3rd. The
target adjournment date for the 104th Congress is October 4.
Senate Action expected next week on EPA Appropriations
The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday, July 30, on EPA's
FY 1997 Appropriations bill, which funds EPA at slightly higher
levels than '96. The bill is $30 million above the House-
passed measure, but still $430 million below the President's
request. At the request of Subcommittee Chairman Kit Bond (R-
MO), no legislative riders were attached during committee markup.
Bond asked members to hold off from offering any legislative
changes until the bill reaches the Senate floor.
Line Items include:
* $1.4 billion for the CWA SRF ($76 million more than the
House bill and the president's request).
* Language specifically calling for "full funding of the
Sarasota Bay Project."
(The Senate bill does not, however, include the provision
in the House appropriations bill to earmark $1 million from the
National Estuary Program to support the federal share of the Bay-
Delta Agreement, a provision that will hopefully be dropped in
* $750,000 for Lake Champlain Management plan
* $100,000 for a demonstration project on the use of
oysters to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay
tributaries in MD
* $500,000 to continue the model coordinated tribal water
quality program in Washington State
* $1 million for the sediments decontamination technology
study, authorized under WRDA ('92) to "pilot alternatives to
disposal contamination of the ocean and to find beneficial uses
for dredged material"
* $1 million for the NY City Watershed protection program
to ensure safe drinking water for NY City, including monitoring,
surveillance and research activities.
* $250,000 for the final year of a demonstration program on
the Potomac River's north branch of an acid mine drainage
* Language urging EPA to support the efforts of the Lake
Onondaga Lake Management Conference to implement a comprehensive
* $1 million for the city of West Palm Beach to implement
an innovative wetlands-based potable water reuse demonstration
program, intended to help in the restoration of the Everglades.
Administration Position: On July 11, OMB sent a letter to the
Appropriations Committee members saying that although the
administration is pleased that the bill does not contain any
contentious legislative riders, it "strongly objects" to the
overall reductions below the president's request. The
Administration specifically wants additional monies for EPA's
research and management budget, the Montreal Protocol, the
Environment Technology Initiative and Boston Harbor.
To avoid a budget battle with the President just prior to the
November elections, there is some interest in passing a
preemptive continuing resolution (CR) that would fund some
agencies (i.e. those without a signed appropriations bill) at FY
'96 levels thru March of next year.
House Majority Leader, Dick Armey (R-Texas), is a proponent of
passing a CR, but Sen. Mark Hatfield and Rep. Bob Livingston,
chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees
respectively, are against a preemptive CR and are trying to move
individual spending bills.
Safe Drinking Water Act Conference Stalled
Efforts to reconcile differences in the House and Senate-passed
SDWA bills are reportedly stalled over some throny issues,
including right-to-know, radon, small system variances, operator
certification, capacity development and sourcewater protection.
The House and Senate are trying to enact SDWA reform by Aug. 1 so
that $725 million appropriated in FY '96 to a drinking water SRF
won't be reallocated to the clean water SRF account (there's a
chance, however, that the Appropriations committees will be asked
to delay the Aug. 1 deadline).
The Administration favors the House measure, and environmental
groups have said they will not support a bill unless the
conference report includes several particular items included in
the House bill, but not the Senate.
Source Water Protection: Differences over the sourcewater
protection language is one outstanding issue. Both the House
and Senate bills require EPA to help states carry out a
sourcewater assessment program to identify potential protection
areas and the origins of contaminants. But the House deleted
language in the Senate bill that would set up a petition program
to encourage local communities to protect source water. The
House, along with many water supply and environmental groups,
argued that the petition process was too cumbersome. Instead,
the House bill simply allows states to develop their own
Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
It looks likely that the 104th Congress will pass a Water
Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill this session -- the first
time since 1992.
The House is scheduled to vote on its bill, H.R. 3592, on
Tuesday, July 30, under suspension of the rules (i.e. 2/3
required for passage -- yea or nay vote-- no amendments). The
Senate passed its version, S. 640, on July 11.
Administration position: The Administration has concerns over
the cost of WRDA, which has increased as members have added new
projects, many of which cannot possibly be funded given current
budget constraints (The House recently added on some $300
million, bringing the total authorization to about $4.9 billion;
the Senate passed an amendment authorizing about $1 billion more
in projects). Among other technical changes, the Administration
would prefer to see a greater non-federal cost share for flood
control projects. The bill raises the federal cost share from 25
to 35%, but the Administration would prefer a 50% federal/non-
The following are some of the key environmental provisions in the
* Beneficial uses of dredged materials: Authorizes the
Secretary to select a method of disposal that is not the least
costly, if the costs are minimal and the benefits to the
environment, such as the creation of wetlands and the control of
shoreline erosion, justify its selection.
* Planning Assistance to States: Authorizes $10 million
under an amended Section 22 for state planning, clarifying that
eligible activities include watershed and ecosystem restoration.
Raises maximum amount a state can receive from $300,000 to
* Restoration of Environmental Quality: Directs the Corps
to mitigate project impacts and restore environmental
quality through site modifications.
* Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration: Authorizes the Secretary
to carry out ecosystem restoration projects where the environment
and economic interests justify the costs.
* Flood Control Policies: Encourages non-structural
alternatives to be considered, including watershed management,
wetlands restoration, floodplain regulation, and acquisition of
flood plain lands. Also, calls for flood plain management plans
to be developed to reduce impacts of flood events.
* Long-Term Sediment Management Strategies: Calls for
Secretary to enter into long-term agreements with non-federal
sponsors of navigational projects and to consult with federal
agencies, states and tribes.
* Confined Dredged Material Disposal: Both the House and
Senate bills include language establishing new cost sharing
provisions for confined dredged material disposal facilities.
For the first time, constructed land-based facilities would be
eligible for federal cost sharing, thereby making upland disposal
on equal footing with open ocean disposal.
Section 320 Fix: OWOW is pushing for a floor amendment to WRDA
that would provide a technical fix to Section 320 to authorize
grants for to support activities necessary for CCMP
On Wednesday, July 24, the Senate approved a $54.3
billion agriculture bill (H.R. 3603, S. Rpt. 104-317) that funds
most conservation at the levels authorized in the 1996 farm bill.
The House bill, on the other hand, which passed June 12, would
limit funding for certain conservation measures. Differences
will have to be worked out in conference.
On Monday, the Senate approved an amendment by Sens. Dale
Bumpers (D-Ark.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) that would limit
enrollment in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) to 130,000 acres
for FY '97. Additional acreage that year would need to be paid
for through nonfederal funds, according to the amendment.
It also requires that the Agriculture Department in FY
'98 first enroll at least 31,667 acres in WRP's temporary
easements program before enrolling land in the permanent easement
category. The 1996 farm bill reauthorized WRP through 2002,
capping enrollment at 975,000 acres.
Hearing on H.R.3217, National Invasive Species Act:
On July 17, OWOW Deputy Office Director Dave Davis
testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee in support of H.R. 3217, the National Invasive Species
Act. The bill seeks to prevent the introduction and spread of
nonindigenous species in U.S. waters.
The bill appears to have considerable bipartisan support
(36 House cosponsors). A companion bill, S. 1660, by Senator
Glenn, is pending in the Senate. No Senate action has occurred
yet on S. 1660, which has 14 Senate cosponsors.
LCV Targets Members of Congress
Last week, the League of Conservation Voters launched a $
1.5 million campaign to defeat the 12 "most vulnerable, anti-
environment" members of Congress in the 1996 election. The
first five candidates are all House members and include: Reps.
Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho), Gary Condit (D-Calif.), Frank Riggs
(R-Calif.), Michael Flanagan (R-Ill.) and Steve Stockman (R-
Texas). The remaining seven will be named at a later date.
The league is planning an all-out grassroots and media
campaign tailored specifically to each district, including radio
and TV ads.
Action on New Private Property Bill unlikely before Recess
On July 16, Sen. Hatch introduced a new private property rights
bill-- S. 1954, which is a slightly modified version of Sen.
Dole's private property rights bill (S. 605). Although Senate
Majority Leader Lott publicly announced his intention to move a
private property legislation before the August recess, the bill
has been dropped for floor consideration, reportedly because of
The most significant change from S. 605 is that S. 1954 now
requires that property or a portion of the property be devalued
by 50 percent or more before compensation is paid out. S. 605's
threshold was 33 percent. The bill also includes a slightly
more narrow definition of "property" (e.g., excluding
Democrats and moderate Republicans are likely to attempt a
filibuster if S. 1954 is brought to the floor. ( The President
previously promised to veto the Dole measure if it passed).
House action: The House passed a property rights bill (H.R. 925,
now part of H.R. 9) in March 1995.
Pacific Northwest Forest Plan
The President's Northwest Forest Plan received mixed reviews
during its first full review by Congress. The Subcommittee on
National Parks, Forests and Lands, chaired by Rep. Jim Hansen (R-
Utah), heard testimony from county commissioners, members of
Congress from Northern California, the director of an Audubon
Society chapter and two administration officials.
County officials said the president's plan had failed to do its
job of supplying timber and job assistance to rural communities,
instead producing double digit unemployment.
USDA's Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment,
James Lyons, said the forest plan is "functioning well." Lyons
added, however, that salvage timber provisions signed into law a
year ago have interfered with implementing the Forest Plan. In
his opening statement, Chairman Hansen said more jobs would be
lost as a result of the recent Administration's actions.
Mitigation Banking Bill Introduced
On June 20, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) introduced H.R.
3692, the Wetlands Restoration and Improvement Act of 1996, a
bill that will promote the use of wetlands mitigation banks.
Although many of the bill's provisions are consistent with
the federal mitigation banking guidance, there are a few issues
of concern. Initial reaction from the environmental community
has been against the proposed bill. At this time, there is no
official agency position on the legislation. The administration
is supportive of mitigation banks as long as adequate
environmental safeguards are in place.
A pesticide reform bill (H.R 1627) could become the first major
environmental bill enacted into law this year. The bill has
passed both the House and Senate and has been presented to the
President, who is expected to sign the legislation.
H.R. 1627 would amend the nation's two major pesticide laws-the
Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which
governs the registration of pesticides with EPA; and the Federal
Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), which directs EPA in setting
pesticide safety levels in foods.
In summary, the bill revises the Delaney clause-which bans
carcinogenic pesticide residue in processed foods-and requires
EPA to set a uniform pesticide tolerance for raw and processed
foods that is "safe," which the bill defines as a "reasonable
certainty of no harm." The bill also includes provisions
requiring EPA to consider special risk factors for children when
setting tolerances and distribute more consumer information on
On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 3814, the FY'97 Appropriations
bill for Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary and related
agencies, which includes funding for NOAA.
The Administration was demanding that the bill provide funding
for Everglades restoration, coastal pollution control, habitat
conservation, global change monitoring and modeling and other
programs that were not funded in the committee-passed bill. In a
statement released prior to the floor vote, OMB said that
reductions below FY '96 levels in ocean assessment, marine
sanctuary management, endangered species recovery plans and
fisheries programs would "undermine NOAA's ability to manage and
protect our nation's ocean and coastal resources." More details
to follow in next update on the final appropriations levels.