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HR 2107 -- 09/11/97

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Office of Management and Budget


September 11, 1997
(Senate Floor)

(Sponsors: Stevens (R), Alaska; Gorton (R), Washington)

This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on H.R. 2107, the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 1998, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.

The Committee has developed a bill that provides requested funding for many of the Administration's priorities. The Administration recognizes and appreciates that the Senate Committee bill eliminates some of the more objectionable provisions included in the bill as passed by the House. Unfortunately, a number of new objectionable provisions have been added by the Committee. These include provisions that would infringe on Native American sovereignty and potentially have severe consequences for other tribal programs, which would also conflict with the Balanced Budget Agreement by restricting the use of Interior's Tribal Priority Allocation (TPA) funding. Other objectionable provisions of the Committee bill would interfere with the conduct of various natural resources programs and activities. For example, certain provisions would prohibit funding for an ongoing rulemaking on hardrock mining, limit the ability of the Forest Service to revise forest plans, and prohibit funding for grizzly bear reintroduction into Idaho and Montana.

In addition, the Committee bill contains provisions that violate the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA), such as a provision to require additional, unnecessary authorizing language for key land acquisition in Montana and California. The Administration urges the Senate to strike these provisions from the bill.

If such policies were adopted, particularly in light of other concerns raised in this Statement of Administration Policy, the President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.

The Administration will also seek restoration of certain of the Committee's reductions to the President's requests. We recognize that it will not be possible in all cases to attain the Administration's full request and will work with the Senate toward achieving acceptable funding levels. The Administration is committed to working with the Senate to identify reductions in the bill in order to find offsets for the restoration of funds that the Administration seeks.

Department of the Interior

Land Acquisition. The Administration commends the Committee for providing the $700 million in FY 1998 budget authority from the Land and Water Conservation Fund as agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA). However, the Administration does not believe that additional authorizing language is required for Yellowstone and Headwaters and strongly objects to making the funding of these acquisitions contingent upon enactment of specific authorizing legislation, which could indefinitely delay expenditures and, therefore, violate the intent of the BBA. If this restriction is removed, the Committee's action would provide the funding mechanism for acquisition of the Crown Butte Mining property (MT) on the border of Yellowstone National Park and the purchase of Headwaters Forest, the last great stand of ancient redwoods in private hands in California. It will also allow the Federal land managing agencies to address other critical land acquisition needs.

The Administration also objects to the $21 million, or 30 percent, reduction in requested funding for regular National Park Service Land Acquisition and State Assistance, an account protected in the BBA. This reduction was accomplished primarily by providing only $3 million of the $22 million requested as part of efforts to restore the Elwha River in Olympic National Park in Washington.

Native American Program Riders. The BBA specifies that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Tribal Priority Allocation funds (TPA), used to support basic services on Indian reservations across the Nation, are protected. Section 118 of the Committee bill would require a means-test distribution formula of TPA funds, and section 120 would require tribes to waive sovereign immunity in order to accept TPA funds. The Administration strongly objects to both sections, which would conflict with the BBA by restricting the use of TPA funds.

Bill language requiring a needs-based distribution of TPA funds beginning in FY 1999 is contrary to U.S. trust and treaty obligations and tribal sovereignty. In addition, the $76.5 million TPA increase in FY 1998 would be withheld until BIA develops a means-test distribution formula. Some programs in TPA are already allocated based on need, and the Department is willing to continue to examine the basis for allocating other program funds. However, the proposal to means test all TPA funding is based on the false premise that many tribes have sizable independent revenues.

Equally objectionable is the section providing that tribal acceptance of TPA funding shall "waive any claim of immunity by that Indian tribe" and subject the tribe to Federal court jurisdiction. Sovereign immunity protects governments from involuntary depletion of their treasuries, and waivers of sovereign immunity are ordinarily fashioned in a manner that protects government operations. The proposed categorical waiver of tribal sovereign immunity would undermine the ability of tribes to perform government functions and jeopardize their solvency.

Surface Impacts of Hardrock Mining. The Administration strongly objects to section 339 of the Committee bill, which would prohibit the use of funds for an ongoing Department of the Interior (DOI) rulemaking to update rules on surface management of hardrock mines until the Secretary of the Interior establishes a Federal-State advisory committee that would prepare a "consensus" report for Congress on the relationship of State and Federal surface management policies. This rulemaking was initiated in the Bush Administration and addresses regulatory shortcomings that were identified as far back as the Reagan Administration. DOI is developing the rule under the Secretary's statutory authority to prevent "unnecessary or undue degradation" of public land in order to protect the environment and avoid the need for future expensive, taxpayer-funded cleanups. The process has included extensive consultation with Western State governments and the Western Governors Association on many issues, including current State regulatory efforts. If general agreement is required on this complex subject, on which the States themselves do not agree, one or more States could have the ability to block necessary environmental improvements from going forward.

Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Administration strongly opposes section 342 of the Committee bill, which would prohibit use of funds for grizzly bear introduction into the Selway-Bitterroot area (ID, MT). This provision would shut down the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS's) innovative approach to reintroducing this endangered species. After years of study and unparalleled citizen involvement, the FWS preferred alternative calls for the introduction of three to five bears annually into the Selway-Bitterroot area as a non-essential experimental population under section 10(j) of the ESA. Local concerns will be addressed through a 15-member Citizen Management Committee to be appointed by the Secretary of the Interior in consultation with the governors of Idaho and Montana and the Nez Perce Tribe. Public hearings on the FWS alternative will be held in October. The Senate is urged to drop this provision from the bill.

National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities

The Administration appreciates the Committee's commitment to providing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Administration would like to work with the Congress to increase funding for both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities up to the President's requested level as the bill moves through the process.

The Administration understands that an amendment may be offered to increase significantly block grants to the States, thus severely diminishing the Federal leadership role of the NEA. In addition, the Administration understands that an amendment may be offered making it administratively impossible for NEA to carry out its function. If such amendments were adopted, the President's senior advisers would recommend that the President veto the bill.

Department of Agriculture

Forest Land Management Plans. Section 332 of the Committee bill would prohibit the Forest Service from revising any national forest land management plans until the Administration publishes new final rules for forest land management planning. This highly objectionable provision would prevent forest plans and resource uses from being revised to reflect updated scientific information, and would risk litigation over the more than 60 forest plans that are expected to be undergoing revision in FY 1998. A top priority of the Forest Service is revising land management planning regulations, and the Forest Service is moving forward expeditiously with a process to finalize them. However, it is unlikely that this process can be finalized by the end of FY 1998. Therefore, this provision could lead to major difficulties in managing the National Forest System.

Purchaser Road Credit. The Committee Report contains objectionable language that would require the Secretary of Agriculture to continue the Purchaser Road Credit Program. The Purchaser Road Credit Program, which allows timber purchasers to pay partially for timber sales by constructing roads on National Forests, presents unnecessary administrative difficulties and has been criticized as a subsidy to the timber industry. The Administration has proposed the elimination of the Purchaser Road Credit Program and, contrary to concerns cited in the language of the Committee Report, would compensate States and counties for any change in receipt-sharing. Therefore, the report language is unwarranted.

Forest Service Micromanagement. The Administration objects to the inordinate level of micromanagement imposed on Executive Branch authorities by the Committee bill, which would impede the ability of the Forest Service to operate effectively and efficiently. For example, the bill includes highly objectionable language that would require the relocation of the Region 10 office from Juneau to Ketchikan, Alaska. The bill also includes objectionable language that would require reprogramming approval to fund the Secretary of Agriculture's Western Director and special assistant. The Western office has worked to resolve complex issues and provide important feedback to the Secretary about the concerns of the Western States and their citizens. The bill would also prohibit any reprogramming, reorganization, office closure, or other cost saving proposals without prior approval of the Appropriations Committees. The Administration would interpret such provisions to require notification only, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS v. Chadha.

Ban on Export of Unprocessed Timber from Federal Land. The Committee bill includes a new Title VI, the "Forest Resources Conservation and Shortage Relief Act of 1997," which would amend restrictions on exports of raw logs harvested from Federal and State lands that were enacted in 1990 to protect American timber industry workers. The Administration has concerns that this complicated, 15-page rider has not undergone public or congressional hearings and that the requirements may inadvertently weaken, rather than improve, program implementation.

Department of Energy

Energy Conservation. The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's reduction of $80 million to the request for Energy Conservation. This reduction postpones potential savings and is especially untimely, as the federal government is negotiating a new inter-national protocol on climate change for signature in Kyoto, Japan this December. This program provides positive benefits for the economy by achieving savings far greater than the program's cost, increases the Nation's technological competitiveness, and supports major climate change and environmental initiatives such as the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Administration objects to the Committee's proposed non-emergency sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in FY 1998 in order to fund routine operations and maintenance at the Reserve. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the cornerstone of the Nation's energy security. The Administration is conducting a study of policy issues related to the Reserve, which will be completed later this year. The study will include analysis of the appropriate use of the Reserve in emergency and non-emergency situations and will be used to guide Strategic Petroleum Reserve policies in future years.

Clean Coal Technology. The Administration recommends that the Senate rescind $136 million in balances within the Clean Coal Technology program. (The FY 1998 Budget requested that $153 million be rescinded, and P.L. 105-18 included a rescission of $17 million of that amount.) The Administration objects to the Committee's decision not to advance appropriate $50 million in FY 1999 funds for a demonstration project in China. This project would demonstrate a coal-based technology that can greatly reduce CO2 and other pollutants, thereby limiting the environmental impacts of industrialization in developing countries with large coal reserves.

Health and Human Services

Indian Health Service. The Administration objects to sections 325 and 326 of the General Provisions in the Committee bill because they would limit the ability of tribes to exercise their self-determination rights under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act (P.L. 93-638). Section 325 would alter the current health care structure of the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) in Anchorage by separating primary care and in-patient services and by designating specific contractors for the provision of these services. The Adm inistration is concerned that such designations would infringe upon the choice of sovereign tribal governments to participate in self-determination contracts and compacts. Furthermore, this bifurcation of ANMC services could jeopardize the provision of quality health care to Alaskan Natives. By restricting tribes from leaving the regional health delivery structure that currently exists in Alaska, section 326 would also prevent tribes from exercising their self-determination rights. These provisions contradict the Administration's long-standing support of self-determination for tribal governments. Given that the bill requires GAO to study contracting and compacting in Alaska, it would be prudent to delay further action on this issue until the Administration and Congress review the results of the GAO study.

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