By Doug Obegi, Natural Resources Defense Council
Today, the House Natural Resources Committee began marking up H.R. 2898 (Valadao, R-CA), anti-environmental legislation that would permanently override protections for salmon and other native fisheries required under the Endangered Species Act in California, preempt state laws protecting fish and wildlife and management of water resources, override a binding court order and settlement agreement (and repeal or preempt state and federal laws) to restore the San Joaquin River, reduce water supply and funding for the state’s wildlife refuges, and limit the public’s rights under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal laws regarding review of the environmental impacts of new dams and water supply infrastructure. Despite never holding a hearing on H.R. 2898 to obtain the views of the State of California, the Department of the Interior, or other stakeholders, news outlets are reporting that the Natural Resources Committee will pass the bill tomorrow.
Drought, not state and federal environmental laws, are the primary cause of low water supplies accross California. For instance, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, in 2015 only 2% of all the runoff in the entire Bay-Delta watershed was used solely for environmental protections and could otherwise have been diverted or captured (in 2014, only 4% of all the runoff in the watershed was used solely for environmental protections and could otherwise have been diverted or captured).
Thankfully, conservation groups, hunters, sport and commercial fishermen, businesses, and the Department of the Interior have all weighed in on this destructive bill. The Department of the Interior’s opposition letter reiterates that the bill preempts state law, directs operations that are inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act, and it notes that, “this bill will not provide additional meaningful relief to those most affected by the drought. It will, however, negatively impact our ability to protect Delta fish and wildlife in the long term; particularly those species listed under state and federal environmental laws.” The Department’s letter also notes that other provisions in the bill “will impact commecial and tribal fisheries on the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, which will have impacts not just in California but throughout the West Coast.” The State of California has continued to emphasize that the State would “welcome any efforts that match with federal assistance what the state voters overwhelmingly backed, so long as it does not weaken state and federal environmental protections, does not pre-empt state law and does not favor one region or economic sector of the state over another.” Yet H.R. 2898 provides no federal funding for drought solutions, dramatically weakens environmental laws, preempts state law, and favors agribusinesses over fishermen, hunters, and other stakeholders.
Below are links to letters and fact sheets opposing H.R. 2898.
- 7/8/2015 Letter from the Department of the Interior opposing H.R. 2898
- 7/8/2015 Letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior opposing H.R. 2898
- 7/8/2015 Letter from sport and commercial fishing groups opposing H.R. 2898
- 7/8/2015 Letter from conservation and fishing groups opposing H.R. 2898
- 7/8/2015 Letter from the California Waterfowl Association opposing H.R. 2898
- 7/8/2015 Letter from California environmental groups, Native American tribes, commercial businesses, and fishing groups opposing H.R. 2898
- Fact sheet summarizing major anti-environmental provisions of H.R. 2898
Click here for more information about prior Congressional efforts to roll back environmental protections for salmon and other fish and wildlife in California’s Bay-Delta watershed.