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July 9, 1997
This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's
H.R. 2107, the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies
Appropriations Bill, FY 1998, as reported by the House Appropriations
Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be
The Committee has developed a bill that provides requested funding for many of the Administration's priorities. However, as discussed below, the Administration will seek restoration of certain of the Committee's reductions to the President's requests. We recognize that it will not be possible in all cases to attain the Administration's full request and will work with the House toward achieving acceptable funding levels. The Administration is committed to working with the House to identify reductions in the bill in order to find offsets for the restoration of funds that the Administration seeks. For example, unrequested funds have been provided to reimburse the Forest Service's Knutson-Vandenberg Trust Fund (in excess of anticipated needs), and the Committee has not rescinded Clean Coal Technology funds at the level proposed in the FY 1998 Budget. We urge the House to reduce funding for lower priority programs or for programs that would be adequately funded at the requested level, and to redirect funding to programs of higher priority.
National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities
The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's drastic reduction in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The President's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill if this funding level were to remain. The proposed $10 million appropriation, $126 million below the President's request, would make it impossible for the NEA to continue to provide important cultural, educational, and artistic programs for communities across America. The Administration strongly supports efforts in the House to restore funding for the NEA.
In addition, we are concerned about the funding level proposed for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which is $26 million below the President's request.
Department of the Interior
Land Acquisition. The Administration strongly objects to the Committee's failure to provide $700 million in FY 1998 budget authority from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to finalize priority Federal land acquisitions and exchanges as agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA) and provided for in the budget resolution. Congress must include the $700 million request as the bill moves through the process in order to comply with the BBA.
The budget agreement specifies that up to $315 million would be available from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to finalize priority Federal land exchanges. The Administration's top two priorities are protecting Yellowstone National Park by acquiring private lands associated with the New World Mine project and acquiring old-growth redwoods and adjacent lands in Headwaters Forest. Completing these two priority purchases was the main impetus for including additional land acquisition funds in the final agreement.
National Park Service (NPS): Everglades and Elwha River Restorations. The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to provide the requested funding for Everglades (FL) land acquisition, but objects to the level provided for base NPS land acquisition ($18 million below the base funding assumed in the BBA). We specifically object to the elimination of both non-Federal acquisition funds for South Florida and advance appropriations, including up-front construction funding for restoration of the Elwha River (WA) Ecosystem and Fisheries. Acquisition of Elwha and Glines Canyon dams at Olympic National Park is an essential first step in the restoration of the ecosystem authorized by the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act of 1992. Up-front funding for restoration activities is necessary to meet the 1992 Act's requirement that the Secretary of the Interior determine that funds are available for restoration before proceeding with acquisition of the dams. The Administration urges the House to reallocate funding for this priority restoration project within the amount requested by the Administration for base Federal land acquisition, and allow land acquisition funds provided for South Florida to include non-Federal acquisition of important water storage areas.
Native American Program Funding. The Administration commends the Committee for funding essential, reservation-level Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Tribal Priority Allocation programs at the President's requested level, the level included in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. However, the Administration is concerned about reductions below the request to other programs critical to Indian country, such as school operations, construction of a criminal justice facility, water rights negotiations, and environmental cleanups, that could result in serious and costly liability problems. In addition, the Administration is concerned that reductions to the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians could delay implementation of needed trust fund management reform. The Administration urges the House to increase funding to the extent possible for these important trust responsibilities.
Native American Program Riders. The Administration understands that there may be an attempt to add a language provision to the bill that would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior from taking land into trust for any tribe that had not entered into a binding agreement with State and local governments regarding the tribe's collection and payment of State and local sales and excise taxes on retail purchases made on the land by non-tribal members. Similar to a provision rejected by Congress last year, this would undermine tribal sovereignty and the ongoing government-to-government cooperation currently underway between a number of tribes and States that have voluntarily negotiated, or are currently negotiating, joint taxation agreements to accommodate the needs and rights of each party. The similar provision last year was among the problems that led the Secretary of the Interior to recommend a veto of the House-passed FY 1997 appropriations bill. The Administration strongly opposes this provision and urges the House not to include it in the bill.
The Administration also opposes section 316 of the bill, which would prohibit the development and implementation of any interim or final rule regarding jurisdictional issues pursuant to Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA). This moratorium would, in effect, for a third consecutive year override ANILCA without any congressional hearings, suspending public review and comments on the rule. It would prevent the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture from managing subsistence fishing programs on behalf of Alaska Natives, as required by a 1995 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (the Katie John case). Ultimately, the Administration supports the transfer of the subsistence program back to the State of Alaska.
Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service. The Administration appreciates the Committee's efforts to fund much of the President's requested $2,122 million for the Indian Health Service (IHS). To the extent possible, we urge the House to include an additional $36 million to restore IHS funding to the requested level. This would provide the full amount requested for Contract Support Costs, Contract Health Services, and funding for special health initiatives such as child abuse prevention and women's health.
The Administration appreciates the Committee's action to provide funding for beginning the construction of the health facility at Polacca, Arizona, for the Hopi Tribe. However, the Administration is very concerned about the lack of funding for the Fort Defiance hospital for the Navajo Tribe. Funding for the replacement health care facility at Fort Defiance would provide a comprehensive health program, including limited inpatient services for gynecological and general ambulatory surgery, intensive care, and adolescent psychiatry. The new hospital would replace the existing main hospital building, which was constructed in 1938 and is functionally inadequate to meet the needs of the current Navajo population. The Administration recommends, and urges the House to support, a full-funding commitment for both facilities.
Department of Energy
Energy Conservation. The Administration objects to the Committee's reductions to the request for energy conservation and to the Committee's consolidation of utility-scale gas turbine development activities into the Energy Conservation program. This transfer obscures the true size of the Committee's reductions to the President's Energy Conservation budget. The nominal reduction in this account is $71 million, but because the account includes $31 million for gas turbine development previously funded in the Fossil Energy Research and Development account, the true reduction to requested energy conservation activities is $102 million. The reductions to Building Technologies would hurt the Nation's international climate change commitments, and the cuts in Transportation would damage the efforts of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) to move to the next phase of technology development and systems integration. Within the transportation area, the Committee has also included an increase of $10 million over the request for heavy vehicle technologies. This add-on would disperse the program's scarce resources away from the highest-priority activities and contradicts the Committee's stated interest in making the programs more focused. These funds should be redirected toward the requested PNGV activities. The DOE's Energy Conservation program helps to create jobs, save money, and reduce pollution.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Administration objects to the Committee's proposed non-emergency sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in FY 1998 in order to fund routine operations and maintenance at the Reserve. The President's budget requests $209 million in new budget authority to fund these activities. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the cornerstone of the Nation's energy security. The Administration is conducting a study of policy issues related to the Reserve, which will be completed this Fall. The study will include analysis of the appropriate use of the Reserve in emergency and non-emergency situations and will be used to guide Strategic Petroleum Reserve policies in future years.
Clean Coal Technology. The Administration recommends that the House rescind $136 million. (The FY 1998 Budget requested that $153 million be rescinded, and the recently enacted P.L. 105-18 included a rescission of $17 million of that amount.) The Administration objects to the Committee's decision not to advance appropriate $50 million in FY 1999 funds for a demonstration project in China. This project would demonstrate a coal-based technology that can greatly reduce CO2 and other pollutants, thereby limiting the environmental impacts of industrialization in developing countries with large coal reserves. The Administration requests that $136 million in available balances be rescinded, and that $50 million be advance appropriated for FY 1999 to fund the China project.
Department of Agriculture and Forest Service Micromanagement
The Administration objects to the micromanagement of Executive Branch authorities that the Committee bill would impose upon the Forest Service and the Office of the Secretary. The Administration believes that this inordinate level of micromanagement is inappropriate and would impede the ability of the Department to operate effectively. For example, the bill includes highly objectionable language that would terminate the Secretary of Agriculture's authority to have a Western Director and a special assistant in the West, who facilitate the resolution of complex issues and provide important feedback to the Secretary about concerns of Western States and citizens.
The Committee bill would further micromanage the Forest Service with specific provisions prohibiting any reorganization, office closure, or other cost saving proposals without prior approval of the Committees. The Administration will interpret such provisions to require notification only, since any other interpretation would contradict the Supreme Court ruling in INS vs. Chadha. In addition, the Committee Report would require the Forest Service to complete -- most by January 1998 -- over 15 different reports to the Congress.
Woodrow Wilson Center
The Administration strongly recommends restoring the $5.8 million requested in the President's budget for the Woodrow Wilson Center. The Center was established by Public Law 90-637 as the Nation's memorial to the twenty-eighth President. The law created a Board of Trustees to maintain and administer the Center, including the provision of facilities, staffing, and appointment of scholars, and where appropriate, to provide stipends, grants, and fellowships to such scholars, from the United States and aboard. The Administration and the Congress have supported the Center since 1968.
The Administration strongly recommends that the House provide the full $58 million requested for construction of the Mall Museum of the National Museum of the American Indian. The National Museum of the American Indian was created by Public Law 101-185, which requires that two-thirds of the construction funds for the Mall Museum shall come from Federal appropriations and one-third from a national fund-raising campaign. As of January 1997, the national campaign had received cash and pledges for the $36.7 million required to meet the non-appropriated portion. The FY 1998 Budget requests $58 million for the Federal share for the construction of the Mall Museum.