Policy Update Jun 2, 2016

Position on 2016 Energy Legislation

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House of Representatives designated as conferees on energy legislation.

NPCA urges conferees to approach an energy bill conference with caution, and thoroughly consider the problematic provisions in each bill, as noted below.

Specific provisions NPCA opposes for inclusion in an energy bill conference package:

From S. 2012:

NPCA continues to oppose Sections 3001(c ) and 3001 (g) and ask that these sections not be included in a final negotiated package. The changes to the Federal Power Act proposed in these sections could allow harm to fish, wildlife, public lands and Indian reservations and would transfer expenses for potential damage to fishing interests, recreationalists and the general public instead of the entity causing damage.

From House Substitute Amendment:

NPCA strongly opposes Section 1115 of Title I of Division A which would, in part, amend the Mineral Leasing Act to strip the requirement for congressional authorization when constructing a natural gas pipeline across National Park Service land. 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. Further, this section eliminates critical environmental review of and opportunities for public comment on projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which is an important tool for gathering community input on public lands decisions, such as those outlined in Sec. 1115.

NPCA opposes Section 1116 of Title I of Division A because it seeks to undermine the NEPA by requiring a Categorical Exclusion for Vegetation Management, Facility Inspection, and Operation and Maintenance Plans for electric transmission rights-of-way (ROW) across public lands, including national parks. Environmental review of these Plans is necessary to minimize habitat fragmentation, the potential for invasive species introduction, and viewshed impacts. Additionally, we object to the appointment of a third party, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NAERC), to establish standards that supersede the authority of the Interior and Agriculture Secretaries to manage land under their responsibility.

NPCA opposes Division B (originally H.R. 2647) that would directly affect the nation’s most valuable national forests, including those adjacent to some of our iconic national parks, which ecologically depend on adjacent natural lands. Division B undermines the NEPA process through an expansion of Categorical Exclusion use—undermining transparent decision-making. Further, the provision limits public access to the courts and judicial review. This potentially allows poorly conceived projects to proceed without accountability. Not only does this section incentivize natural resource extraction rather than restoration, but it further undermines existing Forest Service planning and authorities.

NPCA opposes Title I of Division C (originally H.R. 2898) which would permanently override protections under the Endangered Species Act for salmon and other native fisheries in California’s Bay-Delta Estuary, home to Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Additionally, it would threaten thousands of jobs in California, Oregon and beyond that depend on the health of the salmon, migratory birds and other fish and wildlife in the estuary. Moreover, this title reduces public participation and environmental reviews of new dams, reduces funding for key programs of the Bureau of Reclamation and limits the federal government’s ability to manage and protect water resources.

NPCA strongly opposes Title II of Division C (originally H.R. 2406) because it includes a broad range of damaging provisions that threaten wildlife and public lands, waives NEPA requirements, and rolls back Wilderness Act protections. This overreaching provision would derail the final, and fully vetted management plan for Biscayne National Park and would strip the National Park Service of its legal responsibility, under the 1916 Organic Act, to set reasonable limits on fishing to prevent overfishing, restore fish populations and habitats, and protect marine and lakeshore wildlife. This title also requires the withdrawal of a critical rule regulating sport hunting in national preserves in Alaska and prevents the finalization of a similar rule for national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The regulation does not prohibit hunting—it prohibits overreaching state “predator control” strategies aimed at manipulating natural wildlife populations, i.e., killing bears, wolves and coyotes in hopes of boosting moose and caribou for hunting. This provision does not serve the public, it sets back clear and appropriate National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service laws and policies.

NPCA opposes Title III of Division C (originally H.R. 1937) which would disenfranchise mining-impacted communities and increase existing threats to clean water and the environment. By shortening the permitting process and effectively eliminating meaningful environmental review, this title threatens water resources across the United States and limits the ability of mining-impacted communities to protect their land, water and health.

NPCA opposes Title IV of Division C (originally H.R. 538) because it eliminates necessary health and environmental protections for those living on or near tribal lands. Among the numerous provisions of concern in this title is language essentially stripping tribal lands of protections from the impacts of oil and gas development and subjecting tribal members to potentially harmful air quality, water quality and health impacts. The title circumvents judicial review and NEPA, both of which protect the opportunity for public engagement and protection of communities from harmful, unnecessary or misguided development projects. In addition, the title may unlawfully or unnecessarily incentivize resource development or extraction. Finally, national parks and communities adjacent to tribal lands, including Glacier National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, lose the right to comment on or challenge plans to develop fast-tracked energy projects at their doorstep.

Specific provisions NPCA supports for inclusion in an energy bill conference package:

From S. 2012:

NPCA supports Title V which would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), and 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 $11.9 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.

NPCA supports Sections 10102 – 10108 of Subtitle B of Title X to authorize three important special resource studies, designate new river segments in Connecticut as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, adjust the route for the North Country National Scenic Trail, designate the Jay S. Hammond Wilderness Area in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and make needed changes to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

NPCA supports Section 10241 of Subtitle C of Title X to permanently reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) and also make some small changes to remove date limitations on sales that qualify for FLTFA revenue. FLTFA is an important conservation program that disposes of, through a public process, federal land parcels of little conservation value and uses the proceeds to purchase parcels of high natural, historic and/or recreational values within federally protected lands, including national parks. Parcels are only purchased from willing sellers and help more efficiently consolidate the federal estate.

From House Substitute Amendment:

NPCA supports Title VI of Division C - Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act to adjust the park boundary from approximately 700 acres to around 2,000 acres, change the name to ‘Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park’ and authorize a resource study to determine if the park should be further enlarged to consolidate existing public lands, protect hunting and fishing and provide additional opportunities for education, recreation and public enjoyment. This title will honor the ancestral story of the Muscogee Creek and other southeastern native people, protect important wildlife and recreational resources, and promote tourism and boost economic growth.

NPCA supports Title VII of Division C - Medgar Evers House Study Act to study the home of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, in order to determine significance, suitability and feasibility of being a unit of the National Park System. Mr. Evers was a leader in the Civil Rights movement and was the first NAACP field secretary for Mississippi. His activist legacy lived on after his assassination at age 37.

NPCA supports Title X of Division C - John Muir National Historic Site Expansion Act to add approximately 44 acres to the John Muir National Historic Site. John Muir is one of the country’s most famous and influential naturalists who was involved with the creation of Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Kings Canyon, Petrified Forest and Mt. Rainier National Parks. John Muir also contributed to the idea that led to the creation of the National Park Service.

NPCA supports Title XVIII of Division C - Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Act to re-designate the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site as a National Historical Park given the pivotal role played by Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights movement.

NPCA supports Title XXI of Division C - Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Boundary Adjustment Act to protect additional portions of the Kennesaw Mountain Civil War battlefield. The title adds approximately eight acres to the park, preserving key sites from General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. This includes the Wallis House, one of the few original structures remaining from the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, and the Union signal station at Harriston Hill.

Provisions NPCA would like modified prior to inclusion in an energy bill conference package:

From S. 2012:

NPCA supports Section 4412 of Title IV to establish a Centennial Challenge fund to finance signature projects and programs by matching federal dollars with private dollars, establish an endowment for future park investments and define National Park Service intellectual property and its associated prohibited use. Section 4412 also provides clear interpretation and education authority for the National Park Service, supports youth and volunteers and makes modifications to the National Park Foundation board. We urge conferees to strengthen the provisions related to the Centennial Challenge by removing the sunset date and funding ceiling and providing dedicated funding sources. This provision also needs to identify funding sources for the endowment and strengthen the intellectual property provision to safeguard the National Park Service name, arrowhead insignia and any associated distinctive feature or site within a park unit.

NPCA encourages the conference committee to alter Section 10101 of Subtitle B of Title X so that the source of reimbursement to the states does not result in an effective cut to the National Park Service’s operating budget for the fiscal year in which the states are reimbursed. 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 during the October 2013 government shutdown. If the section is not altered, we ask that it be removed from a final negotiated package.

From House Substitute Amendment:

NPCA asks conference negotiators to preserve the ability of the National Park Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to address direct and indirect impacts on the full range of values our national parks protect, values that other federal lands are not necessarily in place to preserve. Division A, Title I, Subtitle B, for example, limits the resource impacts that can be addressed in FERC licenses, limiting the National Park Service’s ability to protect park values such as recreation, dark night skies, natural soundscapes, and important cultural resources. Any final provisions must preserve the National Park Services’ ability to protect all the resources national parks have been established to preserve.

Specifically, Sections 1206, 1207 and 1208 should be modified to ensure our national parks can condition FERC licenses, conversions and projects in order to protect all national park values, such as dark night skies and natural soundscapes, which park visitors expect. This means maintaining current restrictions for closed-loop pump storage projects in national parks, allowing NPS to condition amended licenses to protect all resources, and requiring FERC to consult with the NPS in a broader set of circumstances and provide current opportunities for public review and comment.

Without these changes, NPCA opposes Subtitle B and asks that it be removed from any final bill.

Additionally, NPCA encourages conferees to remove Sec. 6005 (b) of Title VI and Sec. 21003 (g) of Title XXI since the language seeks to override existing National Park Service authorities to protect park resources and values. The Park Service must consider how activities on adjacent lands affect park resources and the visitor experience and be able to engage the community in finding reasonable solutions to potentially difficult management challenges.

Though there are provisions in both bills that we support, the harmful provisions proposed in the House substitute are too damaging to the National Park System to overlook.