Policy Update Jul 23, 2020

Position on H.R. 7608 and Amendments

NPCA submitted the following positions to members of the House of Representatives ahead of anticipated floor debate and votes on July 23, 2020.

NPCA asks members to consider our views on H.R. 7608—specifically on our strong support for Division C, the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and on the border wall provision of the Military Construction bill. We also ask for consideration of our vote recommendations to several amendments.

Division C – Funding Provisions:

Park operations and historic resource funding: NPCA commends the substantial $200 million increase for the operation of national parks, which would bring needed staff back to our parks after years of eroding staff levels that have been accompanied by increases in visitation. We also commend the 15 percent increase for the Historic Preservation Fund, which would allow the National Park Service (NPS) to assist with preserving our American heritage. We appreciate the $2 million increase for the Heritage Partnership Program, that provides funding to the National Heritage Area program, which enhances community-based historic preservation efforts while supporting local economies. We also strongly support the included waiver for the matching grant requirement for these partners that have been struggling economically during the pandemic.

Deferred maintenance funding: Though we wholeheartedly commend the recognition that maintenance investments should be complemented by additional staffing capacity, we’re disappointed with the $151 million reduction in NPS line item construction, which is critical to addressing the maintenance backlog. The newly passed Great American Outdoors Act will address $6.5 billion of the backlog, but more will need to be done through appropriations and transportation funding to keep the backlog from growing.

EPA geographic programs: NPCA appreciates the committee’s continued focus on expanding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) geographic programs. We commend the proposed $44.6 million increase in the account. We are particularly grateful for increases for the Chesapeake Bay Program to $90.5 million, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to $335 million and the South Florida program at $4.85 million.

Wastewater and Drinking Water Infrastructure: We appreciate the funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds in FY21 in addition to emergency supplemental funding to help communities upgrade their water systems to ensure households can access safe water, especially during the current crisis. Additionally, we support the committee doubling efforts to end sewer overflows – a problem affecting Cuyahoga Valley National Park, St. Croix National Scenic River and other parks around the country – by increasing the Sec. 221 Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal grants to $56.7 million.

Endangered Species Protections: NPCA appreciates the funding increases for USFWS programs related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including listing, planning and consultation, and recovery.

Division C – Policy Provisions:

NPCA supports the border wall construction and mitigation provision to allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to accept transfers of funds from U.S Customs and Border Protection for mitigation activities related to border wall construction on federal lands. Ongoing construction at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona has resulted in workers bulldozing 100-year-old saguaro cacti and may be a factor in dramatically decreasing water levels at Quitobaquito Springs. The $75 million designated for use by USFWS in the Homeland Security appropriations bill is an important step in mitigating the significant damage already caused by border wall construction.

The bill rescinds funding for the US Park Police (USPP) if the Department of the Interior (DOI) has not responded to an inquiry relating to the USPP activities of June 1 at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC. NPCA commends the committee’s oversight and supports this provision. These efforts mark an important first step in examining the deeply troubling actions that federal law enforcement officers took against peaceful protesters on park land.

We appreciate the continued extension of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act until a longer-term reauthorization bill is enacted. Without reauthorization, national parks would lose over $300 million a year.

The bill restricts DOI and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from leasing in new outer continental shelf (OCS) areas outside of those in the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Final Program (Sec 119). We fully support the protection of our coasts from any new oil and gas leasing, preleasing or seismic activities in OCS planning and the bill’s clarifying definition of preleasing activities contained in H. Rpt. 102–116 (p 46-47).

We greatly appreciate that the bill prevents funding of oil and gas leasing within the Chaco Canyon withdrawal area (Sec. 432). Once again, the bill reasserts the need for protections in the Chaco region from oil and gas development.

Similarly, the bill rightfully protects the Boundary Waters’ Rainy River Watershed (Sec. 435), connected to Voyageurs National Park, by blocking the development of public lands and wildlife habitat in the Superior National Forest in Northeast Minnesota for destructive sulfide-ore mining.

The bill also stops the administration’s efforts to undermine EPA methane rules (Section 437). The administration’s efforts to roll back existing rules that require methane and other unhealthy air pollutants from oil and gas operations to be captured contradicts an effort to limit new oil and gas pollution that is widely supported by the public. Limiting this pollution benefits both national parks and taxpayers because it requires leaks to be detected and the otherwise wasted gas to be captured and used while also allowing the public to collect royalties on the gas. The new rule under the current administration would allow industry to keep releasing harmful air and climate pollution without commonsense safeguards.

The bill prevents NPS from spending money on buying or displaying a Confederate flag (Sec. 441) “with the exception of specific circumstances where the flags provide historical context.” While we applaud the committee’s concern about such an important issue, it is our understanding that NPS does not spend any of its funds on the purchase or display of Confederate flags. The agency does allow for visitors to national cemeteries to place small Confederate flags at the graves of Confederate soldiers, but any costs associated with the placement of these flags are covered by private citizens. Given that standing policy, this provision appears unnecessary.

Likewise, the bill mandates that within 6 months, NPS “shall remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques, as defined by NPS, Management Policies 2006, §9.6.1” (Sec 442). NPCA commends the committee’s concerns on this important topic and supports the removal of works that do not contribute to the historical understanding of the site in which they are placed. However, because the significance of this issue requires a deliberative and inclusive process, we believe the committee should consider funding a commission that includes scholars and historic preservation expertise, among others.

The bill requires the Secretary of the Interior to submit to Congress "an inventory” of all assets bearing Confederate names under the agency’s jurisdiction (Sec 443). We applaud the committee’s concern with this important issue. In addition, NPCA supports Rep. McEachin’s legislation (H.R. 7550) to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct an inventory and review of Confederate monuments on federal lands; we support this approach.

We support the addition of Sec. 447 on EPA secret science, which prevents funding for the agency’s proposed supplemental rules for “transparency” in science. If finalized and implemented, taken together, these rulemakings would result in the degradation of the quality of science used in rulemaking, unnecessarily politicize the consideration of science and undermine public health protections. This in turn will likely lead to the erosion of safeguards necessary to protect national parks, their visitors, park rangers, neighboring communities and beyond.

Division D, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs:

NPCA supports Sec. 129 on border wall construction, which would prevent the administration from disregarding congressional intent and transferring additional funds to continue border wall construction. Public lands along the U.S.-Mexico border have already been targeted for construction using previous transfers, and the resulting impacts on the landscape and local communities has been devastating. NPCA also appreciates similar provisions included in the Homeland Security, Energy and Water, and Defense appropriations bills.

Amendments to be considered:

En Bloc #1:

Support Amendment #63 (Original #15) by Barragán (CA) to support the EPA’s Targeted Airshed Grant Program that is focused on cleaning up the worst airsheds (ozone and PM) in terms of ambient air standards. Black, brown and low-income communities are most affected by these pollutants that also can affect their nearby national parks.

Support Amendment #99 (Original #36) by Rep. Schweikert (AZ) to support an EPA reallocation of funding to implement new technologies for mobile air quality monitoring. Both accessibility and accurate measurement of air pollution is essential to protect clean air and ecosystems that rely on it in national parks and communities.

Support Amendment #100 (Original #56) by Rep. Sherrill (NJ) that provides an additional $2,000,000 for USGS to perform surveys, investigations, and research for harmful algal blooms. NPCA supports further investment in the essential research USGS provides in collaboration with local, state, and federal partners necessary to acting on the growing threat of algal blooms in our parks and communities nationwide. With toxic blooms persisting in Everglades National Park (FL), appearing in our Great Lakes at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (WI), and in our western inland lakes and waterways as seen recently in Zion National Park (UT) action is needed.

En Bloc #2:

Support Amendment #61 (Original #69) by Reps. Adams (NC), Grijalva (AZ), McEachin (VA) and DeGette (CO) that increases funding by $2,000,000 within the EPA Environmental Programs and Management account. This account includes environmental justice programs that ensure frontline communities are afforded critical environmental protections.

Support Amendment #64 (Original #18) by Reps. Beyer (VA), Norton (DC) and Wexton (VA) to ensure that United States Park Police adopt the use of body cameras. Recent events have illustrated the critical need for federal law enforcement officers to document all engagements with the public.

Support Amendment #65 (Original #70) by Rep. Beyer (VA) to provide funds for a GAO study on protesters’ civil rights and the impacts of non-lethal crowd control tactics. With acknowledgment of the events that occurred on June 1, 2020 in Lafayette Square, and additional protests around the country of late, NPCA supports a more developed understanding on protecting people exercising their first amendment rights on National Park System lands.

Support Amendment #72 (Original #53) by Reps. Dingell (MI) and Malinowski (NJ) that Prohibits funds from being used to implement, administer, or enforce the recently updated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. These new regulations limit public participation and forgo the need to consider a changing climate when evaluating the environmental impacts of a proposed federal project. These changes endanger already vulnerable landscapes and risk further environmental harm to frontline communities.

Support Amendment #85 (Original #8) by Reps. Jayapal (WA), Blumenauer (OR) and Fitzpatrick (PA) on the NPS Alaska Wildlife Rule. This amendment would halt implementation of a final rule allowing egregious sport hunting practices, like baiting bears with donuts and killing wolf pups in their dens, on national preserve lands in Alaska.

Support Amendment #91 (Original #13) by Rep. Neguse (CO) to provide an additional $20 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program to ensure adequate funding for community projects aimed at forest restoration and fire mitigation. The health of our national parks, like Yellowstone, North Cascades and Yosemite, depend on well-managed adjacent landscapes, including our national forests.

Support Amendment #94 (Original #12) by Reps. Panetta (CA), Carbajal (CA), Cisneros (CA), Lowenthal (CA) and Eshoo (CA) to protect California’s BLM coasts and public lands, including the Carrizo Plain National Monument, from new oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing leases.

Support Amendment #97 (Original #25) by Reps. Porter (CA) and Boyle (PA) that prevents funds from being used to reject grant applications that use the terms “global warming” or “climate change”. Climate change is the greatest threat to our national parks; it is critical we support all research and activities associated with Interior appropriations to combat climate change.

En Bloc #3:

Oppose Amendment #76 (Original #2) by Reps. Gosar (AZ) and McKinley (WV) that would prohibit any funds to be used to violate Executive Order 13807. This EO would slash the time and resources that agencies spend planning and assessing major infrastructure projects including pipeline projects.

Oppose Amendment #77 (Original #3) by Reps. Gosar (AZ) and McKinley (WV) regarding Executive Order 13817 and critical minerals supplies. This amendment is unnecessary; instead, Congress should ensure that the development of critical minerals does not harm our nation’s public lands or waters, including national parks like the Grand Canyon.

Oppose Amendment #88 (Original #57) by Rep. McKinley (WV) that would prevent funds from being used in contravention of Executive Order 13868. This EO is another example of the administrations ‘energy dominance,’ agenda that continues to curb the public’s ability to have a significant voice in energy projects that could affect national parks and nearby communities across the country.

Oppose Amendment #89 (Original #33) by Rep. Miller (WV). This amendment hinders the ability for Congress to get answers to critical questions regarding the use of force by United States Park Police during the events on June 1st, 2020 at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

Oppose Amendment #90 (Original #34) by Reps. Miller (WV) and McKinley (WV) that would allow for previously block funds to go toward finalizing the proposed harmful ‘‘Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review’’ EPA rule that removes a number of requirements that reduce emissions. Oil and gas emissions are driving worsening air quality in many national parks and wilderness areas around the country.

Oppose Amendment #95 (Original #35) by Reps. Perry (PA) and Joyce (PA) that stops EPA from overseeing the regionwide clean-up plan that states are currently implementing. The amendment is an attempt to stop a federal-state-local cooperative restoration program that is working. The Chesapeake watershed supports the health of more than 50 national parks that benefit from the important gains to water quality and habitat restoration.

Oppose Amendment #96 (Original #37) by Rep. Perry (PA) to ensure that this amendment does not impede the US’s ability to mitigate pollution where another country says we are harming them. National parks are at times affected negatively by the same sources of air pollution that are harming neighboring countries and these sources should be cleaned up.

Oppose Amendment #120 (Original #33) by Rep. King (IA) and Amendment #124 (Original #15) by Rep. Miller (WV) on border wall funding. These amendments would strike provisions preventing the administration from taking funds congressionally appropriated to military construction and instead using those funds to continue building an ineffective and unnecessary border wall.

Individual Amendments:

Oppose Amendment #62 (Original #11) by Rep. Allen (GA) to reduce spending across Division C by five percent. The National Park Service and the many agencies that ensure the health of its wildlife, water, air, climate and visitors have long been underfunded. Additional cuts beyond the already austere allocation would only cause further damage.

Oppose Amendment #66 (Original #19) by Reps. Biggs (AZ) and Gosar (AZ), which prevents the transfer of funds authorized by the newly passed Great American Outdoors Act to the LWCF, effectively defunding this critical program—one clearly supported by a bipartisan majority in Congress.

Support Amendment #67 (Original #62) by Reps. Blunt Rochester (DE), McEachin (VA) and Rush (IL) ) to prevent funding that would support the implementation of the dangerous EPA ‘Review of the National Ambient Air 4 Quality Standards for Particulate Matter’ rule. This proposal drastically degrades standards and marginalizes scientific expertise that protects the clean air needed for healthy park ecosystems.

Support Amendment #86 (Original #65) by Reps. Kennedy (MA) and Haaland (NM) that would prohibit funding for any actions related to taking tribal lands out of federal trust status or disestablishing existing reservation lands. NPCA strongly supports our nation honoring its tribal trust responsibilities; this includes land management, which often provides for traditional knowledge in managing park-adjacent landscapes.

Oppose Amendment #102 (Original #48) by Rep. Smith (MO) that would reduce funding for the EPA Environmental programs and management to match the President’s FY 21 budget request and subsequently disable the agency from fulfilling its mission and result in harm to our nation’s national parks, public lands and waters, and communities.

Oppose Amendment #103 (Original #50) by Rep. Smith (MO) that would reduce funding for EPA Science and Technology to match the President’s FY21 Budget request, and, as with Mr. Smith’s previous amendment, impair the ability of the agency to fulfill its mission, which includes the execution of our nation’s best science and technology to protect our resources and communities from environmental harms.

Read more from NPCA