Secures Senate approval of amendment to return funds states spent to open national parks during 2013 shutdown
WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) today successfully advanced a host of Arizona water, energy, and land management priorities when six of his amendments to the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA) were approved by the Senate. Most notably, the EPMA now includes Flake’s National Parks Access Act, legislation that will reimburse Arizona and five other states that advanced approximately $2 million to the National Park Service to temporarily reopen national parks during the 2013 government shutdown.
Another of Flake’s amendments to the energy bill will help drought-stricken Western states store more water in hydropower reservoirs. Flake voted in support of the EPMA, which passed by a vote of 85 to 12.
“Arizona’s water, energy, and land management needs will be well-served by this legislation. I’m especially encouraged that we were able to improve this bill in a way that will help Arizona and other drought-stricken Western states better utilize existing infrastructure to improve water management and increase water storage capacity,” said Flake. “I am also pleased that after a two-year effort, the Senate has finally approved legislation to return the funds that Arizona and the five other states paid to ensure public access to national parks during the 2013 government shutdown.”
A full list of Flake’s amendments to the EPMA can be viewed below:
- SA #3055 WAPA Searchable Database Pilot Project – Cosponsored by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): Requires the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to establish a pilot project online database of its budgetary costs and rates broken down by power system (region) and customer services office (headquarters). Some WAPA customers have sought better transparency and accountability regarding WAPA’s budget and rates, while WAPA has indicated that it spends significant resources responding to customer “data calls”. This amendment seeks to bridge that gap by increasing transparency and reducing administrative costs.
- SA #3050 Department of Energy (DOE) Research Database: Directs the Secretary of Energy to publish a searchable database of all of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) research grants, as is already done by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.
- SA #3229 Avian Solar Study: Requires DOE to establish a scientific baseline analysis of bird populations and mortality, in order to better evaluate the impact of solar energy projects on bird populations. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) supports this amendment, as it “will fill critical information gaps in assessing background avian mortality and what, if any, impact solar projects have on bird populations…before any attempts to regulate solar projects are undertaken.”
The text of the following amendments was incorporated into the Resources Package, SA 3234:
- SA #3057 Hydropower Reservoir Operation Improvement – Cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): Directs the re-evaluation of flood control operations at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, or non-federal facilities in order to use up-to-date forecasting methods and hydrology to enhance water storage, which in turn safeguards hydropower production during dry years.
- SA #3054 National Park Access Act – Cosponsored by McCain and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.): Authorizes the National Park Service (NPS) to refund its shutdown windfall to six states – Arizona, Colorado, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah – that advanced some $2 million to the NPS to temporarily reopen national parks during the October 2013 government shutdown. Following the shutdown, Congress retroactively funded NPS, which has since retained the $2 million state contribution as a shutdown windfall. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee favorably reported the measure by voice vote in the 113th (S.2104) and 114th (S.145) Congresses. For more background on Flake’s efforts to reimburse these states, please view this link.
- S. 1592 Young Life: This provision will facilitate the transfer of federal land to Young Life. Congress intended to convey the land to Young Life 10 years ago as part of a larger land exchange measure. There was a discrepancy between the 237.5 acres described in the original legislation and the 212.5 acres depicted on the associated map. The U.S. Forest Service claims it needs a legislative fix to give it the authority to correct the exchange to the originally intended 237.5 acres.
During debate on the EPMA in January, another Flake amendment (SA #3056) to expand a DOE review to cover 94 potentially duplicative green building programs that span 11 federal agencies was adopted on Feb. 1. The amendment, which is consistent with recommendation of the U.S. Government Accountability Office was cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J).
Flake also introduced an amendment (SA #3051) to the EPMA that would have prevented EPA’s overly broad Clean Power Plan from going into effect while stakeholders are litigating the legality of that plan. The amendment was rendered unnecessary on Feb. 9, when the Supreme Court ordered a stay of the Clean Power Plan, prohibiting this federal overreach into state energy policy from coming into effect while those cases are pending.