2019-05-21 National Governors Association

Letter to Congressional Leadership Regarding Appropriations for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies

May 21, 2019

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski
Chairman
Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Betty McCollum
Chair
Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Tom Udall
Ranking Member
Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable David Joyce
Ranking Member
Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Murkowski, Ranking Member Udall, Chair McCollum and Ranking Member Joyce:

On behalf of the National Governors Association (NGA), we write to express our support for state-federal programs that protect the environment and our natural resources while improving the public health of our communities. As you consider Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, we urge your continued support for environmental funding, the stateside Land and Water Conservation Fund, implementation of the wildfire funding fix, invasive species management, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) management and programs that support rural America.

States are active and dedicated partners in achieving the goals of the nation’s environmental laws. Cooperative federalism was core to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) creation in the 1970s and remains integral to its success. Over the last decades, states have become the primary implementers of many of our nation’s environmental statutes, having assumed over 96 percent of the delegable authorities under federal law. However, adequate federal resources are necessary for states to fulfill these responsibilities given constrained state budgets. Without sufficient, stable funding, state implementation may fall short of Congress’ vision. Governors collectively call on Congress to:

• Prioritize Environmental Funding: The EPA serves a unique, ever important role in protecting public health and conserving the environment. The future success of environmental protection and remediation efforts depends on the continued successful implementation of critical programs at the state and local levels. We urge Congress to adequately fund state-federal programs that assist states in implementing federal environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Resources Conservation and Recovery Act. Funding certainty for EPA’s State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) is key to the continued vitality of states’ environmental regulation. Governors thank Congress for preserving STAG Categorical Grants in recent budgets and urge continued support for STAG Categorical Grants and STAG Infrastructure Assistance Grants.

• Support Environmental Infrastructure: Governors request a continued strong commitment to our nation’s aging water infrastructure by providing full funding for programs included in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. We commend the increased authorization for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) and support full funding for both the DWSRF and the Clean Water SRF. Governors support these long-term, low-cost loans for state projects and recognize that funding has not kept pace with need. Governors also prioritize state grants to implement the Safe Drinking Water Act and increased resources for flooding mitigation and resilience.

• Address PFAS Contamination: As the federal government works to develop solutions under existing and potentially new authorities, states are working to identify, remediate and prevent PFAS contamination within their borders. As the EPA and other agencies develop a national strategy for addressing the health risks of PFAS, NGA supports increased congressional funding to help identify, test and remediate these emerging contaminants.

The Interior-Environment Appropriation will also make critical investments to protect our citizens and lands. Governors supported the recent passage of landmark legislation in the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act and FY 2018 Appropriations Omnibus. These laws fundamentally change the way we preserve and protect our natural resources for generations to come. As you look toward the FY 2020 appropriations, NGA requests that you prioritize:

• Full Funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Stateside Assistance: Governors commend Congress’ recent leadership to permanently reauthorize the LWCF program and provide a minimum of 40% to LWCF stateside assistance. We urge Congress to fully fund the program. States, for our part, will be proud to continue matching the LWCF Stateside Assistance program dollar-for-dollar and investing in state park, conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives.

• Provide Sufficient Wildfire Funding: Governors appreciate federal, state, local, territorial, tribal, non-governmental and public partners who help manage our national cohesive wildfire management strategy and effectively respond to wildfires when they occur. We thank you for your leadership and support of the wildfire funding fix included in the FY 2018 Appropriations Omnibus. As the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior implement the fiscal component of the fix, Congress should appropriate increased funding levels for wildfire suppression. Relevant agencies should ensure effective implementation that stabilizes long-term wildfire mitigation strategies.

• Invest in Invasive Species Management: Governors are committed to protecting our environment and economy from the threat of non-native species. We support much-needed federal research on the eradication and control of invasive species, and cooperative partnerships that address local and regional invasive species priorities. Governors recommend Congress consider our consensus policy principles (NR 1.5 Invasive Species) adopted at NGA’s most recent meeting.

• Support Rural Programs: Governors look forward to working with Congress to uphold our longstanding commitment to rural communities. Since 1976, the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program has provided payments to states and counties to offset losses in tax revenue and supported essential government services. Without congressional action, hundreds of counties across 49 states will face revenue shortfalls and be unable to provide services such as construction, firefighting and search-and-rescue. Similarly, payments under the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program are critical to compensating communities whose timber industries have been negatively impacted by the federal government. NGA supports the prioritization and full funding of PILT and SRS.

NGA asks that you give our requests careful consideration as you determine how to appropriately invest in these programs. As noted, governors and states are key partners and co-regulators with federal agencies in the implementation and success of these priorities. We realize the difficulty of the decisions the Subcommittees must make and welcome the opportunity to work with you as Congress considers FY 2020 appropriations.

Sincerely,
Governor Janet Mills
Chair
Natural Resources Committee

Governor Larry Hogan
Acting Vice Chair
Natural Resources Committee

Cc:
Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations
Chair and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations
The Honorable Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget

National Governors Association

Founded in 1908, the National Governors Association (NGA) is the nonpartisan organization of the nation’s 55 governors. Through NGA, governors share best practices, address issues of national and state interest and share innovative solutions that improve state government and support the principles of federalism.