Last night, congressional appropriators filed a $1 trillion fiscal year 2015 spending bill that would fund most government agencies through the fiscal year.
Despite a few funding shortfalls and policy riders, in total the TRCP considers the so-called “CRomnibus” a sound compromise for conservation funding. Given the overall need to address ongoing federal deficits, level funding for some of our priority programs represents a short-term win.
The bill will be considered by the House Rules Committee this afternoon and face a House vote Thursday; the Senate anticipates taking votes on the spending bill over the weekend. In order to prevent a government shutdown, Congress must pass the CRomnibus by Thursday or, more likely, enact a one- to two-day continuing resolution to buy themselves more time. In order to garner bipartisan support, the bill avoids new limits on significant EPA rules relating to climate change and water regulation and is largely free of controversial riders.
Several key conservation programs would receive level, if not increased, funding for FY2015. The North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program and Land and Water Conservation Fund would maintain current funding levels. The Forest Legacy Program would see a $2 million increase from FY14 enacted levels. The bill also prevents any regulation on the lead content of ammunition or fishing tackle covered under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
To the dismay of conservationists and sportsmen, the bill prohibits the Interior Department from writing or issuing a rule under the Endangered Species Act for the listings of any/all four subspecies of sage grouse in the coming year, although the full implications of this funding moratorium are still in the process of being interpreted at Interior. Sportsmen also are disappointed that the spending package would preclude a revision of federal wildfire funding, as the current funding mechanism has hamstrung the capacity and budget of the U.S. Forest Service in recent years.
Here are the funding levels for priority conservation programs:
National Wildlife Refuge System
- $474.2 million for the Refuge System, a $2 million increase over last fiscal year.
- U.S. EPA would be funded at $8.1 billion in FY15, a $60 million decrease from FY14 and $250 million more than the Obama administration asked for in its FY15 budget request.
- EPA’s Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water state revolving funds will be given $2.35 billion, level with FY14 funding and roughly $600 million above the president’s request.
Department of the Interior and Related Agencies
- The Department of Interior would receive $10.7 billion, slightly above the current $10.5 billion but down from Obama’s $10.9 billion request.
- Secure Rural Schools would be zeroed out, a serious blow for Western forested counties that depend on the program to alleviate major declines in federal timber harvests. House leaders state they intend to find funding for the program early next year. Until then, they will push legislation to streamline timber sales.
- Payment in Lieu of Taxes would receive $372 million with additional funding included in the National Defense Authorization Act.
- State and Tribal Wildlife Grants would receive $58.695 million, level funding from FY14 enacted levels.
- The North American Wetland Conservation Fund would receive $34.145, level funding from FY14.
- Forest Legacy Programs would receive $53 million, a $2 million increase from FY14.
- The Land & Water Conservation Fund will receive $306 million, level funding from FY14.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- NOAA would receive $5.4 billion, an increase of about $126 million from FY14.
- The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Programs, mandatory programs under the 2014 Farm Bill, would see roughly $200 million in reduced, mandatory spending for 2015.
- National Fish Hatchery System Operations would receive $52,860,000 and maintains that Within 90 days of enactment of this Act, the Service shall publish an operations and maintenance plan for fiscal year 2015 for the National Fish Hatchery System that includes funding allocations by region, together with an explanation of the allocation methodology.