As the fun-filled days of summer vacation draw to close, teachers and students across Central Washington are heading back into the classroom for a new school year.
Throughout my years in Congress, I have often met with local teachers, administrators, parents, and students to discuss ways we can improve our educational system so that it better serves our students. The resounding message that I hear is the need for more local control and less interference from the federal government.
More than a decade has passed since Congress first passed the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act. While there is no doubt this law is far from perfect, it established a level of accountability for the first time by insisting on results for the billions of federal dollars spent on education. However, many improvements can and must be made.
It is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to education is not in the best interest of our students. Education programs that work well for students in Seattle may not be the best fit for those in Ephrata or the Tri-Cities.
In my view, students in Central Washington and all across the country are best served when decisions about education are made by local school districts and parents – not the federal government.
Last year, the House of Representatives passed, with my support, the Student Success Act. This important legislation is aimed at restoring flexibility and local control of public education programs by putting decisions about students’ education back where it should be – in the hands of parents and local school districts.
There is no question that we must continue to make sure that schools are held accountable for educating the next generation, and I am pleased that this bill would replace the existing federal one-size-fits-all student progress requirement with state-determined accountability systems.
The Student Success Act would also save taxpayer dollars by eliminating more than 70 duplicative and unnecessary federal education programs that further create bureaucratic red tape for local schools. Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to act on this bill or present its own plan to reform our public schools. With students headed back to school, time is of the essence and I urge the Senate to act swiftly and pass the Student Success Act to ensure that American students have access to the quality education they deserve.
I will continue working to restore local control and decision-making, and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. I wish all the teachers, students, and parents in Central Washington a safe and successful 2014-2015 school year.Read More
I am proud to represent one of the most diverse agricultural regions in the world. From apples to cherries, potatoes to asparagus, and beef to wheat – our region is known for producing a wide variety of top-quality agricultural products that are enjoyed by consumers worldwide.
However, agriculture is one of the most volatile industries to work in. Regardless of the crop, I recognize it is a never-ending task to stay ahead of evolving pests, diseases, and even the unpredictable weather. This is why agricultural research plays a critical role in ensuring our growers have the tools they need to continue to provide high-quality products and remain competitive in the global marketplace.
Every year, groundbreaking research conducted at Agriculture Research Service (ARS) sites and land-grant colleges around the nation help our growers improve the quality of their products, fight off pests and diseases, control weed growth, and enhance crop productivity. This research also has benefits beyond traditional threats, such as improving the nutritional value of foods and making farming methods more environmentally friendly.
Central Washington is home to three Agriculture Research Service centers, located in Prosser, Wapato, and Wenatchee. Over the last nearly 100 years, agriculture has grown exponentially both in volume and contribution to the economy throughout the Pacific Northwest. The research conducted at these ARS sites, many times in partnership with Washington State University (WSU), has been a critical component in this success.
It is the close partnership between ARS scientists, WSU, and growers that make this research so successful. It goes without saying that growers know what the biggest threat to their crops are and their input should play a large part in setting the priorities of how limited federal and state dollars are spent. As they should, growers also put their money where their mouth is by contributing a significant amount of their own funds to these research efforts.
Recently, the ARS facility in Prosser has been the focus of some media attention because of a proposal to reorganize the unit. It is essential for the Prosser facility to continue its longstanding tradition of providing growers with the tools they need to be successful, which means continuing this research on site, where the conditions will be as similar as possible to those faced by farmers in the region.
While we have received verbal assurance that this is the case, I have joined other members of the Washington delegation to seek written assurances from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the critical research being conducted at the Prosser facility will continue on-site without further reductions, and that the longstanding relationship between ARS and the growers in setting research priorities will be maintained.
The high-quality research conducted at our Agriculture Research Service centers and land grant universities help safeguard our food supply and preserve thousands of jobs nationwide. I am pleased that the Farm Bill signed into law earlier this year recognizes the importance of federal contributions to agricultural research by continuing funding for ARS and reauthorizing important programs like the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. These programs allow our farmers to continue to do what they do best – support our local economy and provide high-quality food to people worldwide.Read More
“While we write to express our disappointment in the denial of Governor Inslee’s request for individual assistance in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County, we request that you and your staff at FEMA Headquarters and in Region X provide assistance to the Washington State Emergency Management Division to ensure any appeal filed by Governor Inslee includes the necessary data and information to be given full and due consideration,” the Members wrote in the letter. “We also ask you to reconsider the decision to deny individual assistance with housing support, disaster crisis counseling, and disaster unemployment in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County.”
The full text of the letter follows:
The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
500 C Street Southwest
Washington, DC 20472
Dear Administrator Fugate:
We write to express our disappointment in the denial of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s request for individual assistance in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County.
While the Washington State Emergency Management Division (EMD) works with Chelan County and Okanogan County to gather additional data on the damage to infrastructure and to improve the fidelity of cost estimates, we request you and your staff at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Headquarters and in Region X provide assistance to EMD to ensure any appeal filed by Governor Inslee includes the necessary data and information to be given full and due consideration. We also ask you to reconsider the decision to deny individual assistance for housing support, disaster crisis counseling, and disaster unemployment in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County.
As you know, Washington state is having one of the worst wildfire seasons in its history. Lightning storms in the region sparked more than 150 fires in mid-July, and new starts have continued to occur through August. To date, wildfires in Washington state have consumed more than 350,000 acres of land, five times the annual average of acres burned. Wildfires this season have broken nearly every state record –more acres scorched, more homes and businesses burned, and more critical infrastructure damaged or destroyed than in any previous season.
The Carlton Complex wildfire across Okanogan and Chelan Counties and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation exemplifies the intensity and concentrated nature of these firestorms. This wildfire was ignited on July 14, 2014, and has grown to become the largest in Washington state history – scorching more than 400 square miles. The Carlton Complex alone has forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 Okanogan County residents, and destroyed more than 450 structures, including more than 300 family homes. The estimated assessed value of these home losses is $28 million. Additionally, the Washington Insurance Commissioner estimates that 45-percent of these homes are uninsured losses. Without assistance, these losses will financially devastate hundreds of families.
Compounding the loss of these houses is the lack of unoccupied housing in Okanogan County. While local hotels are normally relied upon to address disaster-triggered housing shortages, the County’s thriving summer and fall tourism industry has significantly diminished the number of rooms available to displaced Okanogan County households. Combined, this has created an acute housing shortage. Given that many of the families and individuals displaced by these fires work within the agricultural and tourism industries, their potential relocation out of Okanogan County threatens the long-term economic outlook of their communities. As you can see, federal assistance is needed immediately to stem this housing shortage and protect the region’s future economic health.
We are proud that Washington state is home to a strong agriculture economy, with farmers, ranchers, and agriculture businesses located throughout our state. Okanogan County is no exception. The County supported more than 1,440 farms in 2012 and is a major producer of apples, cherries, pears, forage, wheat, and cattle with a market value of $287 million. Of the Washingtonians living in Okanogan County, approximately 45-percent of the total workforce is tied to the agriculture sector. However, as the Carlton Complex wildfire moved through Okanogan County it killed an estimated 1,000 cattle, blackened thousands of acres of grazing land, scorched more than 100 acres of orchard, and destroyed critical farming equipment, including at least 30 miles of orchard fencing used to protect the tree fruit from deer and other pests. Despite these losses, the harvest must continue. However, because of the housing shortage our orchards are struggling to find enough labor to harvest crops.
Lastly, we would like to address the issue of whether losses were scattered or concentrated in a particular geographic area. Okanogan County is an extremely rural area of Washington state – composed of 5,315 square miles and an estimated population of 41,000 people. The more than 300 homes that were burned were either in unincorporated areas of the county or very small towns that are ill-equipped to deal with such monumental losses. For instance, losses were especially concentrated in the small town of Pateros, where 87 homes were destroyed. This town has 276 housing units and an estimated population of 660, of which more than a quarter are below the federal poverty level. In Pateros the fire devastated two square blocks when destroying 12 businesses and significantly damaging 10 more. In the Alta Lake neighborhood of Pateros alone, the fire destroyed more than 40 homes. In total, more than 30-percent of all housing units were destroyed in this small town. While this is one example, you can see the damage caused by these wildfires is significant and in spite of the large, rural geographic area the damage is in most cases highly concentrated.
Local communities and state agencies have responded admirably, but a disaster of this magnitude requires long-term federal assistance to help these communities respond, rebuild, and cope with this tragedy. Because there are no comparable Washington state programs, FEMA assistance with housing and household goods is necessary. As Governor Inslee indicated by making his request for assistance, the state does not have housing or a disaster program able to meet the needs of those impacted by the fire and is simply unable to address these losses without federal assistance.
While we write to express our disappointment in the denial of Governor Inslee’s request for individual assistance in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County, we request that you and your staff at FEMA Headquarters and in Region X provide assistance to the Washington State Emergency Management Division to ensure any appeal filed by Governor Inslee includes the necessary data and information to be given full and due consideration. We also ask you to reconsider the decision to deny individual assistance with housing support, disaster crisis counseling, and disaster unemployment in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County.
Thank you in advance for your quick attention to this matter.
Patty Murray - United States Senator
Maria Cantwell - United States Senator
Doc Hastings - Member of Congress
Dave Reichert - Member of Congress
Wildfires in our national forests damage or destroy an average of nearly 4 million acres across the United States each year. Over the last month, eight fires spanning nine counties in Central Washington have and are continuing to ravage more than 355,000 acres of land, including private property. The Carlton Complex fire alone consumed over 260,000 acres in Okanogan County and is recorded as the largest wildfire in our state’s history. This means more than half a million acres in Central Washington have been burned in just the past two years.
I recently toured the devastating damage caused by the Carlton Complex fire, which has left over 300 families without homes and cost local, state, and federal agencies an estimated $74 million. I had the opportunity to meet with local residents, the U.S. Forest Service, firefighters, and other first responders on the ground in Okanogan County and hear firsthand the firefighting and rebuilding challenges these rural communities are facing.
Sadly, poor management of federal forestland was a major contributor to the expansion of the Carlton Complex fire. Each year, Washington’s national forests grow three times faster than they die. Recently, the threat of lawsuits have prevented the U.S. Forest Service from conducting reasonable projects to salvage valuable timber, remove dead or diseased trees, and get rid of ash and sediment that destroy habitats for endangered species. Without these responsible activities to remove excess growth, our national forests have become increasingly susceptible to catastrophic wildfires that threaten our homes, public safety, water supply, and the economic livelihood of our communities.
As we have seen so tragically in Okanogan County, the lack of proper land management by the federal government has serious implications for nearby communities. The most effective way to keep our forests healthy is by active management of our federal forests. In May, the House of Representatives took action to reduce the risk of these catastrophic wildfires by passing the “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act,” a bill I authored that would restore active and responsible management in federal forests.
Our forests, communities, and species deserve better than being placed at continual and increasing risk of catastrophic wildfires. I urge federal land managers to work with local officials, tribes, and interest groups to find better solutions that will improve forest health, including harvesting timber to protect these lands and local economies.
My staff and I are in close communication with the federal, state, and local authorities on the ground in Okanogan County. I joined Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congressman Dave Reichert in sending a letter to President Obama requesting long-term federal assistance to help these communities respond, rebuild, and cope with this tragedy. We are committed to ensuring the necessary resources are available to respond to this devastating fire. Furthermore, a thorough review must be conducted, once the Carlton Complex fire is fully contained, to learn how this fire grew so rapidly and what can be done differently to protect us from these devastating wildfires in the future.
Our hearts go out to the victims of the recent wildfires in our area. The outpouring of support for these communities does not go unnoticed. There is no question that the rebuilding process will be a long one. We extend our deepest gratitude to the thousands of firefighters, first responders, volunteers, and local officials that are helping residents recover and get back on their feet. Anyone interested in helping wildfire relief efforts is encouraged to contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-REDCROSS or by going to redcross.org/donate.Read More
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Doc Hastings released the following statement today after reports of a final settlement agreement that would impose buffer zones for crop protection tools from any body of water in the Pacific Northwest and California:
“Once again, the Obama Administration is utilizing ‘sue and settle’ tactics to impose baseless regulations on growers that would seriously restrict the ability to farm thousands of acres of prime Central Washington farmland. The National Academy of Sciences, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, and four federal agencies – including the Environmental Protection Agency – have concluded that the National Marine Fisheries Service’s biological opinion was flawed. Still, the Obama Administration today chose to shove these new regulations down the throats of Pacific Northwest growers while they go back to the drawing board to determine if these vital crop protection tools even have an impact on endangered salmon,” said Congressman Doc Hastings.
“This is yet another example of closed-door settlements – and not sound science – driving policy decisions. I fully intend to look further into the Obama Administration’s decision today, which punishes our job creators and sets a terrible and potentially sweeping precedent that could impact thousands more acres of farmland in Central Washington and across the nation.”
Hastings authored language, included in the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015 that passed the House of Representatives on May 30th, which would prevent this agreement from being implemented.
In 2002, a coalition of environmental groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failure to adequately consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the potential impact of 54 pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides on endangered salmon species. In 2006, a federal court ruled in favor of the environmental groups and directed NMFS to conduct biological opinions to determine whether the EPA had missed any impacts that these products may have on endangered salmon species.
On July 31, 2008, NMFS released biological opinion #1, which would impose buffer zones around all bodies of water in salmon habitat regions, impacting 112 million acres in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California.
On September 15, 2008, the Director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs wrote a letter questioning the science that NMFS used in determining their biological opinions and challenged its conclusions.
In April of 2009, NMFS released a second biological opinion (bi-op) using the same process and coming to the same conclusions.
In May of 2010, a bipartisan group of 13 members wrote to EPA asking them to re-evaluate the science used in the bi-op decision-making process and to provide an opportunity for public comment. EPA released a third bi-op with no changes on August 31st.
In January of 2011, a bipartisan group of 18 members wrote to the Council on Environmental Quality requesting that they intervene to prevent implementation of the three pending biological opinions and to force NMFS to re-draft them using more credible science.
In April of 2011, EPA, NMFS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) contracted with the National Academies of Science (NAS) for a limited study of some minor scientific questions related to the impact of crop protection tools on endangered species.
On May 3, 2011, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees held a joint hearing where a bipartisan group of Members asked that this study be expanded to include a comprehensive peer review of these bi-ops.
A June 23, 2011 follow-up letter to the various agencies from Hastings, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, and Chairman Mike Simpson of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, outlined a number of questions that the NAS study must include for the work to be of value in this policy debate.
On July 12, 2012, the House Committee on Agriculture reported out legislation that would prohibit the EPA from enforcing these biological opinions. A bipartisan group of 27 members wrote a letter to the Appropriations Committee in September in support of this language.
On February 21, 2013, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a landmark ruling that reaffirmed decision-making by the federal government must be based on science and not the misguided agenda of activist groups.
On April 30, 2013, the National Research Council released its report, which raised concerns about the federal government’s methods in developing these bi-ops.Read More
Each month I receive thousands of e-mails, phone calls, letters, tweets, and Facebook messages on a variety of topics. I wanted to share a few questions that I’ve recently received.
What’s Congress doing to improve our veterans’ health care?
Ensuring our veterans have access to quality care is not an issue I take lightly. I, like all Americans, was appalled when stories began surfacing about veterans dying from treatable illnesses while still waiting for care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and an internal audit confirmed there were widespread problems throughout the VA system.
I’m pleased that with my support, the House and Senate passed bipartisan legislation that President Obama recently signed into law ensuring that VA employees are held accountable for their actions, and addressing long wait times for veterans. Specifically, the law gives veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility or who have been subject to lengthy wait times access to local non-VA medical facilities. By partnering with existing hospitals in rural communities, we can help make it possible for veterans to find the care they need when they need it.
What can be done to improve the Child Tax Credit?
It is no secret that the cost of living, including gas, food and costs associated with raising children continues to rise. According to the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child has increased by 4.4 percent each year since 1960. The Child Tax Credit helps ease some of this burden by providing a $1,000 tax credit for each child in a family, but since its creation in the 1990’s, it has not kept pace with inflation.
Last month, I supported the “Child Tax Improvement Act” to provide much needed relief to millions of American families. Not only does this bill adjust the current formula to account for the rising costs of raising a child, but it also eliminates the marriage penalty within the Child Tax Credit and contains strong anti-fraud provisions to ensure the Child Tax Credit goes to families who need it. I will continue working to help families in Central Washington keep more of their hard earned money and encourage the Senate to act quickly on this pro-family, bipartisan bill.
What can be done to preserve Social Security and Medicare?
America’s health and retirement programs make up more than half of the federal budget and continue to grow each year. Congress must enact real reforms to ensure these programs will be there for generations to come. Improving these programs must be guided by a few basic principles: First, I will never support proposals that reduce benefits for those in or near retirement. America must honor its commitment to those who have worked a lifetime and earned the right to a secure retirement. Second, these programs must be made permanently sound. Finally, we must strengthen these programs by taking the federal government out of the picture and empowering citizens with control over their own care and retirement investments.
If you have contacted my office recently, I thank you for taking the time to share your views with me. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for additional updates.Read More
Today, the federal delegation representing impacted areas in Washington state sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to grant the major disaster declaration that was requested by Governor Jay Inslee. The letter was sent by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Doc Hastings (WA-4) and Dave Reichert (WA-8).
“While local communities and state agencies have responded admirably, a disaster of this magnitude requires long-term federal assistance to help these communities respond, rebuild, and cope with this tragedy,” the members wrote in the letter. “We fully support Governor Inslee’s request for a major disaster declaration that includes hazard mitigation, public assistance, and individual assistance. The public assistance requested by Governor Inslee is vital to restoring public infrastructure damaged by the wildfires. Further, individual assistance with housing support, disaster crisis counseling, disaster unemployment, and other supports will help meet the needs of the families, business owners, and other community members who are struggling in the aftermath of this disaster.”
The full text of the letter follows:
August 6, 2014
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to urge you to approve as quickly as possible the federal major disaster declaration requested this week by Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
We are grateful for your quick approval on July 23, 2014, of Governor Inslee’s request for a federal emergency disaster declaration (FEMA-3371-EM). However, as the magnitude of these wildfires has grown with time, so too has the long-term personal and economic effects on the small, rural communities in Washington. The emergency declaration, while vital in supporting the immediate response of the firefighters to save lives and property, is inadequate to support the long-term needs of individual families or the public entities throughout the region.
As you know, Washington state is having the worst wildfire season in years. Wildfires burning in Counties throughout Central and Eastern Washington have stretched our state’s wildfire fighting resources thin. Lightning storms in the region sparked more than 150 fires in mid-July, and new starts have continued to occur in August. Several of the starts in July merged to form the Mills Canyon, Carlton Complex, and Chiwaukum Complex wildfires. To date, wildfires in Washington state have consumed more than 350,000 acres of land, this is five times the average annual acres burned.
Ignited on July 14, 2014, the Carlton Complex wildfire in Okanogan and Chelan Counties has grown to become the largest wildfire in Washington state history. This wildfire alone has forced the evacuation of hundreds and has destroyed more than 450 structures, including family homes, businesses, outbuildings, and seasonal multi-family farmworker housing. The Chiwaukum Complex and Mills Canyon wildfires in Chelan County have burned nearly 40,000 acres. While thousands of personnel have responded to control these two wildfires, the Chiwaukum Complex remains only 35-percent contained. These three fires have caused significant damage to public infrastructure in Central Washington and will have lasting effects on these communities.
Together, Mills Canyon, Carlton Complex, and Chiwaukum Complex wildfires have destroyed more than 300 homes, mostly in Okanogan County. Given the already low levels of unoccupied housing in Okanogan County, the loss of these homes has created an acute housing shortage. While local hotels are normally relied upon to address disaster-triggered housing shortages, the ongoing and economically vital tourist season has significantly diminished the number of rooms available to displaced Okanogan County households. Federal assistance is needed immediately to stem this housing shortage before it grows into a crisis.
The region’s public infrastructure has sustained enormous damage due to the wildfires. The Carlton Complex wildfire has destroyed 345 miles of distribution lines, 21 miles of transmission lines, and more than 85 miles of fiber optic lines owned by the Okanogan Public Utility District (PUD) – all of which must be replaced. The damage caused by the fire resulted in loss of power service to 3,602 Okanogan PUD customers and approximately 3,500 Okanogan Cooperative customers. Additionally, at least 7,100 PUD customers were without power and telecommunications services for extended periods of time. During one 14 hour period, nearly all of Okanogan County lacked access to any telecommunication services, including cellular networks, broadband networks, and 911 emergency operators. Rebuilding these public utilities will take months and federal assistance is seriously needed.
We are proud that Washington state is home to a strong agriculture economy, with farmers, ranchers, and agriculture businesses located throughout our state. Okanogan County is no exception. The County supported more than 1,440 farms in 2012 and is a major producer of apples, cherries, pears, forage, wheat, and cattle resulting in $287 million in agriculture sales. Of the estimated 41,000 Washingtonians living in Okanogan County, approximately 45-percent of the total workforce is tied to the agriculture sector. However, as the Carlton Complex wildfire moved through Okanogan County it killed cattle, blackened thousands of acres of grazing land, scorched orchards, and destroyed critical farming equipment, including miles of orchard fencing used to protect the fruit from deer. The power outages further compounded these losses. Without power, irrigation pumps would not operate and farmers struggled to water the crops spared by the wildfires. Further, because power outages disrupted refrigeration in cold storage facilities, producers saw harvested crops that were awaiting packing and shipping perish. With so much of Okanogan County’s workforce tied to the agricultural industry, the losses suffered have resulted in significant hardship for the local economy and residents of Central Washington.
During the past weeks, we have worked closely with the affected communities in Okanogan and Chelan Counties, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. We have heard many heartbreaking stories from constituents who lost everything when their homes were destroyed by wildfire, including a family of seven. But we have also heard stories of generosity and bravery that best characterize the steely and determined nature of these communities – stories of neighbors who banded together to fight back flames licking at their doorstep and stories of fathers who worked tirelessly to save their children’s school from burning. These citizens are proud and fiercely independent people accustomed to taking care of their own and handling situations within their community, making their calls for help all the more meaningful.
We are enormously proud of the thousands of firefighters, volunteers, and soldiers from multiple local and state agencies who have responded heroically to this disaster. We are grateful for all those who have traveled from Colorado, Oregon, Montana, and other jurisdictions to lend their assistance in firefighting. We also deeply appreciate the commitment of the many citizens, volunteers, charities, businesses, and local elected and appointed officials who have risen to serve their neighbors during this very difficult time.
While local communities and state agencies have responded admirably, a disaster of this magnitude requires long-term federal assistance to help these communities respond, rebuild, and cope with this tragedy. We fully support Governor Inslee’s request for a major disaster declaration that includes hazard mitigation, public assistance, and individual assistance. The public assistance requested by Governor Inslee is vital to restoring public infrastructure damaged by the wildfires. Further, individual assistance with housing support, disaster crisis counseling, disaster unemployment, and other supports will help meet the needs of the families, business owners, and other community members who are struggling in the aftermath of this disaster.
We therefore urge you to grant Governor Inslee’s request in its entirety as soon as possible. Thank you in advance for your quick attention to this matter.
Patty Murray - United States Senator
Maria Cantwell - United States Senator
Doc Hastings - Member of Congress
Dave Reichert - Member of Congress
Today, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers voicing strong concerns over the Corps’ settlement this week with Columbia Riverkeeper, a group that for years has sued the federal government and favors removal of Northwest dams. The settlement, which involves payment of over $140,000 in taxpayer-funded attorneys’ fees to the plaintiff, would vastly expand the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over Army Corps’ dam operations nationwide. These dams, especially those in the Pacific Northwest, are the major source of clean, renewable electricity, irrigation, flood control, and navigation.
“Incredibly, I understand that no one other than U.S. Department of Justice or Army Corps lawyers were made aware of the terms of this sweeping settlement before it was finalized, and signed by a judge. Like an increasing number of the Obama Administration’s ‘sue and settle’ agreements over the past few years, this settlement was negotiated behind closed-doors by the Justice Department with a litigious group without consultation or input from those most directly impacted,” wrote Chairman Hastings in the letter. “Of great concern is the likely precedent that this decision could have relating to the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Water Act, relating to the operation and maintenance of federal and non-federal dams, irrigation and maintenance of a vital navigational link on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Washington, Idaho and Oregon. This comes amidst the EPA’s hugely controversial ‘Waters of the U.S.’ proposal, which could shut down a host of water development projects and make it easier for litigious groups to sue to block them. I would request an immediate and thorough explanation of the Army Corps’ rationale and details of its actions relative to this settlement, not just to Congress, but also to all affected state, local tribal and other stakeholders that have an interest in the Army Corps’ dam operations nationwide.”
To view the letter, click here.
From the decimation of our timber industry to severe restrictions placed on our growers, those of us in the Pacific Northwest are all too familiar with the severe impact that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can have on our local communities – often with little benefit to the species this law is intended to protect. In recent years, communities throughout the nation have begun to face similar problems with these frequent ESA listings.
The 40-year-old Endangered Species Act was last renewed by Congress in 1988 – long before the Internet and cell phones were as widespread as they are today. With new technologies available and strong support for conserving endangered species, there are key areas where improvements could be made to bring the law into the 21st century.
Most recently here in Central Washington, the court-mandated listing of the White Bluffs bladderpod, a plant found on thousands of acres of land in Franklin and Benton Counties, is a prime example of that is wrong with the ESA law. I firmly believe that local officials understand the needs of their communities better than unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., and yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pushed through the listing of this plant in spite of DNA data compiled by local officials that found no difference between the White Bluffs bladderpod and plants found in three other states. What makes the White Bluffs bladderpod in Central Washington different from one in Oregon or Idaho? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been unable to answer this simple question, and yet went forward with this listing that could severely restrict the use of fertile farmland in Central Washington.
Instead of focusing on working together to recover species that are at risk, the ESA has become a litigant’s dream. More than 500 ESA-related lawsuits have been filed against the government in the past six years alone – meaning that the courts, and not the scientists, are making the decisions over what species need protection.
That is why I’m proud to report the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4315, the “Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act,” a bill I introduced that will help update and improve the ESA. Specifically, this legislation will increase transparency by making the science used in these decisions public online, ensure greater input opportunities by states, localities, and Indian tribes in species listings, and reduce taxpayer-financed attorneys’ fees to help invest more funding in actual species recovery.
After more than four decades, it is past time for the Endangered Species Act to be modernized and updated. H.R. 4315 would help restore the original intent of the ESA – to conserve species – and make the law more effective for both species and people. The House’s approval – with Republican and Democrat support – of this bill is an important first step forward.Read More
Each Member of Congress and the president take an oath and swear to faithfully “preserve, protect, and defend” the United States Constitution, which provides separate powers for our nation’s three equal branches of government – the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches.
Article I of the Constitution grants Congress the authority to write the laws of the land while Article II entrusts the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” However, all too often over the past five years, President Obama has evaded the Constitution – and Congress – by selectively enforcing the law and, in some instances, ignoring or changing it altogether. In no way have Americans witnessed this president waive, suspend, or rewrite the rules to meet his own needs more than with his signature law, Obamacare.
When the Executive Branch oversteps its bounds and ignores our nation’s constitutional checks and balances, it is critical for the Judiciary – the third branch of our government – to carry out its duties in rebalancing the separation of powers.
The aggressive authoritarian approach practiced by President Obama presents a challenge to the constitutional balance of powers and Congress is compelled to respond and defend its authority to write laws. That is why I support allowing the House of Representatives to file a lawsuit in an effort to compel President Obama to follow his oath of office and faithfully execute the laws of our nation.
Make no mistake – this lawsuit is not about partisan politics. This is about the unconstitutional and unilateral actions taken by this Executive Branch. This is about defending the Constitution and protecting our democracy.
If the current president can get away with making up his own laws or ignoring the laws Congress writes, then all future presidents – no matter what their political affiliation may be – may follow his precedent. This is not how our system of government was designed to work.
President George Washington wrote in his farewell address, “Let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” Through this lawsuit, the House of Representatives will take a critical step in reining in this president and defending the separation of powers put forth in the Constitution that makes our government unique so that it endures for generations to come.
1203 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Doc Hastings first joined the U.S. House of Representatives in 1995 to serve Washington’s Fourth Congressional District. He brought with him solid legislative experience and a strong work ethic, coupled with the desire to bring the common sense traditional values of Central Washington back to Washington, D.C.
After graduating from Pasco High School, Doc studied business administration at Columbia Basin College and at Central Washington University. Later, while running his family’s small business, Columbia Basin Paper and Supply, Doc established himself as a leader in the local business community. Before being elected to Congress, Doc served eight years in the Washington State Legislature.
During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Doc has established a long record of serving the people, communities, and priorities of Central Washington. He supported ongoing efforts for new water storage in the Yakima Basin; passed a law to protect the survivor benefits for families of soldiers killed in action; worked to enact fair trade agreements that benefit Washington state; and fought attempts to ban local doctor-owned hospitals. He continues to lead efforts to open new markets for local farmers and remains a strong defender of dams and a proponent of nuclear power.
In 2011, at the start of the 112th Congress, Doc was selected by his colleagues to serve as the Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The Committee has jurisdiction over most federal land use and water policies, including national forests, national parks and monuments, wilderness areas, national scenic areas, Indian reservations, and Bureau of Land Management lands. Of importance to Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest, the Committee oversees the Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation irrigation projects (Columbia Basin Project and Yakima Project), endangered species recovery, federal hydropower projects, Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILT) payments, and wildfire prevention on federal lands.
Under Doc’s leadership, the Committee is dedicated to pursuing policies that both strengthen our economy and protect our nation’s treasured lands, oceans, and wildlife. Specifically, Doc’s priorities include increasing American energy production, ensuring U.S. offshore drilling is the safest in the world, guaranteeing access to public lands for recreation and job creation, effective management of our nation’s oceans, and fighting for water rights in the West.
Doc is the founder and Chairman of the House Nuclear Clean-Up Caucus. He also serves as a Co-Chairman of the Northwest Energy Caucus and is a member of the Rural Health Care Coalition and the Specialty Crop Caucus.
Doc and his wife Claire live in Pasco, Washington. They have three children and eight grandchildren.
Retweeted by DocHastings
Retweeted by DocHastings
Retweeted by DocHastings
In a letter sent Wednesday to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Doc Hastings and Dave Reichert
Please take a moment to read about my recent tour of the devastating Carlton Complex fire. All of us extend our deepest gratitude to the thousands
Congressman Doc Hastings views the damage over Okanogan County from the devastating Carlton Complex Fire. August 4, 2014.
Congressman Doc Hastings joins local officials and first responders on a tour of the wildfire damage in Pateros, Washington. August 4, 2014.
Congressman Doc Hastings and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell meet with local officials and first responders at Emergency Operations Command. August