Ranking Member Pingree Statement at the Full Committee Markup of the 2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Funding Bill

2023-07-19 10:31
Statement

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01), Ranking Member of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill:

– As Prepared For Delivery –

Thank you, Chairman, for yielding and thank you, Chairman Simpson, for your work on the Subcommittee this year.

Climate change has clearly reached a crisis point and experts agree that we must take bold action to avoid a major, irreversible catastrophe. So, I am greatly disappointed and frustrated by the bill before us.

Almost one year ago, President Biden signed into law the most significant piece of climate legislation this nation has ever seen: the Inflation Reduction Act. But with this harmful bill, all of our climate progress will be rolled back, and America’s ability to address the climate crisis will be utterly debilitated.

The bill slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly 40% -- that is nearly $4 billion less than we appropriated in FY23. It also rescinds more than $7 billion of vital investments provided by the Inflation Reduction Act for the United States to take immediate, economy-wide climate action.

In addition to the cut proposed in the State Foreign Ops bill, Republicans’ Interior bill virtually eliminates the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which was established by the Inflation Reduction Act to mitigate the costs of climate pollution through investment in low- and zero-emission technologies.

But the damage inflicted by this bill extends far beyond climate change.

This bill wipes out the environmental justice program and cuts $1.4 billion from Environmental and Climate Justice Grants made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act.

It curtails the progress that has been made to ensure that all people are equally protected from environmental and health hazards. This bill abandons our most vulnerable groups that currently bear a disproportionate share of negative environmental impacts, which includes large swaths of rural communities that I, and many of my colleagues across the aisle, represent.

The bill also slashes funding for enforcement of the clean air and clean water acts, which will enable polluters.

The cuts in this bill are so severe that even agencies that usually garner bipartisan support are targeted for damaging reductions.

Funding for the National Park Service, for example, will be cut by 13 percent. National parks from Maine to Alaska are already severely understaffed, and we have made a concerted effort over the last few years to build staffing back up. But, as with all the Appropriations bills under the Majority, this bill takes us backwards.

Let me be clear: the consequences of these cuts will be acutely felt in our parks and in our communities. Acadia National Park won’t be able to hire its appropriated seasonal positions and the existing permanent staff will need to be cut, forcing tough decisions about furloughing or reductions in force.

This will severely hamper the Service’s ability to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources in our national parks and will jeopardize the visitor experience.

Do we really want parks with overflowing trash and dirty bathrooms? Trails that are unsafe because there isn’t staff capacity to keep them maintained? These impacts won’t be limited to the parks themselves but will bleed into the gateway communities and cause economic harm.

For example, in 2021, 4.1 million park visitors spent an estimated $486 million in local gateway regions while visiting Acadia National Park. These visitors supported a total of 6,840 jobs and $702 million in economic output that local areas surrounding Acadia National Park, including Bar Harbor, depend on.

With parks continuing to break visitation records, now is not the time to decrease the Service’s budget.

The bill also significantly reduces funding for the Arts and Humanities agencies. The cuts to the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art are so deep that they will be forced to reduce the number of hours or days each week that the museums are open to the public.

The Smithsonian cut represents about 200 full-time equivalent positions, many of whom keep the museums open seven days per week – security guards, building service workers, and curators. The 23% cut to the National Gallery’s budget would eliminate 180 Full Time Employee jobs. Staffing cuts of this magnitude would make it impossible to safely operate the museum and protect the collections and buildings.

When our constituents bring their families to see our Nation’s capital, I think all members in this room expect they should have access to these museums. But this bill takes that away.

The bill also fails our nation’s wildland firefighters. It does not provide any of the funding requested by the Administration to support wildland firefighters and their families through better compensation, safe housing, and health and well-being assistance. Without this funding, firefighters will lose the compensation increases first provided in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at the end of this year.

I was relieved to see that the bill continues the advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service that was put in place by Democrats last year. The truth of the matter is that if Congress did its job, advance appropriations would not be necessary. Unfortunately, House Republicans are showing us why such a backstop is critical. By reneging on the budget agreement and doggedly pursuing partisan appropriations bills, they are putting us on a path to a government shutdown.

And, sadly, the bill also contains numerous discriminatory riders, which have proven so divisive in earlier markups. I am particularly shocked to see the majority’s posture towards Latinos, with a policy rider that prohibits the Smithsonian Institution from highlighting the contributions of American Latinos in U.S. history and culture by denying funds for the new National Museum of the American Latino and for the operation of the Molina Family Latino Gallery.

Finally, the bill includes an exhaustive list of anti-environment riders that seek to derail any effort to combat climate change and undermine clean water and clean air protections.

They give an open invitation to exploitative oil, gas, and mineral leasing by blocking environmental regulations and even overriding judicial review. At the same time, the bill suppresses clean energy production. Clean, renewable energy is critical if we are going to save our planet for future generations.

The majority of Americans support becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and they support taking responsibility for future generations. The austere and irresponsible cuts in this bill do not align with their values.

I would like to thank Ranking Member DeLauro for her tireless efforts on the Committee and the staff on both sides of the aisle.

I oppose the bill. I urge my colleagues to oppose the bill and I yield back.

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118th Congress