Vitter Summary Statement for Water & Wildlife Subcommittee Legislative Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife Legislative Hearing
July 16, 2014
I want to thank Chairman Cardin and Ranking Member Boozman for holding today's legislative hearing. Legislative hearings are an important part of the EPW Committee process and will help us better understand the implications of the eleven pieces of legislation that are on the agenda. This is the first legislative hearing we have had in the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee this Congress, and there are some bills that would be ripe for consideration but have been left off the schedule because they are ideas the Majority opposes. While that is the case, I want to share some thoughts on a few of the bills that we are considering today.
I do not support S. 1202, the Safeguarding America's Future and Environment (SAFE) Act. This legislation would require implementation of a National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. With a more than $17 trillion national debt, eroding confidence in the President's ability to secure our borders, deteriorating geopolitical relations in the Middle East, foreign policy failures around the world and serious outstanding concerns with the management of our federal agencies, I am quite confident there are other more pressing items of national concern we can focus on. Instead of moving forward with this type of bill, we should be considering S. 107, my legislation that would prohibit the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States unless China, India, and Russia implement similar plans. Proponents of carbon regulation argue that climate change is one of the most important problems facing the world, yet they intentionally ignore the economic calamity that has befallen our European allies that have adopted carbon constraining policies.
I would also like to indicate that I have some reservations regarding S. 571, the Great Lakes Water Protection Act from Senator Kirk and Senator Durbin. While I appreciate Senator Kirk's and Senator Durbin's commitment to environmental stewardship, I am concerned that the legislation contains a very broad prohibition on blending which may be counterproductive and very costly for local treatment facilities. Public health experts and EPA are currently studying what health risks may be associated with blending, but since there is little data to date on this issue, imposing a ban on blending may do more harm than good for municipalities and their residents.
I support the goals of S. 1650, which Senator Murkowski has introduced. The bill would allow Native Alaskans to sell traditional works made from birds that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Although the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has not changed, Senator Murkowski has told me that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently increased its prosecution of Native Alaskans and that significant confusion exists about what is and is not allowed under the MBTA. S. 1650 would give Native Alaskans similar protections to those currently in existence in the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and seems like a common sense solution the problem that Senator Murkowski's constituents have identified.
The reason S. 1650 is needed - inconsistent enforcement by the Service - is the same reason I have some concern with S. 2560, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Protection Act. The legislation seeks to give the authority to seek compensation from parties who are responsible for damage to public resources managed by the Service. No one supports vandalism of our nation's public lands. When harm to those lands occurs, we need to find a way to ensure that they are restored and the Service has some compelling examples where this legislation could be useful. Although that is the case, I want to ensure that the legislation is narrowly tailored and does not create a perverse incentive to bring legal actions against public lands users. I am not convinced that the legislation is as narrow as is necessary, and I look forward to future dialogue about this issue.
There are seven other bills on today's agenda. I look forward to hearing testimony on those bills as well. Thank you.