A new CRS report on the FY19 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act is out, highlighting another one of the president’s budget cuts – the Corps of Engineers. We know this number is low-balled by the Administration and will be bumped back up by Congress, but it’s still a shame that the Man with the infrastructure plan is making cuts to spending…on infrastructure. A general increase in Corps appropriations should follow an increase in development to fund new operation & maintenance costs, but this appears not to be the case. In years past Congress has pushed the President’s Corps budget request further, providing roughly an additional $1.5 billion last year. So while the President has made a cut, we’re not too worried about a budget cut to the Corps once Congress has had a say in the matter. Both the House and Senate versions propose an overall increase since last year, putting the budget on a trajectory for an overall increase in spending. This is the budget trend that the Corps needs to prevent themselves from contributing to the backlog. The President requested $4.78 billion for the Corps in FY19, essentially the same request made in the previous year. See pages 11 and 12 of the report for a breakdown of the Corps budget request.
Another attempt by the Trump administration to rollback regulations – this time it’s the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For those who think that nature and wildlife are priceless, think again. The proposed changes will provide the ability to use economic justification to determine whether or not to protect certain species or remove their protection based on financial return on investment. This could irreversibly lead to development of roads, pipelines and other construction in habitats that previously provided homes to endangered species. According to an article in the Journal of the Society of Conservation Biology, roughly 80% of American’s support the Endangered Species Act, though Republicans argue the bill is cumbersome and restricts economic development. While it remains unclear whether any legislation will become law this year, multiple bills have been proposed. Lawmakers have also worked to add amendments to two must-pass spending bills. Since its inception, the bill has been successful in the protection of these 10 species:
|10 Primary Species Protected by the ESA|
|1. Bald Eagle|
|2. Grizzly bear|
|3. Gray Wolf|
|4. Humpback Whale|
|5. Eggert’s Sunflower|
|6. American Alligator|
|7. Tennessee Purple Coneflower|
|8. Peregrine Falcon|
|9. Red Kangaroo|
|10. Virginia Flying Squirrel|
The changes also include delisting of certain species, and relisting only on a case by case basis. Delisting certain species will open up habitats to development while the species remains unlisted. During that time, construction or development could lead to the species’ ultimate demise. For those who travel to the coast or are familiar with the wildlife there, the proposed changes will threaten Piping plovers and Red Knots. Senator Tom Carper (Del.), said that, “proposed changes could prevent the best science from guiding species management, especially in an administration that consistently denies and undermines science.” Why dismantle things that work? There is no bill number or bill text yet. What do you think?
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is proposing a comprehensive sediment research program, pursuant to 43 U.S.C. 1346, for identification of sand resources and borrow zones for long-term and emergency planning preparedness within the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf. The study will utilize state-of-the-art technology to collect geophysical and geological survey data while minimizing environmental impact. The program is currently accepting public comments and input on historic locations that may be affected by the study. Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act requires Federal agencies to considered the effects of their undertaking on historic properties and provide the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment. Please visit this website if you wish to submit comments.
Once beach quality sand borrow zones have been identified by the program, these resources may be available to state, local and Federal agencies for beach nourishment, coastal restoration and to provide protection of infrastructure, create coastal habitat, and reduce damage caused by storms, current and waves.
What happened to WRDA? The Senate is currently handling other issues… such as the ESA, the E&W appropriations minibus, and nominations for unfilled agency positions, not to mention Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. We’re on top of the legislative calendar and will be sure to update you while we wait.