House Natural Resources Committee majority staff released a report today that questions the independence and accountability of the peer review process in recent Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing decisions. The report entitled, “Under the Microscope: An examination of the questionable science and lack of independent peer review in Endangered Species Act listing decisions” studies the federal government’s peer review process for 13 different ESA listing decisions made by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) since July 2013. The report found numerous examples of potential bias and conflicts of interests with the peer reviewers and a lack of transparency and consistency in the peer review process.
“The decision of whether or not to list a species under the Endangered Species Act has significant implications for the economy and livelihoods of impacted communities and private landowners. As such, these important decisions must be based on sound science that has undergone an independent peer review. This report raises troubling concerns about the lack of independence of the peer review process and whether many current, upcoming or recently finalized listing decisions, such as the White Bluffs Bladderpod in my Central Washington district, are scientifically sound,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04). “With hundreds of ESA listings driven by this Administration’s closed-door settlements with litigious groups, discovery of any potential bias about how ESA data and science are reviewed casts serious doubt on the credibility of these decisions, and provides more evidence that the ESA needs continued oversight and updating.”
Specific findings of the report include:
The U.S. Senate today passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, which included a provision authored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) to establish a fair, predictable fee-setting system for families who own cabins in our National Forests. The bill will now be sent to the President to be signed into law.
"After years of hard work to fix this problem, I’m pleased that this bill is now on its way to being signed into law. It puts a fair solution in place by creating a stable pricing structure and will help keep these family-owned cabins affordable for future generations to enjoy,” said Hastings.
Cabin owners have recently been faced with arbitrary, skyrocketing fees as a result of a faulty appraisal system that has allowed annual cabin fees to increase exponentially. Unable to afford the mounting fees, owners are faced with the choice of selling their cabins or abandoning and tearing them down. Hastings’ Cabin Fee Act of 2014, which was the basis for this provision, establishes a simple, predictable fee-setting system under which cabin lots are assigned a place on a six tiered fee structure based on current appraisal.
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House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) today praised the Senate for its bipartisan approval of the Carl Levin & Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, which included a bipartisan agreement (Title 30) on provisions under the jurisdiction of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. The bill will now go to President Obama to be signed into law.
“I commend my colleagues in the Senate for working with us in a bipartisan fashion to advance a number of important public land measures that will promote job creation and economic growth,” said Chairman Hastings. “Included in this agreement are nearly three dozen House-passed suspension bills that had languished in the Senate. Our ability to come together and send these bills to the President’s desk represents a win for our country and for the communities throughout the West that will benefit from these measures.”
To learn more about the natural resources provisions passed as part of NDAA, click here.
The Senate today approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, which included several long-term priorities important to Washington state, and particularly Central Washington. These provisions were included as part of bipartisan agreement between the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The House approved the bill last week and it will now go to President Obama to be signed into law.
“This bipartisan agreement is a victory for Washington state and the Central Washington district I’ve had the honor to represent. It includes several long-term priorities for which the people of Central Washington have strongly advocated for years and their support and determination has helped get these bills over the finish line,” said Congressman Hastings. “This achievement would not have been possible without the hard work of Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, Representative Reichert, and Representatives Larsen and DelBene.”
Provisions impacting Washington state include:
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) released the following statement today after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5781, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014, by a bipartisan vote of 230 to 182. This bill, sponsored by Reps. David G. Valadao (CA-21), Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Ken Calvert (CA-42), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Tom McClintock (CA-04), and Devin Nunes (CA-22), would provide short-term, emergency relief to the drought that’s hurting California’s communities and causing negative economic impacts nationwide.
“Today’s approval of the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014 marks the second time this Congress that the House has taken bipartisan steps to provide relief to communities and families impacted by this devastating drought. The effects of this drought – from soaring unemployment to higher food prices - are being felt not only in California but across the Nation. I commend my colleagues from California on their ongoing work and dedication to this issue and urge the Senate to take immediate action on this legislation to address the dire situation.”
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EDITORIAL: Facts Support Passage of Drought Relief Legislation
The Bee Editorial Board
The Fresno Bee
December 6, 2014
One of the oldest rules in politics is, when the facts are on your side, you cite the facts; when the facts aren’t on your side, you pound the table.
Over the last few days, opponents of The California Emergency Drought Relief Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, have been yelling about water grabs, protesting the timing of the bill’s introduction and doing all they can to divert attention from the facts — both pertaining to this legislation and to the cruel realities of our state’s prolonged drought.
So, let’s start with the facts.
This drought is the worst that California has experienced in at least 1,200 years. So says a study published by the American Geophysical Union and cited by a Washington Post blog Thursday. Not only have we received little rain, but the lack of precipitation has been intensified by record-breaking high temperatures. Moreover, the fertile agricultural fields of the San Joaquin Valley are suffering through an “exceptional drought,” the most severe classification.
Yes, it has rained lately in California. Thank goodness it has. But much more rain is needed to restore our aquifers, fill our reservoirs and reverse the economic hardship inflicted on our state and, in particular, the Valley, by the drought.
The bill (HR 5781) introduced by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford and supported by GOP leadership provides the flexibility and resources to give farmers in the Valley and elsewhere a fighting chance to grow their crops and put people back to work in 2015. In a nutshell, the bill would allow the Bureau of Reclamation the freedom to hold more winter rain and snow and then distribute it to areas in need. Not only would this flexibility help farmers and rural communities, but it would benefit the environment as well.
This legislation is the product of months of talks and negotiations earlier this year involving Republican and Democrats in both the House and the U.S. Senate and is the result of thoughtful compromise. The bill doesn’t amend the Endangered Species Act or existing biological opinions. It leaves decision-making about habitat, protected species and water quality to federal environmental agencies. But it would reduce the flow of water through the Sacramento-Joaquin River Delta to the Pacific Ocean and pump more water to the south — as long as that pumping doesn’t harm protected fish such as delta smelt, salmon and steelhead.
Moreover, these changes would be temporary, as they would end in September of 2016 or upon the governor ending California’s drought declaration.
Opponents are trying to paint this bill as detrimental to the environment and the result of secret negotiations. Again, let’s examine the facts. In a phone interview with The Editorial Board on Friday, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, pointed out that this proposal is similar to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bill that was passed under unanimous consent by the Senate in February.
Passage of Feinstein’s Emergency Drought Relief Act then set the stage for negotiations — and compromise — with Valadao, who earlier had received partisan House approval of a bill that was extreme and over the top. Early on, Northern California Democrats, many of which are supported by environmentalists, were involved in the negotiations. But they drew firm lines in the sand and quit the talks.
Valadao’s bill is reasonable and much needed. It deserves the support of Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer and the California delegation in the House of Representatives.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) delivered the following statement on the House floor today in support of H.R. 5781, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 5781, the California Emergency Drought Relief Act of 2014, introduced by our colleague, Mr. Valadao.
Today, the House meets to once again provide a solution to the ongoing water crisis in California. The House has been on record twice to provide solutions and we must act again.
Although this bill is different from the two prior attempts and reflects significant bipartisan progress towards enacting a solution, we must provide relief – even if it’s short-term relief -- before this Congress adjourns. It is unacceptable to for us to give up when Californians are starving and their communities are literally drying up.
Like California, my Central Washington district is heavily dependent on irrigated water to support our local economy and agricultural industry. I understand the importance of having a stable, reliable water supply. And I also understand the economic devastation that is caused when that water supply is shut off, particularly when that shut-off is avoidable.
California is in an emergency situation. For years, San Joaquin Valley farmers have been fighting against federal regulations and environmental lawsuits that have diverted water supplies in order to help a three-inch fish. In 2009, there was a deliberate diversion of over 300 billion gallons of water away from farmers. As a result, thousands of farm workers lost their jobs, unemployment reached 40 percent in some communities, and thousands of acres of fertile farmland dried up. The same thing is happening today.
As Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, I’ve traveled to Fresno, California and seen the effects of natural and man-made drought firsthand. We’ve held multiple hearings and heard the pleas of communities that simply want the water turned back on and their livelihoods restored. We’ve seen farmers, who normally help feed the Nation, being sent to wait in line at food banks and, in some cases, being served carrots imported from China.
I want to stress that this crisis does not just impact California, but has rippling effects across the entire Nation. California’s San Joaquin Valley is a salad bowl for the world and provides a significant share of the fruits and vegetables for our country. Food grows where water flows. When there is no water, our food supply suffers, resulting in higher food prices across the country, higher unemployment, and increased reliance on foreign food sources.
Unlike the last time this body acted on this issue, the Senate passed its version of a bill in June of this year. I commend Senator Feinstein for her efforts to pass that short-term bill. Since the bills were so different in their scope, those interested in productive conversations to bridge the differences have negotiated in good faith over the last six months.
We got very close to resolution but more time is necessary on agreeing to a long-term bill. In the interim, the measure before us today reflects much of what the Senate passed earlier this year and agreed to in our negotiations to bring some short-term water supply relief to many of those communities in need.
This bill simply allows us to capture some water from storms in this and the next water year and improves data quality when it comes to the existing biological opinions on smelt and salmon. It also protects those communities in the north who are from the relatively-abundant water areas.
The entire bill sunsets in September of 2016 to allow more time to negotiate a longer-term solution that not only could help California but other western states as well.
This bill is not perfect, but it’s a short-term bridge based on productive negotiations between those who want sensible solutions. This bill, while very limited in scope, helps protect the jobs and economic livelihoods of farm families and workers and communities in dire need of water.
The people of the San Joaquin Valley cannot wait any longer for Congress to act. As the title of this bill suggests, it is truly an emergency for many and time is running out. Those communities facing massive unemployment deserve nothing less.
I commend my colleagues from California for their hard work in getting this bill to the floor today.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill and reserve the balance of my time.”
Federal land exchanges in the National Defense Authorization Act
Daniel McGroarty, President of American Resources Policy Network
The Hill, Congress Blog
December 4, 2014
In the December dash to act on must-pass legislation in the waning days of the 113th Congress, there are real risks that ill-advised initiatives will make their way into law.
Then again, the pressure on both branches of Congress to actually act can sometimes produce that rarest of results – demonstrating that sound policy is still possible in Washington. Case in point: the carefully crafted federal land exchange package that is among the proposed amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the must-pass bill that sets in place Pentagon policies and defense funding for the year ahead.
Analyzing breaking legislation is a tricky business, and some have characterized the land exchange package as a federal land grab, appropriating even more acres into the already-massive federal wilderness inventory. And if that’s all there was to the package, there would be little reason to support it, and even less reason to see it tucked into a major defense bill.
But that’s not the full story. The new lands added to the federal wilderness register are part of a balanced agreement – a land swap that frees up current federal lands for resource development, providing new and needed domestic sources of oil, natural gas, coal, timber and key metals like copper. This balancing act – resource-rich federal land made available for development, offset by new tracts being added to the federal wilderness rolls – is in the spirit of the multiple-use standard at the core of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which enshrined in law the concept that federal land should be managed to “best meet the present and future needs of the American people.” That means that various public goods – conservation, environmental stewardship, economic development and resource security – should be factors in formulating federal land policy.
The proposed NDAA land package is an opportunity to break the logjam that has characterized much of the 113th Congress, and to do so in a way that balances conservationist principles and the policy imperative to encourage the development of key materials critical to a revival of America’s manufacturing might.
The concept of balance is honored in another way as well: The revenues raised form the federal lands freed for resource development will help pay for the costs of conservationist stewardship. That’s an important principle, at a time when the U.S. Department of Interior has accumulated an estimated $20 billion worth of deferred maintenance on federal lands.
Including such a package in the NDAA is well within the purview of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, as a land exchange section has been a fixture in the annual NDAA for at least 25 years, spanning both Republican and Democratic presidencies.
Take the case of copper, where the U.S. production leaves a shortfall currently met by imports totaling 600,000 metric tons a year. The proposed exchange can facilitate a new source of domestic supply sufficient to nearly close the copper gap. That’s a legitimate national security objective, as the lack of copper and two of its by-product metals – molybdenum and tellurium – have, as the National Defense Stockpile Requirements Report notes, already caused significant defense weapons system delays.
Nor is this the kind of special interest legislative sausage-making stuffed into a must-pass bill that Congressional critics rightly condemn. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and their Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle have been crafting this compromise for the better part of two years. This isn’t a last-minute ornament being hung on the Congressional Christmas Tree; the NDAA is the culmination of this process.
The result is something the 113th Congress hasn’t seen much of: a balanced legislative package, backed with bipartisan support, that will generate jobs and GDP while advancing critical national security interests. Not bad for a lame-duck day’s work.
McGroarty is president of American Resources Policy Network, a non-partisan education and public policy research organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) today praised the passage of the Carl Levin & Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, which included a bipartisan agreement (Title 30) on provisions under the jurisdiction of the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.
"This agreement represents a balanced approach to public lands management. It will create thousands of new jobs, support energy and mineral production, transfer land out of federal ownership, and protect treasured lands through the establishment of several locally-supported parks and wilderness areas,” said Chairman Hastings. “All of the bills included in this agreement have undergone public review in the House or Senate, and it includes nearly three dozen House-passed suspension bills that have languished in the Senate. This agreement is good for jobs and the economy.”
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