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Young Secures Five Alaska-Focused Amendments in House-Passed Interior Bill

July 16, 2016
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Washington, D.C. - Five Alaska-focused amendments to H.R. 5538 were included in the Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which passed Thursday by a vote of 231 to 196. The legislation provides annual funding totaling $32.1B, $64M below FY 2016, for the Interior Department and other environment related agencies. The bill specifically prohibits funding for the implementation of the Waters of the United States Rule, stops the proposed Stream Buffer rule, cuts funding for the EPA, and eliminates environmental regulatory overreach.

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“Although I’m not a member of the Appropriations Committee, I worked very closely with my colleagues to ensure my amendments made it to the floor and eventually into this bill, " said Congressman Don Young (R-AK). "Given the Administration’s recent actions within our state, I believe it was extremely important to offer amendments that fought back against recent violations of the law, including ANILCA and the Alaska Statehood Compact, and stop some of the most egregious rules and regulations that will only jeopardize our state’s already sensitive social and economic future. Not only does this bill contain major victories for Alaska, it builds upon the House’s efforts to encourage economic development and growth by eliminating massive regulatory land grabs like the WOTUS rule and Stream Buffer Rule.”

Young’s Amendments Passed Within H.R. 5538:

1. ANWR Coastal Plain amendment:

Congressman Young's amendment, identical to one he offered last year, would prohibit funds from being used to implement the Obama Administration’s revised conservation plan, announced in January 2015, for managing the coastal plain of ANWR as wilderness. Young and others believe this action directly violates the law, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which established more than 100 million acres of conservation areas and specifically stated that future land withdrawals by the Executive Branch over 5,000 acres must be approved by Congress in order to be valid.

Speaking on his ANWR Coastal Plain amendment, Young said, “I’m just saying that no agency has the right to overcome a law of the Congress…I’m saying no monies shall be spent, no regulatory agency can turn and make [the coastal plain of ANWR] an off limits area to develop the oil – if this Congress so decides,” said Congressman Young. “Here we are trying to let a regulatory agency tell us how to manage it and that’s inappropriate. I listened to the other gentleman on this floor today, talking about the over regulation of the EPA. That’s what’s wrong with this nation today, is regulatory law allowing the Executive Branch to run this nation without the peoples voice being heard. That’s what’s happening here.”

"The policy ramifications of these riders are significant and deserve serious and open debate in Congress. They should not be attached to the Appropriations bill," said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

The bill does include a vital $3.5 million increase for Refuge Operations and Maintenance that will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to grow critical programs such as the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and Refuge Law Enforcement acknowledged Houghton.

According to Houghton, this gain is unfortunately deeply offset by damaging riders that undermine the National Wildlife Refuge System:

  • Prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from implementing its Comprehensive Conservation Plan at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
  • Prevent the USFWS from implementing a rule on predator hunting regulations on Alaska refuges to prevent baiting, aerial gunning, and killing wolves at den sites. The rule in question prohibits harvesting brown bears over bait, expands season length, and increases harvest limits for predators. The rule codifies how refuges have been managed in Alaska for years and does not affect subsistence hunting regulations.
  • Prevent the USFWS from removing unsafe and contaminated structures on Midway Atoll NWR.
  • Prevent the USFWS from updating an antiquated rule for managing non-federal oil and gas development on wildlife refuges that would conserve wildlife and reduce costs of oil spill clean ups.
  • Prevent the USFWS from addressing recreational use on part of the Havasu NWR that is negatively affecting migratory birds and other wildlife.

"We do not believe that many within the hunting community would actually be in favor of or endorse the activities such as killing of wolf pups in their dens or brown bears over bait. If the rider that prevents implementation of the state-wide rule in Alaska becomes law, that is actually what is being allowed," said Houghton.

2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service (NPS):

Congressman Young's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service (NPS) amendment, which is similar to an amendment he included in H.R. 2406, the (SHARE) Act, would prohibit funds from this Act from being used to issue the January 8, 2016 proposed rule by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the October 23, 2015 final rule issued by the National Park Service that significantly restrict hunting and wildlife management practices upon federal lands in Alaska, in violation of the Alaska Statehood Compact and Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA).

Young said in discussing his amendment on the floor to stop recent rulemaking by the FWS and NPS, “To have the federal government manage the game when it is the law, the Constitution of the State of Alaska, an agreement made with this body, is wrong,” said Congressman Young. “The propaganda that’s espoused on this floor from the Humane Society is inappropriate of this body. It’s a flat out lie. That’s what it is. That is not true. The State manages and they have not used these practices, but they have a right and should have a right to manage the fish and game on the property, which was guaranteed to us. No one understands that we have people in Alaska that actually want the state to manage their fish and game… But to have the federal government come in is wrong, it’s against our Constitution, and I will stand by this amendment to stop monies to be spent by an agency that’d overreached in the Reserves.”

3. Preserving Arctic Lease Sales within 2017 – 2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Program

The March 15, 2016 announced 2017- 2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Program, which identified three sales, left the door open for areas to be placed off limits as the Program is finalized. Congressman Young’s amendment would prevent the Administration from removing the Arctic lease sales – #255 Beaufort Sea, #258 Cook Inlet, and #265 Chukchi Sea – which contain vast amount of resources and are vital to Alaska’s social and economic future.

Young discussing his amendment to preserve Arctic Lease sales within 2017-2022 Proposed Plan on the floor said, “We sit with our heads in the sand when across the border – China, the other nations – are developing,” said Congressman Young. “We must in fact be part players of this program – to do it wisely, to do it safely, and do it for the benefit of the American people. Now if you don’t believe in fossil fuels, I understand that. But there’s no way we’re not going to be using fossil fuels for years to come…So I’m asking the DOI not to withdraw those sales. It means money for the Treasury. It means we have a less dependence on foreign oil and it means we’ll be actively involved in [Arctic resource development]."

4. BLM Placer Mining Regulations

Young's amendment works to provide relief to placer miners in the 40 Mile Mining District, who currently face insurmountable hurdles from a change in existing mining management plans by the Bureau of Land Management as they pertain to re-vegetation.

Young speaking on his 40 Mile Mining District amendment said, “For some reason – for 170 acres – there was attempt by the BLM to go in and stop this mining. These are not large mines. These are mom and pop operations – placer operations,” said Congressman Young. “And they’ve put down ridiculous regulations and reclamation and they want them to reclaim the land back to the original state – before it was ever mined, not for the disturbance of the mining they’ve done. It’s amazing that they would do this… These miners are the mom and pop of Alaska, the spirit of Alaska. All of a sudden, you have a big agency coming in, saying 'you have to have a reclamation area, this is the way we want it done.'"

“For some reason, they got an idea that they want to put them out of business. I’m just saying no, they ought not to impose these regulations. Follow the state mining laws and the reclamation that takes place now works. Let them continue to do that and we can reclaim the land. And [the miners], they’re agreeable to that. They just can’t do what they’re asking to do because they can’t afford to do it," said Young.

5. Arctic OCS Rule:

Days after the Department of Interior finalized its rules governing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic OCS, which would add upwards of $2 Billion in additional regulatory costs on industry, Congressman Young successfully offered an amendment that would prevent the DOI from implementing or enforcing their overly prescriptive rules.

“These overly prescriptive regulations are nothing more than a tactic to lock safe Arctic energy development up in red tape because exploration would become full of unnecessary operational burdens,” said Congressman Young.

In addition, the bill provides the following funding to assist rural communities and uphold our nation's commitment to American Indians and Alaska Natives:

  • Full funding ($480 million) for Payment in Lieu of Taxes
  • Funds Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Education at $2.9B ($72M above FY16) to promote public safety and economic development
  • Funds Indian Health Service at $5.1B ($271M above FY16)




Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Office of Congressman Don Young

National Wildlife Refuge Association


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