McCollum statement at hearing on Department of Interior 2018 budget request
Secretary Zinke, thank you for being with us this morning.
I want to begin by saying how profoundly disappointed I am that President Trump is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. His decision harms the health of our children and grandchildren and jeopardizes the environment we will leave them. This Administration’s willful denial of the threats of climate change is reflected in the Department of the Interior’s budget, which cuts funding for climate change research and mitigation by an appalling 80 percent.
The Department manages hundreds of millions of acres of America’s most precious lands and resources. Despite this tremendously important responsibility, President Trump’s 2018 budget cuts the Department of the Interior by
$1.6 billion or 13%.
The proposals contained in President Trump’s budget are reckless and endanger our Nation’s natural and cultural resources.
This budget guts funding for programs critical to appropriately manage public lands, it dishonors our commitment to Native Americans and rejects science.
Sadly, this budget advances an agenda that puts the profits of oil companies above the public good. There is a place for responsible oil and gas development on our public lands, but it must be balanced and sustainable.
This budget abandons the Department’s conservation responsibilities. The Administration has already begun to reverse critical environmental policies, such as those that limit offshore drilling, a moratorium on coal-mining leases, and the control of methane venting from drilling operations.
These policies were carefully developed by a thorough scientific and public process, but the Administration would rather ignore science and public opinion.
The Administration also proposes significant reductions to Indian programs. The Department’s Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Education are responsible for enhancing social and economic well-being of Native Americans. This budget ignores that obligation, and cuts Indian programs by $372 million or 13%.
In particular, the Department’s decision to eliminate the Tiwahe Initiative’s investment in family supports will devastate tribes like the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, who have used the funding to open their Children’s Healing Center and stop an epidemic of youth suicide on their reservation. This is a successful pilot program that we should be expanding, not eliminating.
The budget request stalls the progress we are making to replace BIE schools that are in deplorable condition and cuts programs that provide social services, welfare assistance, and Indian Child Welfare Act protections.
The United States has an obligation to protect tribal treaty rights and resources. It is disgraceful that the Administration’s budget request turns its back on this duty.
I am proud and grateful that funding for Native American issues has been an area of broad bipartisan cooperation and I fully expect that we will continue our commitment.
The Department’s science programs provide data and tools to inform sound decision making to address complex challenges, such as drought, natural hazards, and climate change. It is short sighted and irresponsible to cut programs that provide advance warning to protect the life and property of millions of Americans, like your proposed elimination of $10 million for the Nation’s early earthquake warning system.
We can all agree that a strong America is one where we protect our natural resources for future generations. Being good stewards of those resources requires robust investments in both resource management and the staffing to carry it out.
The staffing reductions you propose in this budget and the long-term workforce reduction plan you are developing do not provide any assurance you will be able to properly execute your duties and responsibilities.
This budget is unacceptable and I expect my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reject it. The Interior Department and the American people deserve a budget that reflects the economic and recreational opportunities, and environmental benefits that Interior’s programs have on the lives of all Americans - especially their health and economic prosperity.
I am going to make my position very clear: I will not support an Interior-Environment bill that appropriates less than our current FY2017 funding level.
I pledge to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that the Department of the Interior has the necessary funding so that our Nation’s natural and cultural resources continue to be a benefit to all Americans.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.