H.R. 2578: Conservation and Economic Growth Act

H.R. 2578

Conservation and Economic Growth Act

Sponsor
Sen. Bernard Sanders

Date
June 19, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, June 19, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2578, subject to a rule. The bill was introduced on July 18, 2011, by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and referred to the Natural Resources Committee. On October 5, 2011, the Committee held a mark-up on the bill and the legislation was reported by voice vote. The bill considered under the rule is a modified version of H.R. 2578 which incorporates 14 bills that were reported out of the Committee on Natural Resources. The rule (H.Res. 688) makes seven amendments in order. A summary of the amendments made in order under the bill is available following the bill’s summary.

Bill Summary

H.R. 2578 would incorporate 14 bills approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources. The following is a summary of each of the 14 titles (formerly stand-alone bills) included in H.R. 2578.

TITLE I—LOWER MERCED RIVER

H.R. 2578 would adjust the boundaries of the Merced Wild and Scenic River to reduce the area covered under the Wild and Scenic River designation by approximately one-half of a mile. According to the Committee, when the Merced Wild and Scenic River was designated, it encroached nearly half a mile into an existing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) operational boundary for the Exchequer Dam. According to the Committee, reducing the designation would allow for needed storage of up to 70,000 acre-feet of water, which has the potential for the generation of an additional 10,000 mega-watt hours of clean renewable electricity, increased recreation activity in the area and agricultural benefits, as well as the creation of about 840 jobs. The bill would also increase the water supply to the San Joaquin Valley. According to CBO, the bill would have “no significant impact on the federal budget.”

TITLE II—BONNEVILLE UNIT CLEAN HYDROPOWER FACILITATION ACT

H.R. 2578 would defer the costs that hydropower developers are required to pay for producing hydroelectricity at the Bonneville Unit of the Diamond Fork System facility in Utah. Under current law, any developer installing hydropower facilities at Diamond Fork is required to pay $106 million over 50 years, in addition to project costs borne during the construction of a facility. The bill would defer the $106 million payment while still requiring any developer to pay for the cost of hydropower infrastructure. Under the legislation, the Secretary of the Interior would have to report to the Natural Resources Committee if construction of hydropower plants has not begun within 24 months. While the legislation reduces payments that would be made to the government to reimburse the cost of construction of the project, CBO scores the bill as a net revenue increase because it would encourage a private entity to develop the facility and pay other associated fees. According to CBO, enacting the bill would increase offsetting receipts by $600,000 a year, beginning in 2017, for a total collection of about $4 million over the 2017-2022 period.  

TITLE III—SOUTHEAST ALASKA NATIVE LAND ENTITLEMENT FINALIZATION AND JOBS PROTECTION ACT

The bill would allow the Sealaska Native Corporation to select and receive a conveyance of federal lands from a pool of land outside boundaries that were originally established for the Corporation in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The measure modifies the terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to permit the Sealaska Corporation to make an alternate land selection from areas in or around the Tongass National Forest. The legislation would allow Sealaska to select from federal lands that are not available under the original agreement with the Corporation and that are expected to generate timber receipts for the Treasury beginning around 2019, according to CBO. The lands available to Sealaska under current law are not expected to generate receipts. After taking possession of the land through conveyance from the federal government, the Sealaska Native Corporation would be entitled to the revenue derived from the sale of harvested timber.

Sealaska is a private Alaska Native Regional Corporation which was given a land entitlement under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 to resolve aboriginal claims to use and occupancy of all lands and waters in Alaska. The lands that this legislation would allow Sealaska to claim were not entitled to the Sealaska Corporation under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. According to CBO, transferring that land to Sealaska would result in a net loss of timber receipts, totaling about $2 million over the 2012-2021 period and additional amounts after 2021. If Sealaska chooses lands located within the Tongass National Forest itself, the selection would be capped at 5,000 acres. Sealaska Corporation is the largest private landowner in the region with more than 290,000 acres of surface lands and 560,000 acres of subsurface land in Southeast Alaska.   

TITLE IV—SAN ANTONIO MISSIONS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK BOUNDARY EXPANSION ACT

H.R. 2578 would require the Secretary of Interior to expand the boundaries of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park by an additional 151 acres. According to CBO, 132 acres are currently owned by the National Park Service (NPS) or are being donated to the park. The remaining 19 acres would continue to be managed under a cooperative agreement with the city of San Antonio and Bexar County, which own the property. The bill would prohibit the acquisition of land by condemnation and only donated land could be included with the expanded boundaries of the park. According to CBO, 14 acres of the property owned by the city of San Antonio have environmental contamination. If those lands are included within the boundary of the park, the NPS would be responsible for the remediation of that contamination. Based on information from the NPS, CBO estimates that remediation work would cost around $9 million, subject to the availability of appropriated funds. However, if remediation is not necessary the provision would have no significant impact on the federal budget.

TITLE V—WACO MAMMOTH NATIONAL MONUMENT ESTABLISHMENT ACT OF 2012

H.R. 2578 would establish the Waco Mammoth National Monument in Waco, Texas. The new monument would be administered by the National Park System (NPS) under a general management plan that would be prepared by the Secretary of Interior, in consultation with Baylor University and City of Waco, within three years of enactment. In addition, the legislation would authorize the Secretary to acquire land by donation only from the City of Waco any land or interest in land owned by the City within the proposed boundary of the Monument. The bill would prohibit the use of federal funds for carrying out the cooperative agreement or operating the Monument. Based on information provided by the NPS, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1545 would cost $1 million over the next three years and about $400,000 a year thereafter. The $1 million would be used to develop a management plan and to establish the site as a national monument. Beginning in 2015, $400,000 would be needed for the federal share of annual operating costs. The bill’s prohibition on the use of federal funds for operations would require that those costs be financed through nonfederal sources. If nonfederal funds do not become available to implement the legislation, ownership of the site would revert back to the city of Waco, and the site would terminate as a unit of the National Park System. In any event, CBO estimates that the legislation would have an insignificant impact on the federal budget.

TITLE VI—NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK ACCESS

H.R. 2578 would authorize the Secretary of Interior to adjust the boundaries of the North Cascades National Park and the Stephen Mather Wilderness in the state of Washington in order to provide a 100-foot-wide corridor along which the Stehekin Valley Road may be rebuilt after major flooding along the river washed out significant portions of the road in the upper valley. Due to the wilderness designation, the Secretary of the Interior says that the U.S. Park Service is unable to rebuild the road. Based on information provided by the National Park Service, and assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that completing the rerouting project would cost about $3 million over the next five years. Of this amount, about $500,000 would be spent to conduct an environmental impact study of the boundary change and the construction project. About $2.5 million would be spent to build the new road segment and restore the remaining portion of the existing road.

TITLE VII—ENDANGERED SALMON AND FISHERIES PREDATION PREVENTION ACT

H.R. 2578 would allow the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to issue permits to eligible states and tribes to lethally remove sea lions on the Columbia River or its tributaries. This new Secretarial authority could be suspended at the discretion of the Secretary, after consultation with effected states and tribes five years after the date of enactment if the Secretary determines that the lethal take of predatory sea lions is no longer necessary to protect salmon stocks. Under the bill, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) would not apply to this subsection or to any permits issued during the five-year period beginning on the date of enactment of the Act. Under current law, NOAA has the authority to issue permits to kill certain marine mammals that threaten other species. Based on information provided by the agency, CBO estimates that providing NOAA with the authority to issue such permits for California sea lions would have a negligible impact on the federal budget. According to the Natural Resources Committee, estimates of annual predation on spawning salmon range between 4,000 to 6,000 per year since 2008 for spring salmon. However, the Committee reports that the actual number is likely much higher, since many fish killed by sea lions are out of sight of observers. In addition, a growing number of Steller sea lions at Bonneville have increased predation of both salmon and non-listed white sturgeon, which are important species for State and tribal fisheries.

VIII—REAUTHORIZATION OF HERGER-FEINSTEIN QUINCY LIBRARY GROUP FOREST RECOVERY ACT

H.R. 2578 would reauthorize the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act through 2022. That act established a pilot project to manage lands within the Plumas, Lassen, and Tahoe National Forests in accordance with a forest management program developed by the Quincy Library Group.  The project is currently being implemented over approximately 1.5 million acres and is designed to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of fuels and vegetation management activities to meet ecological, economic and fuel reduction objectives. The bill would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to expand that pilot program to include an additional 12.5 million acres of national forest land in California and Nevada. According to the Natural Resources Committee, the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 429 to 1 on July 9, 1997. The Act came about “as a result of a locally-driven effort by community leaders, industry and local environmentalists (named the “Quincy Library Group” because of their meetings in the Quincy, California, library) to address the declining forest health and rural economies in Northern California after the listing of the Northern Spotted Owl under the Endangered Species Act.” The Committee Report states that “monitoring of the pilot project area already shows that treated units have significantly reduced fire behavior and environmental impacts from fire compared to untreated areas, while producing merchantable forest material.”

According to CBO, implementing the legislation would cost $60 million over the 2013-2017 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. In addition, CBO expects that carrying out the activities required under the pilot project could increase the volume of timber produced within the project area relative to that expected under current law. As a result, implementing this provision could increase offsetting receipts (a credit against direct spending) if sufficient funds are appropriated to manage the pilot project. Because most of the proceeds from additional timber sales would be used to make mandatory payments to states and for other purposes, CBO estimates that any net increase in receipts would be no more than a few million dollars a year.

TITLE IX—YERINGTON LAND CONVEYANCE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ACT

H.R. 2578 would require the Secretary of the Interior to convey, through a fair market value sale, about 11,500 acres of federal land to the city of Yerington, Nevada, for the purpose of enhancing recreational, cultural, commercial, and industrial development opportunities in the City. According to the Committee on Natural Resources, for over 4 years, Yerington and Lyon County have been working with private business partners to develop a sustainable development plan that would enable all parties to benefit from the use of private land adjacent to Yerington for potential commercial and industrial development, mining activities, recreation opportunities, and the expansion of community and cultural events. The plan requires the conveyance of certain federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the City for fair market value. According to CBO, enacting the legislation would increase offsetting receipts (a credit against direct spending) by $2 million in 2013; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Because the bill would require the city to cover any administrative costs associated with the conveyance, CBO estimates that the bill would not affect discretionary spending.

TITLE X—PRESERVING ACCESS TO CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE RECREATIONAL AREA ACT

H.R. 2578 would authorize pedestrian and motorized vehicular access in Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area in North Carolina. The bill would require the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina to be managed according to the Interim Protected Species Management Strategy/Environmental Assessment (Interim Strategy) issued by the National Park Service (NPS) on June 13, 2007, until the NPS issues a new final rule. In addition, the bill would prohibit the final rule from including additional restrictions on pedestrian or motorized access to the seashore beyond those in the Interim Strategy unless the restrictions are based on peer-reviewed science and the public has had the opportunity to review and comment on them. According to CBO, the bill would have no significant impact on the federal budget.

Authorized in 1937, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area now covers 30,350 acres. In 2007, the NPS instituted an Interim Management Strategy to govern off-road vehicle (ORV) use at Cape Hatteras. The access restrictions it contained were much more limiting than visitors and local residents were accustomed, but there was general agreement that the strategy was functional according to the Natural Resources Committee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Biological Opinion finding that Interim Management Strategy would not jeopardize any Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species. However, interest groups sued the NPS over the adoption of the Interim Management Strategy and, in April 2008, the court approved a settlement that resulted in a consent decree establishing new, more restrictive rules on ORV use at Hatteras until a new final rule could be crafted. That final rule, which is even more restrictive than the consent decree, went into effect in March 2012. Local businesses have reported significant economic losses and expect to lose more business as the season continues. ORVs have long been used to access the park by fisherman and other visitors. By restricting long sections of the beach from ORV use and leaving no alternatives, NPS has effectively shut down more miles of the park than the NPS represents.

TITLE XI—GRAZING IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2012

H.R. 2578 would allow expired and transferred grazing permits to remain in effect until new permits are issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Forest Service. In addition, the bill would authorize the issuance of grazing permits or leases of up to 20 years, up from the current maximum of 10 years, on federal lands and in eligible national forests. The bill would also allow transferred permits to remain in effect under the terms of the original permit until that permit expires and exclude certain grazing lands from compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). According to CBO, The bill would allow BLM to collect offsetting receipts from transferred leases sooner than it would under current law; however, because the number of permits that would be affected each year account for less than 5 percent of all federal grazing permits, the budgetary impact would be minimal. In 2011, gross federal collections from grazing permits totaled about $20 million.

TITLE XII—TARGET PRACTICE AND MARKSMANSHIP TRAINING SUPPORT ACT

H.R. 2578 would amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to authorize states to use grants awarded under the act to fund up to 90 percent of the cost of building or operating public target ranges, as opposed to 75 percent under current law. The bill would also allow states to carry over up to 10 percent of their federal wildlife restoration grant aid from previous years, which could be used to supplement current year funding for land acquisition or expansion of target ranges. The bill would limit any civil action or claim from coming against the U.S. for any injury to or loss of property, personal injury, or death caused by an activity occurring at a public target range that is funded through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act. Finally, the bill would express the sense of Congress that the Chief of the Forest Service and the Director of the Bureau of Land Management should cooperate with State and local authorities and other entities to carry out waste removal and other activities on any Federal land used as a public target range to encourage continued use of that land for target practice or marksmanship training.

According to the Natural Resources Committee, the Pittman-Robertson Act was enacted in 1937 as a source of funding for advancement of wildlife and hunting activities. The funds used to finance the programs are not drawn from taxpayer funds or other miscellaneous receipts, but are the direct result of excise taxes on ammunition and firearms. This tax was established at the request of sportsmen, state wildlife agencies and ammunition manufacturers. Funding under the program can be used for the acquisition of wildlife habitat, hunter education, reintroduction of declining wildlife species, species research, wildlife population surveys and public target ranges. These funds are distributed to the states under a formula that takes into consideration the size of the state and the number of hunting license holders. The procedures for receiving and using this money include several requirements. First, individual states must match the federal money at a rate of one state dollar for every three federal dollars. Second, the state must prepare grant proposals describing the projects that will be funded with these federal dollars. Third, a state must assure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that it will comply with a host of federal laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. According to CBO, “the legislation would have no significant impact on discretionary spending.” However, the bill would impose a private-sector mandate as defined in UMRA by eliminating an individual’s existing right to seek compensation from the federal government for damages occurring at a public target range supported by federal funds.

TITLE XIII—CHESAPEAKE BAY ACCOUNTABILITY AND RECOVERY ACT OF 2012

H.R. 2578 would require the Director of the Environment Protection Agency's (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program, in consultation with the Chesapeake Executive Council, the chief executive of each Chesapeake Bay State, and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, to submit a financial report to Congress. The bill would require the report to display the proposed funding for federal restoration activities, the estimated state funding level for any restoration activities, and the State and federal expenditures for restoration activities over the past three years. The bill would require that the report provide a detailed accounting of all federal funds obligated for restoration projects and a description of the project and its current status. The EPA would only have to report on federal projects that cost more than $100,000 and state projects that cost more than $50,000. The report would be required within 30 days of the submission of the President's annual budget. After the report is submitted, the legislation would require the EPA Administrator to develop a management plan for the Chesapeake Bay Program and to base all project and program decisions on an ongoing, consistent, and science-based process designed in the management plan. The Administrator would be required to submit and implement the plan within one year. The Administration would have to review and update the management plan every two years.

The Chesapeake Bay Program is a federal and State partnership that participates in restoration projects on the Chesapeake Bay.  The program is administered by the EPA and includes the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The program was created in 1983 when each of the participating States, the District of Columbia, and the EPA signed the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.  The program provides grants to local governments and non-profit organizations that conduct restorative, scientific, and education projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and tributaries. According to their website, since 1995, EPA funding of the Bay Program Office has remained steady at about $20 million annually. However, according to the Committee on Natural Resources, “the many federal and State Chesapeake Bay restoration programs lack a single comprehensive reporting system for the funding of these activities. This legislation would bring transparency to federal funding of all restoration activities, and would institute measurable objectives to ensure that both federal and State dollars spent on restoration are producing positive results.” According to CBO, “implementing this legislation would cost about $1 million annually over five years.

TITLE XIV—NATIONAL SECURITY AND FEDERAL LANDS PROTECTION ACT

H.R. 2578 would prohibit the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture from impeding or restricting activities of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on land under their respective jurisdiction within 100 miles of an international U.S. border. Under the bill, U.S. Customs and Border Protection would have immediate access to land under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture for purposes of conducting the following activities:

  • Construction and maintenance of roads.
  • Construction and maintenance of fences.
  • Use vehicles to patrol.
  • Installation, maintenance, and operation of surveillance equipment and sensors.
  • Use of aircraft.
  • Deployment of temporary tactical infrastructure, including forward operating bases.

The provisions of this title would sunset after five years of enactment.

According to the Natural Resources Committee, the bill would resolve a turf war between the Border Patrol and federal land managers within the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture that has occurred because land management bureaus have the authority to thwart border security activities under authorities created by environmental laws such as the Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act. According to CBO, implementing the legislation would not have a significant impact on the federal budget.

 

Cost

According to CBO, implementing the bill would cost $77 million over the 2013-2017 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. In addition, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would reduce direct spending by $4 million over the 2013-2022 period.

Amendments

Amendment No. 1—Rep. Hastings (R-WA): The manager’s amendment would make a number of technical and enrolling corrections. In addition to technical changes, the amendment would modify title VI of the bill to prohibit the authorized corridor from exceeding 100-feet wide and require that the exchange made under Title VI results in no net loss of acreage to either the Stephen Mather Wilderness or the North Cascades National Park. The amendment would also reduce the authorization period for the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act by authorizing the program through 2019 instead of 2022 in the underlying bill.

Amendment No. 2—Rep. DeFazio (D-OR): The amendment would require that federal land conveyed to the Sealaska Corporation under Title III of the bill be subject to export restrictions on unprocessed timber contained in the Forest Resources Conservation and Shortage Relief Act. Under current law, only lands west of the 100th meridian and in the contiguous 48 states are subject to such requirements.

Amendment No. 3—Markey, Edward (D-MA):The amendment would authorize the Secretary of Interior to conduct a pilot program under Title XI of the bill in Fiscal Year 2013 through 2016 to collect an administrative fee to offset the costs of administering livestock grazing programs on federal land. Under the amendment, the Secretary would be authorized to collect $1 per animal per month. According to the Committee on Natural Resources, this amendment would impose President Obama’s proposed increase in grazing fees that equates to a 74 percent tax increase on what is currently paid to access Bureau of Land Management grazing lands. 

Amendment No. 4—Rep. Bishop (R-UT):The amendment would add provisions to Title XIV (relating to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture impeding or restricting activities of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on land under their respective jurisdiction) to clarify that the legislation shall not be construed to provide:

  • Authority to restrict legal uses, such as grazing, hunting, mining, or public-use recreational and backcountry airstrips on land under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture;
  • Any additional authority to restrict legal access to such land; or
  • Any additional authority or access to private or State land.

In addition, the amendment would prohibit federal land managers from impeding the work of Border Patrol to “prevent all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband through the international land borders of the United States.” The amendment would also narrow the list of environmental laws that could be suspended from 36 to 16.

Amendment No. 5—Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ): The amendment would strike Title XIV from the underlying legislation (relating to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture impeding or restricting activities of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on land under their respective jurisdiction).

Amendment No. 6—Rep. Hanabusa (D-HI): The amendment would exempt land under the jurisdiction Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture on the state of Hawaii from Title XIV of the underlying bill (relating to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture from impeding or restricting activities of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on land under their respective jurisdiction).

Amendment No. 7— Rep. Cravaack (R-MN): The amendment would add a new section to the bill (Title XV) that would require the Chief of the Forest Service to ensure that all-terrain vehicle user have access to forest roads in the Superior and Chippewa National Forest, subject to reasonable road closures to prevent interference with ongoing activities related to the extraction and transport of national forest materials.