Udall Secures Strong Investments For New Mexico In Major Interior & Environment Funding Bill

Udall’s appropriations bill includes language to protect Chaco, funding for national parks and public lands, programs for Indian Country 

Bill includes major funding for wildfire management, LWCF, PFAS cleanup, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, funding for Valles Caldera, Carlsbad

Audio of Udall’s statement can be found HERE.

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M), lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, advanced major funding for New Mexico’s public lands, infrastructure, environmental protection and stewardship, and programs for Indian Country as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The billed passed the committee and will now head to the full Senate.

Tom Udall, (D-NM), U.S. Senator

“This bipartisan bill – which makes key investments to benefit and strengthen New Mexico, Indian Country, and the entire nation – is a great example of why the difficult work of the appropriations process is worth it. The bill provides strong resources to protect our public lands and the thriving outdoor economy they fuel, as well as funding key programs for Native and rural communities. The bill contains a number of New Mexico priorities I fought for, including protecting the greater Chaco Canyon area from oil and gas development, funding for Valles Caldera and to clean up PFAS contamination around the state,” said Udall, Ranking Member of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee. “This bill rejects the devastating cuts proposed by the Trump administration, and instead provides major funding for wildfire suppression, the highest funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 15 years, and funding for arts and humanities programs that are key to local economies. And like last year’s bill, this bill contains no new poison pill riders — providing Americans with better access to outdoor recreation while protecting our air and water.”

“Furthermore, I am pleased that we successfully kept out new funding requested by the administration for the Interior Department reorganization – including no additional resources to implement the ill-advised relocation of the Bureau of Land Management,” Udall continued. “Moving forward, I’ll fight to remove anti-environment provisions that weaken the bill, and I’ll keep fighting to reject the Trump administration’s short-sighted and dangerous cuts to our interior and environment programs – instead working on a bipartisan basis to invest in New Mexico’s land, environment, economy, and way of life.”

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich welcomed the legislation:  “This funding bill makes robust investments in our national parks, protects federal lands, bolsters tribal and cultural programs, and funds the clean-up of PFAS contamination in New Mexico. I am glad that this package includes funding for counties that rely on PILT payments to provide basic services to residents like road maintenance and public safety services. With continuation of the wildfire funding fix Congress passed last year, we no longer have to choose between fighting fires and preventing them — we must do both, and this budget plan makes that possible. I was proud to help lead the effort to permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund to continue expanding opportunities for outdoor traditions like hunting, camping, and fishing in New Mexico. This appropriations package builds on that effort and I will do everything in my power to fully fund LWCF to ensure that the outdoor places we all treasure will be protected for our children and all future generations to enjoy.”

Overall, the bill provides a total discretionary funding level of $35.8 billion, which is $248 million more than the fiscal year 2019 level and $5.46 billion more than the President’s request.  In addition, for the first time, the bill provides $2.25 billion in a wildfire budget cap adjustment to respond to the increasing incidence of catastrophic wildfires across the country.

New Mexico highlights of the Fiscal Year 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill include:

Chaco Canyon— The bill includes report language directing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to refrain from leasing within a 10-mile radius of the park, and provides $1 million for a survey of cultural resources in the broader Chacoan region.

PFAS—The bill provides $25 million across several appropriations to address PFAS and other contaminants of emerging concern.  The bulk of the additional funds are directed to EPA:

  • $1 million to the Water: Human Health Protection program within the Environmental Programs and Management account to tackle priority actions in drinking water systems.
  • $20 million to the State and Tribal Assistance Grants account to assist states with cleanup and remediation ($7 million for public water system supervision and $13 million for multipurpose grants).

Gold King Mine — Udall secured $4 million for the EPA to continue monitoring water quality in areas affected by the Gold King Mine spill, and included language directing the EPA to continue to work in consultation with affected states and Tribes on a long-term water quality monitoring program for the states and Tribes affected following the Gold King Mine Spill into the Animas River. In addition, Udall expects the EPA to process all state, Tribal, and local requests for reimbursements for costs incurred in an expeditious manner.

Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund – The bill provides $10 million for grants to federally recognized Indian Tribes for reclamation of abandoned mine lands and other related activities.

National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities — The bill provides $157 million each to the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, an increase of $2 million more for each endowment than the fiscal year 2019. The increase was provided after the president once again proposed abolishing these programs, which support arts and cultural programs as well as thousands of jobs in New Mexico and across the country.

Valles Caldera – The bill continues additional land management funds for Valles Caldera and directs the National Park Service to allow the park to retain those funds going forward, so they become part of the park’s annual budget and provide budgetary certainty.

Carlsbad – The bill continues funding provided for cave and karst research at the National Cave and Karst Research Institute in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Wildland Firefighting—The bill provides $3.644 billion for fire suppression, of which $2.25 billion is provided through the wildfire budget cap adjustment authorized in the Fiscal Year 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which Udall helped secure.  This additional funding gives the Forest Service and Interior Department an assured amount of funding to be used when a fire season exceeds the projection and all regular appropriated funds are spent.  This total is $1.221 billion above fiscal year 2019.  Prior to this reform, the agencies were forced to borrow from their non-fire accounts when this occurred, putting a hold on other activities and straining resources.

BLM Departmental Reorganization— The bill provides no new funding for BLM reorganization. Udall has questioned whether the BLM’s plan to move its headquarters is a deliberate attempt to weaken the agency, and is questioning the costs and benefits of the move.

Wild & Scenic River Flow Study—The committee recognizes that Congress has authorized flow studies for Wild and Scenic rivers, which transect BLM lands which exhibit outstanding scenic, geologic, recreation, fish habitat, wildlife, culture, water quality, and riparian values. The committee notes it is the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and acknowledges the Bureau’s responsibility under the Act to enhance and protect those values and directs the Bureau to carry out those flow studies.

Land Grants, Acequias and Community Ditches – The bill urges the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to recognize the traditional use of State-recognized community land grants, acequias, and community ditches in New Mexico and across the American Southwest during the land use planning process.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—The bill provides the highest funding for LWCF in 15 years, $465 million, $30 million more than fiscal year 2019 for Federal land acquisition and State conservation grants provided through the LWCF. The President’s budget proposed a negative total for LWCF, in the amount of -$27 million, due to rescissions from previously appropriated funding.  LWCF is critical for improving recreational access to our federal lands, protecting iconic landscapes, delivering grants to states and local governments to create and protect urban parks and open spaces, and providing farmers and ranchers with easements to allow them to continue to steward their private lands in the face of development pressures.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)—The bill fully funds payments to counties through the PILT program, which are estimated at a total of $500 million.

Indian Health Service’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse program— The bill includes $2 million, for the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program is part of an integrated behavioral health approach to collaboratively reduce the incidence of alcoholism and other drug dependencies in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. This includes funding for grants and contracts with public or private detox centers that provide alcohol or drug treatment, including Na’Nizhoozhi Center in Gallup, New Mexico.

Indian Arts and Crafts Act Enforcement– The bill provides $1 million in additional funding for enforcement of federal laws prohibiting the trafficking of counterfeit Native American art in New Mexico and across the country.

U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program – For New Mexico, the bill increases funding for the U.S.-Mexico Border water infrastructure program to $19.5 million, a $4.5 million increase over fiscal year 2019.

General highlights of the Fiscal Year 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill Include:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—The bill provides $9.01 billion for the EPA, $161 million more than fiscal year 2019 and $2.79 billion more than the President’s budget request.  The bill rejects the Administration’s proposals to cut research by 34 percent, grants by 33 percent, and regulatory and enforcement programs by 29 percent, as well as the elimination of several programs, including Environmental Education, radon risk reduction, lead paint risk reduction programs, and the U.S. contribution to the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund.  This bill rejects all of those proposals and instead funds all EPA programs at the fiscal year 2019 level or higher. 

The bill continues steady funding for the State Revolving Funds, including $1.13 billion for Drinking Water and $1.64 billion for Clean Water.  (Reflecting the agency operating plan incorporating annual rescissions, these numbers are slightly below enacted levels but consistent with actual spending levels).  The Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program is increased to $73 million, which will support lending of more than $6 billion.  The bill provides $29 million for lead contamination testing at schools and child care centers, $20 million for lead reduction projects in rural areas, and $26 million for water projects in communities working to improve Safe Drinking Water Act compliance.  The bill also funds several recently authorized infrastructure grants for the first time in fiscal year 2020, including $20.5 million to address sewer overflow control requirements, $13 million to provide technical assistance for wastewater treatment operators, $5 million to fund school drinking fountain replacement, $2 million to support drinking water infrastructure resiliency, and $1 million for water system workforce training.

National Park Service (NPS)—The bill provides $3.35 billion for the NPS, $133 million more than the fiscal year 2019 level and $614 million more than the President’s budget request.  Within that amount, the bill increases funding for park operations by 2 percent for a total of $2.56 billion.  Historic Preservation Fund grants are funded at $113.2 million, which is $10.5 million more than fiscal year 2019.   It includes increases above fiscal year 2019 of $3 million for State Historic Preservation Offices, $2 million more for Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, $2.5 million more for Historical Revitalization grants, $1 million for Civil Rights preservation grants, $1 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities restoration grants, and $1 million for Save America’s Treasures.  Funding for National Heritage Areas is $21.9 million, which includes an increase of $1.6 million to fund newly authorized heritage areas.

Tribal Programs—The bill provides $6.04 billion for the Indian Health Service, $238 million more than fiscal year 2019 and $132 million more than the President’s budget request.  Within that amount, the bill includes increases of $61 million to meet court-ordered requirements for tribal lease operating costs owed to tribes and $84 million for staffing needs of new health facilities. Tribal programs provided through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) are collectively funded at $3.131 billion, an increase of $51 million above the fiscal year 2019 level.  The bill accepts a budget request to separate BIA and BIE into two separate bureaus.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)— The bill provides $2,000,000 for the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act for both training and VAWA specific Tribal court needs.