Policy Update Feb 2, 2016

Views on S. 2012: Energy Policy Modernization Act and Several Amendments

NPCA submitted the following position on several potential amendments to and provisions in S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act, during consideration of the bill on the Senate floor.

Provisions in the underlying bill:

NPCA supports Title V of the bill that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), and would establish a separate fund for addressing the National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog. LWCF is a critical program that addresses the threat of incompatible development within or adjacent to National Park System sites, while the HPF supports critical preservation efforts to protect significant historic sites throughout the country. Permanent reauthorization of these important conservation programs is essential to the future of our national parks. The $11.5 billion National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog includes crumbling roads and bridges, visitor centers, trails, water systems and more; the fund established by Title V is an important step in addressing this pressing need.

We do not support the bill’s proposed changes to the Federal Power Act in Sections 3001(c ) and 3001 (g)—some changes could allow harm to fish, wildlife, public lands, and Indian reservations while transferring expenses for potential damage to fishing interests, recreationalists, and the general public. The bill also includes provisions that may limit the ability of the National Park Service to reestablish fish passage at current dams or restore fisheries in other parks and rivers within their jurisdiction. Further, Sec. 3001(c ) would amend the Federal Power Act by eliminating the Secretary’s authority to potentially protect resources within the National Park System. Changes to the Federal Power Act and loss of this authority would have enormous consequences for fisheries from coast to coast and rivers on tribal and public land.

Amendments:

NPCA opposes any amendments to S. 2012 that seek to weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This law has been the bedrock of species protection for wildlife in many of our national parks, improving population recovery for iconic species such as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear and the Desert Tortoise. Amendments such as Senator Cornyn’s #3027 or Johnson’s #3034 would undermine the value of the ESA and its implementation.

NPCA opposes any amendments to S. 2012 that seek to undermine the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This law is critical to ensure proper environmental review with public participation; efforts to limit or exclude the public from decisions that may affect their health and safety should not be tolerated. Amendments such as Senator Barrasso’s #3030 or Senator Sullivan’s #3015 that undermine NEPA should be opposed.

Hatch #2956 – State Authority for Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation: We oppose this amendment that would put national parks and other public lands at risk by replacing years’ worth of public input and scientific study with a checkerboard of inconsistent state regulations. Removing federal control of public, natural resources threatens the air, water, and wildlife in our national parks.

Schatz #2966 – Methane Emissions Standards: We support this amendment to require the Environmental Protection Agency to propose extending the coverage of its new methane waste rules to cover existing, as well as new, sources. Methane waste from the oil and gas industry is one of the leading contributors to climate change and national park air pollution. Regulating existing sources, expected to make up 90% of all emissions from oil and gas systems by 2018, is critical to protecting national park air and ecology.

Udall #2979 – Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: We support this amendment that would provide a full-time Chairman for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). The creation of a permanent position of chairman will allow the AHCP, an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation’s historic resources, to better advise the president and Congress on national historic preservation policy. A permanent position of chairman is a widely supported concept in the preservation community.

Shaheen #2980 – Assessment and Analysis of Outdoor Recreation Economy of the United States: We support this amendment that would recommend that the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), working closely with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and natural resource agencies within the federal government, begin to report on the employment and economic activity associated with the outdoor recreation industry. Our nation’s outdoor economy benefits every county in every state and we support measuring the overall contributions of the outdoor industry to the gross domestic product. The outdoor recreation industry is critical to providing national park visitors with safe and enjoyable activities in parks.

Wyden #2999 – Extension of Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Program: We support this amendment that would provide full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) paired with funding for both the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs. Together these programs ensure that the conservation and management of America’s public lands helps rural communities meet their local service needs. The amendment does not affect the LWCF provisions in the underlying bill.

Rounds #3010 – Modifying provision related LWCF: We oppose this amendment that would strike reauthorization of LWCF, a provision that enjoys broad bipartisan support and was carefully negotiated between Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell. LWCF is a critical program for protecting national parks that should be reauthorized.

Alexander #3018 – Study of James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee: We support this amendment that would study the James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee in order to determine significance, suitability, and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. The home is the only surviving residence of President Polk (besides the White House) and houses original possessions of the President and Mrs. Polk.

Lee #3022 & #3127 – To strike permanent reauthorization of LWCF: We oppose these amendments that would strike the bill’s provision reauthorizing LWCF, an effort that enjoys broad bipartisan support and was carefully negotiated between Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell. LWCF is a critical program for protecting national parks that should be reauthorized.

Lee #3023 & #3126 – Modification of Authority to Declare National Monuments: We oppose these amendments to block the designation of new national monuments through the Antiquities Act—something that is wildly out of step with the American public’s interest. The Antiquities Act was created by Congress to allow the president to permanently protect irreplaceable national treasures at times when Congress is unwilling or unable to act swiftly; this amendment would significantly impair the president’s ability to do so. This amendment could make protections temporary, essentially allowing states to veto national monument designations.

Barrasso #3030 – Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement: We oppose this amendment which provides a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for gathering lines and associated field compression units connecting natural gas wells on federal lands. Gas pipelines on lands adjacent to national parks impact wildlife habitat, landscape connectivity, and water quality on nearby lands, and should be subject to full environmental review before construction.

Barrasso #3031 – Authority to Approve Natural Gas Pipelines in Units of the National Park System: We oppose this provision that would strip the requirement for congressional approval for natural gas pipelines constructed across units of the National Park System. The threat of rupture and explosion posed by natural gas pipelines requires their construction through our most prized public lands gain congressional approval—this requirement has been serving the public interest and should remain in place. The federal government should only allow private companies to seek easements across national park lands for gas pipelines when all other options are exhausted. The federal government should not allow the blanket use of national parks for gas pipelines, as is offered in this amendment.

Barrasso #3032 – To modify the provision relating to LWCF: We oppose this amendment that undercuts bipartisan support for permanent reauthorization of LWCF by limiting the duration of reauthorization to ten years. LWCF has proven over fifty years its effectiveness in protecting national parks and should be reauthorized permanently. The amendment also institutes a problematic formula that establishes a funding cap at 40% of annual appropriations with no guaranteed minimum for the federal LWCF program. The LWCF authorization in Title V of the underlying bill ensures at least 40% of annual appropriations for the federal LWCF, allowing for flexibility of appropriators to invest in this important program.

Hoeven #3037 – Regulation of Oil or Natural Gas Development on Federal Land in States: We oppose this amendment that would severely limit federal authority to regulate oil and gas development on federal lands. Our national parks should not be put at risk by a checkerboard of state regulations for public federal resources. Existing and in-process regulations for oil and gas development on federal lands are the result of years’ worth of public input and scientific study, and provide the best means for protecting national parks and other federal lands.

Flake #3048 – National Ambient Air Quality Standards: Six common pollutants have national air standards because they are detrimental to public health and sensitive ecosystems often found in national parks. Ozone pollution is one such pollutant and can compromise lung function of national park visitors on high ozone pollution days, damage vegetation and exacerbate climate change. The requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency and its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee revisit the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) every five years is necessary to protect sensitive national park resources. Keeping the five-year review for NAAQS is critical to ensuring that it reflects the best and most up-to-date science. Therefore, we oppose extending the revision requirements to ten years, as this amendment would do.

Flake #3054 – Refund of Funds Used by States to Operate National Parks during Shutdown: We conditionally support this amendment that seeks to reimburse those states that donated funds in order to re-open several national parks during the October 2013 government shutdown. Although those states signed donation agreements to re-open national parks that clearly stated there was no guarantee they would be reimbursed, they judged that risk to be worth taking in light of the enormous economic importance of national parks to state and local economies. NPCA feels strongly that the funding of national parks is first and foremost a federal responsibility. Thus, we find it appropriate that the states in question be reimbursed for the expenses they incurred.

That said, we are now in the second fiscal year since the shutdown. Because this amendment requires reimbursement from the National Park Service’s operating account, it could require cutbacks from budgeted expenses for the fiscal year during which states are repaid. Therefore, we encourage Congress to seek sources of reimbursement that do not result in an effective cut to the National Park Service’s operating budget for the fiscal year in which the states are reimbursed. We hope that advocates for this measure will also advocate for additional resources for our national parks in FY 2017.

Blunt #3074 – Withdrawal of Clean Power Plan: We oppose this amendment to eliminate implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP). NPCA supports the Obama Administration adopting the CPP, and feels it is an important step toward reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The very resources our parks were set aside to protect are gravely threatened by climate change. This amendment would only set back the clock on our efforts to address climate change, and the pollutants that impair the health of our parks and their visitors.

Warner #3085 – Petersburg National Battlefield Boundary Modification: We support this amendment to expand Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia. Civil War battlefields are being destroyed at the alarming rate of 30 acres each day, despite their continued value and meaning to America. Petersburg National Battlefield is under substantial development pressure and significant sites have already been lost. A comprehensive National Park Service study of the area calls for the addition of 7,238 acres of critical battlefield to the park. The added lands at Petersburg will protect America’s Civil War history, leave a lasting legacy for future generations, and enhance the park’s ability to attract visitors.

Murphy #3086 – Lower Farmington River and Salmon Brook, Connecticut: We support this amendment which would designate certain segments of the Farmington River and Salmon Brook as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. These areas are unique recreational and natural resources in an increasingly urbanized area of Connecticut.

Klobuchar #3089 – North Country National Scenic Trail: We support this amendment as it would change a portion of the official route of the North Country National Scenic Trail in northeastern Minnesota to a more scenic and sustainable location. The route change would incorporate into the North Country NST the now-existing, world-class hiking trails in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and along the North Shore of Lake Superior– trails that did not exist when the NST was originally authorized in 1980. Their inclusion in the NST greatly enhances local tourism and eliminates the need to route the trail through sensitive wetlands and bogs of the original (and as yet unbuilt) route, saving construction and maintenance costs. The amendment would also complete the connection between the North Country NST and its sister trail, the Appalachian NST, in Vermont, as originally envisioned.

Nelson #3093 – Extension of Moratorium on Oil and Gas Leasing in Certain Areas of Gulf of Mexico: We support this proposal to extend the moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. In the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, NPCA sent a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management outlining a series of common-sense measures to protect coastal national parks from future spills. To date, none of those proposals have been adopted. National parks along Florida’s Gulf Coast, including Gulf Islands National Seashore, De Soto National Memorial, Dry Tortugas National Park and Everglades National Park, are too sensitive to risk without updated offshore oil and gas measures in place.

Nelson #3094 – Moratorium on Oil- and Gas-Related Seismic Activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone off the Coast of Florida: We support this proposal to prohibit seismic testing for oil and gas off the coast of Florida. National parks along the Atlantic coast provide crucial habitat for a number of endangered or threatened marine animals, including five species of sea turtle, the West Indian manatee, and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Opening the east coast of the United States to seismic airgun exploration poses an unacceptable risk of serious harm to marine mammals and could jeopardize the work the National Park Service has done to protect these species in waters off the Florida coast.

Shaheen #3138 – National Recreational Passes for Disabled Veterans: We support this amendment to expand the disability discount in the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to include those with a military, naval, or air service-connected disability (as defined in Section 101 of title 38 in the United States Code). Dozens of national park sites commemorate and honor the service of American veterans and it is appropriate to provide a discount to veterans with a service-connected disability. Current law provides free entry for active members of the military which would not change under this amendment.