Alexander Supports Funding Bills that Protect Tennessee’s Outdoors, Keep EPA from Regulating Mud Puddles

Posted on June 16, 2016

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today voted in favor of two fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills which will fund important Tennessee priorities, block burdensome federal regulations and support the Small Business Administration. Both bills are consistent with the spending limits Congress set in the Budget Control Act and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

“The Republican-led Senate is doing what it was elected to do – governing and setting priorities. These appropriations bills support Tennessee’s outdoors by funding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the Cherokee National Forest, the Dale Hollow and Erwin National Fish Hatcheries, and conservation programs across the state. They also keep the EPA from regulating mud puddles on farmers’ fields and help provide loans and assistance to Tennesseans who want to start or grow small businesses,” Alexander said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill and the Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill.

The Department of the Interior funding bill also includes a provision that will prohibit the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from implementing the “Stream Protection Rule.” Originally meant to protect our streams from the effects of coal mining, the stream buffer zone rule was used as a tool to reduce mountaintop removal; however, Alexander said, the Obama Administration has expanded the rule and has created the potential for costly, duplicative and burdensome impacts on mining companies throughout the country.

“This bill includes a provision that delays the administration’s proposed Stream Protection Rule for one year. I have supported earlier versions of this rule because it seeks to prevent mountaintop removal, which destroys the environment and hurts our economy. I continue to oppose mountaintop removal; however, the Obama administration has done what it often does and expanded the scope of the proposed rule to be something I cannot support,” Alexander said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which funds the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies, by a vote of 16 to 14.

The legislation includes the following priorities important to Tennessee:

  • Funding for Tennessee’s 12 national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, seven national wildlife refuges, and the Cherokee National Forest. The bill also continues funding for the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
  • $1.35 million to protect the Karst Forest at Grassy Cove in Cumberland County. This project, which is funded through the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy grant program, will protect another 1,000 acres on Bear Den and Brady Mountain by adding them to the Cumberland Trail State Park. 
  • $53.75 million for the operation of the National Fish Hatchery System, which includes Tennessee’s national fish hatcheries in Erwin, Tenn. and Celina, Tenn.
  • A provision that prohibits the EPA from implementing the Waters of the United States rule, which redefines what qualifies as a “navigable” waterway subject to the Clean Water Act. Alexander said, “The Obama administration’s penchant for burdensome regulations has gone so far the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are even trying to regulate farmers’ mud puddles.”
  • A provision that will prohibit the Office of Surface Mining from finalizing the Stream Protection Rule for one year.

The committee also approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, which funds the Department of Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, the Small Business Administration and other general government agencies, by a vote of 30 to 0.

That legislation includes the following funding priorities:

  • $871 million for the Small Business Administration to assist small businesses and help grow the economy, including $157 million for small business loans. The bill also includes $186 million for providing help to families and small businesses affected by natural disasters and $12.3 million for veterans outreach programs.

  • The bill provides $347 million to the Treasury Department, including $123 million for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and its Office of Foreign Assets Control to help counter terrorism financing and administer economic and trade sanctions.

  • $11.2 billion for the IRS, including $290 million that must be dedicated to improving customer service, identity theft protection, and enhanced cybersecurity for taxpayer data. The bill also prohibits the IRS from paying bonuses, and using resources to target individuals based on ideology, or those who exercise their First Amendment rights.

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