Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) announced the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved their bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, legislation that would address the nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The bill, which has been praised by key stakeholders, would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development to fund deferred maintenance projects at NPS sites across the country.  Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have led similar legislation in the House of Representatives. The legislation now awaits action on the Senate floor.

“If we want to protect our national treasures for our children and future generations, we must make important investments before it’s too late,” Warner said. “National parks are not only instrumental in telling America’s story, they also serve as important economic engines that support thousands of jobs in communities across the country. In fact, the 22.2 million visitors who explored Virginia’s national parks last year spent an estimated $1.1 billion, supporting more than 16,000 thousand jobs. Today’s committee passage of the Restore Our Parks Act is a big first step in investing in our communities and funding the critical renovations our parks require.”

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country,”Portman said. “But in order to keep that work going, we need to ensure that they have the necessary resources to maintain our national parks. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects like the more than $100 million in maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national parks. I’d like to thank Senators Warner, Alexander, and King as well as the cosponsors of his legislation for their leadership on this issue and I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to get this legislation signed into law so that the National Park Service can continue preserving American treasures.” 

“This legislation could do more to restore our national parks than anything that has happened in the last half century, and the reason we need to restore them is so Americans can enjoy the 419 sites – from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Grand Canyon – for generations to come,” said Alexander. 

“Today’s committee vote represents an important, bipartisan step towards establishing lasting protections for our National Parks, and preserving these treasures for our children and grandchildren,” said King. “From Acadia to Zion, the National Park System captures America’s diverse natural beauty and is a proud reminder of our country’s dedication to preserving public land for all its citizens. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.’ We have a collective responsibility to maintain this spirit of the wilderness in our National Parks – and this starts with the $12 billion maintenance backlog. Stewardship of our public lands is not a partisan issue, which is why I’m pleased that the Restore Our Parks Act passed our committee with strong bipartisan support.” 

“Today’s vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is yet another sign of the overwhelming public and congressional support to fix our parks. It’s now up to leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives to advance the bipartisan Restore Our Parks legislation,” said Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to restore America’s parks. “Enacting this measure into law would be a historic end-of-the-year gift to our national parks, their millions of visitors, and local economies.” 

“From Acadia to Cuyahoga and the Great Smokies, America’s national parks protect some of America’s most iconic landscapes and most important history, and are beloved by millions. Yet as our parks face years of record-breaking visitation, they are falling into disrepair,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. “Billions of dollars are needed to fix parks’ crumbling roads, overgrown trails, broken water and sewer systems and outdated visitor centers. This isn’t the legacy we should be leaving for our children and grandchildren. After years of urging by communities and park advocates, today lawmakers are banding together, across the aisle, to fix our parks. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King, as we move one important step closer to providing our parks, rangers and local communities with the support they so desperately need and deserve.”

“The importance of our national parks extends way beyond their conservation and recreation value—they are also vital hubs if of economic activity, driving $40.1 billion in annual economic activity and 329,000 American jobs,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President, Tori Emerson Barnes.  “The Restore Our Parks Act is a critical step in securing our parks’ infrastructure so that they remain available both for the enjoyment of future generations and to sustain that economic legacy. We thank Senator Portman, for his key role in moving this legislation forward.” 

“America’s National Parks are often called our nation’s best idea, but after decades of inadequate funding and deferred maintenance,”said Thomas Cassidy, vice president for government relations and policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Our nation risks losing these incredible resources.  Our national parks are more than just places to experience natural beauty—they are places where our children and children’s children can experience the full American story. We applaud Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for their leadership and commitment to our national parks and look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to secure passage of the Restore Our Parks Act.”

“The Restore Our Parks Act represents a significant investment in our national parks, which reflect all that we love and cherish as a nation,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO, National Park Foundation. “As these places face increased visitation and aging infrastructure, this bill will help protect our parks' natural grandeur, expansive history, and rich cultural heritage. The National Park Foundation applauds bill champions Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Angus King, Senator Rob Portman, and Senator Mark Warner for their unwavering support. We commend Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Joe Manchin for holding today's markup and their shared commitment to addressing our parks’ deferred maintenance needs. As the Foundation continues to enhance the national park visitor experience through philanthropic support, we look forward to the legislation’s timely consideration on the Senate floor." 

“Our national parks are engines of economic growth for gateway communities across the country – and the Restore Our Parks Act is the key to ensuring proper funding to fix our aging and deteriorating national treasures,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, vice president of government affairs at Outdoor Industry Association. “OIA applauds the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for working in a bipartisan manner to approve this critical legislation that will result in better infrastructure, healthier communities and a stronger economy. This day would not be possible without the dedication of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King to propel the bill forward. We urge the full Senate to finish the job and pass this legislation as soon as possible.”

“National parks provide major economic opportunities for gateway counties. With National Park Service infrastructure in need of repair, surrounding communities often see declines in tourism,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “The Restore Our Parks Act would help reduce the significant maintenance backlog and ensure positive experiences for visitors to our public lands. We thank the members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for supporting this legislation and urge the full Senate to act on it quickly.” 

NOTE: The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $110,000 in federal funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will help the Chickahominy Indian Tribe build environmental capacity.

“Last year, we fought for the federal government to finally recognize the Chickahominy tribe, allowing it to compete for educational programs and grants like this one,” said the Senators. “Today, we are glad to see that these federal funds will go towards assisting the Chickahominy people in building a strong environmental program.”

The $110,000 will assist the Chickahominy Indian Tribe in developing a tribal environmental program, developing foundational environmental documents and organizing community events.  

The funding was awarded through the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program, which assists federally recognized tribes and tribal consortia with planning, developing and establishing environmental protection programs in Indian country, and developing and implementing solid and hazardous waste programs on tribal lands. In 2018, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully passed legislation granting federal recognition for the Chickahominy tribe and five other Virginia tribes.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen and 43 of their Senate colleagues to introduce the International Climate Accountability Act to direct the Trump Administration to meet the standards established by the historic Paris Climate Agreement and to mitigate the long-term damage caused by the Trump Administration’s anti-environment actions. The International Climate Accountability Act would prevent the President from using funds to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and direct the Trump Administration to develop a strategic plan for the country to meet its commitment under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

“Now more than ever, climate change poses a direct risk to the future of our Commonwealth, and nowhere is this risk more apparent than in Virginia’s flood-prone coastal communities,” said Warner. “Despite the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on settled science, the facts behind climate change are undeniable. The U.S. must maintain its place as a leader in the fight against climate change.”

“Climate change continues to be a threat not only to Virginia’s environment, but to our economy and security as well,” Kaine said. “The Administration’s disregard for science is dangerous, and Congress must step up to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in the global effort to combat climate change.”   

The bill makes clear that the Paris Climate Agreement is critical to strengthening international cooperation to reduce global greenhouse emissions and hold high-emission nations accountable, and recognizes the important role the Agreement plays in protecting and advancing U.S. economic interests and foreign policy priorities around the globe.

The International Climate Accountability Act is also cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

The legislation has been endorsed by the Center for American Progress, BlueGreen Alliance, Earthjustice, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Sciences and additional organizations listed here in a letter of support.

Text of the legislation can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Wednesday introduced legislation to reauthorize the highly successful Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program run by the National Park Service. For more than 20 years, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network has expanded public access to the Chesapeake Bay through a state, local, and federal partnership of 172 Chesapeake sites, parks, wildlife refuges and water trails. The program facilitates enhanced interpretation, education, youth employment, recreation and access to the Chesapeake Bay and rivers, and trailheads for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake and Star-Spangled Banner national historic trails. 

The bicameral, bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Program is spearheaded in the House of Representatives by Congressman John P. Sarbanes (MD-3). The legislation is endorsed by the Chesapeake Conservancy, National Parks Conservation Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Choose Clean Water Coalition, and National Parks Conservation Association. 

“Virginians deserve to be able to enjoy all the natural treasures that our Commonwealth has to offer, and the Chesapeake Bay is no exception,” said Senator Warner. “Reauthorizing the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails program will facilitate community access to the Bay and further public education about the Bay’s unique history and rich ecology. This legislation will also continue to boost Virginia’s outdoor recreation industry, which supports 197,000 direct jobs and generates more than $21 billion in consumer spending per year.”

“Every year, the Gateways and Watertrails Network teaches millions of visitors about the vital historic, economic, and environmental role the Chesapeake Bay watershed plays,” said Senator Kaine. “There are over three dozen Gateways and Watertrails sites across Virginia, and I’m proud of this bipartisan effort to continue supporting them and the surrounding local economies.”

“The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and contributes $1 trillion to our regional economy. But if you cannot get to the Bay, you cannot enjoy all it has to offer,” said Senator Cardin.  “The Gateways and Watertrails program has been a gamechanger, making the entire Bay experience accessible, attractive and enjoyable for all. I am proud of our ongoing, regional effort to continue federal support for this important program supporting the natural gateways to the Chesapeake Bay.” 

“This program is one of best tools at our disposal to boost public access to the places that make the Chesapeake Bay Watershed such an important national treasure, “ said Senator Carper. “Delaware boasts a variety of sites – both coastal and inland - that speak to the cultural and natural value of the region and draw visitors who contribute to our state’s $3 billion a year tourism economy. I’m excited to continue my support of this crucial federal-state partnership.”

“The Chesapeake Bay watershed is one of our greatest natural resources, providing wonderful recreational opportunities and supporting the livelihoods of millions across our region,” said Senator Coons. “Thousands of visitors from around the country visit our region to immerse themselves in our breathtaking natural landscapes and experience all of the natural, cultural, and historic sites the Chesapeake has to offer. I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of the bipartisan reauthorization of the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails program.” 

“The Bay is a national treasure and a critical economic driver in Maryland. Reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program will ensure that families can continue to make memories on its waters and shores for generations to come. I’m pleased to support this effort to boost tourism and preserve the Bay, and I will continue working in Congress on this crucial issue,” said Senator Van Hollen.   

Visitation at Chesapeake Gateways sites exceeds 10 million people annually, and the competitive grants program is oversubscribed every year.  The National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office provides matching grants between $5,000 and $50,000 for projects that enhance public education of and access to the Chesapeake Bay. Only sites that have gone through a rigorous review process and have been formally selected as part of the Gateway and Watertrails Network are eligible for the competitive grants.

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to introduce the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act of 2019 to provide opportunities for coal reclamation and economic development in communities impacted by the downturn in the coal industry.

“As technologies evolve and our economy changes, we cannot forget about the coal mining communities that for years fueled our nation. The RECLAIM Act reiterates our economic commitment to these mining communities by fast-tracking the release of $1 billion from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund and using it to fund projects that reinvigorate communities, promote economic growth and counteract the environmental effects of coal mining locally,” said Warner

"Mine reclamation supports hundreds of jobs in Virginia each year, strengthens our economy, and helps clean up the environment,” said Kaine. “This bill would let money already sitting in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund be used to boost economic development in coal communities.”

The RECLAIM Act of 2019 releases $1 billion from the remaining, unappropriated balance in the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to states to be spent on reclamation projects in communities impacted by abandoned mine lands (AML) and the recent decrease in coal mining production. The RECLAIM Act will also require states to carry out reclamation projects that will create favorable conditions for economic development.

These projects must be conducted in areas that have been adversely affected by a reduction in coal mining related activity and/or in communities that have traditionally relied on coal mining for a substantial portion of their economy.  Under the RECLAIM Act, $195 million will be distributed to uncertified states and tribes with approved AML programs each year from Fiscal Year 2020 to 2024. 

Virginia has over 71,000 acres of land that has been impacted by coal mining. It is estimated that it would take approximately 55 years at the current rate of funding and reclamation construction to reclaim Abandoned Mine Land sites in the Commonwealth. The estimated price tag for reclamation is over $313 million. The RECLAIM Act would provide additional funding to the Virginia Abandoned Mine Land program and help speed up reclamation efforts in Southwest Virginia.

To learn more about the RECLAIM Act click here and to read the full bill text click here.

 

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WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), along with Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Marco Rubio (R-FL),  Tom Cotton (R-AR), Angus King (I-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), today sent a letter to the Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, urging them to protect our electrical systems and critical infrastructure from potential cyberattacks by banning the use of inverters made by the Chinese-owned company, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. 

“Huawei has recently become the world’s largest maker of inverters - the sophisticated control systems that have allowed the rapid expansion of residential and utility scale energy production.  Both large-scale photovoltaic systems and those used by homeowners, school districts, and businesses are equally vulnerable to cyberattacks.  Our federal government should consider a ban on the use of Huawei inverters in the United States and work with state and local regulators to raise awareness and mitigate potential threats,” the Senators wrote.

“We urge you to work with all federal, state and local regulators, as well as the hundreds of independent power producers and electricity distributors nation-wide to ensure our systems are protected.  We stand ready and willing to provide any assistance you need to secure our critical electricity infrastructure.”

The signed letter is here, and full text is below.

 

February 25, 2019

 

The Honorable Rick Perry

Secretary

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20585

 

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen

Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

800 K Street NW

Washington, DC 20528

 

Dear Secretaries Perry and Nielsen:

 

We write to express our concern over the national security threat products manufactured by Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (Huawei) pose to our nation’s critical energy infrastructure.  We understand that Huawei, the world’s largest manufacturer of solar inverters, is attempting to access our domestic residential and commercial markets.  Congress recently acted to block Huawei from our telecommunications equipment market due to concerns with the company’s links to China’s intelligence services.  We urge similar action to protect critical U.S. electrical systems and infrastructure.

 

Huawei has recently become the world’s largest maker of inverters - the sophisticated control systems that have allowed the rapid expansion of residential and utility scale energy production.  Both large-scale photovoltaic systems and those used by homeowners, school districts, and businesses are equally vulnerable to cyberattacks.  Our federal government should consider a ban on the use of Huawei inverters in the United States and work with state and local regulators to raise awareness and mitigate potential threats.

 

We urge you to work with all federal, state and local regulators, as well as the hundreds of independent power producers and electricity distributors nation-wide to ensure our systems are protected.  We stand ready and willing to provide any assistance you need to secure our critical electricity infrastructure. 

 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter of national security.

 

Sincerely,

/s/

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to address the $12 billion National Parks Service (NPS) maintenance backlog, which has delayed the upkeep of visitor centers, rest stops, trails, campgrounds and transportation infrastructure operated by NPS in the Commonwealth and across the country. The Restore Our Parks Act, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last year, would take existing government revenue and allocate it to the chronically underfunded National Park Service.

Virginia’s national parks, which host over 25 million visitors every year, are in critical need of this funding to continue preserving some of the nation’s most precious national treasures. Shenandoah National Park alone has outstanding maintenance needs totaling almost $80 million, while Colonial National Historical Park is more than $420 million behind schedule. To make matters worse, recent reports indicate that the 35-day government shutdown exacerbated the NPS maintenance backlog and delayed important work for readying park facilities, roads and trails for the busy summer season.

“The deferred maintenance backlog at national park sites in Virginia is currently over a billion dollars. The Commonwealth trails only California and the District of Columbia in total deferred maintenance needs. Colonial National Historical Park, which is home to Historic Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield, has over $400 million in deferred maintenance needs alone,” said Sen. Warner. “We owe it to our Commonwealth and to our country to pass this bill and clear the $12 billion maintenance backlog that is holding back essential repairs and renovations at our cherished national parks. This problem will only worsen if we fail to act.” 

“For more than a century, the National Park Service has been inspiring Americans to explore the natural beauty of our country,” Sen. Portman said. “My visits to various national parks in Ohio last year made it clear that we must pass this legislation to ensure that they have sufficient resources to maintain our national parks. This bill will create the Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the National Park Service with funds for deferred maintenance projects. This legislation will also help tackle the more than $100 million in maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national parks and will ensure the National Park Service can continue preserving American treasures like Cuyahoga Valley National Park.” 

“Today, too many of our national parks are in bad shape. American families spending their vacations in our national parks are often shocked to find that so many of the roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds and visitor centers are run down or even closed,” Sen. Alexander said. “The Restore Our Parks Act would be the biggest help to the National Park Service in 50 years – it would cut in half the maintenance backlog at our national parks and help restore our 418 national parks so Americans can enjoy them. The legislation is supported by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, the Trump Administration and more than 100 conservation groups. When an idea this good – fixing our national parks for future generations – gets this much bipartisan support, it’s going to happen sooner or later. It is my hope we pass the legislation as soon as this year.” 

“From Acadia to Zion, the National Park System captures our country’s diverse natural beauty and is a proud reminder of America’s dedication to preserving public land for all its citizens,” Sen. King said. “As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.’ We have a collective responsibility to maintain this spirit of the wilderness in our National Parks – and this starts with the $12 billion maintenance backlog. With strong bipartisan support, this bill will ensure our parks are well-maintained so generations of visitors can experience the wonders of our National Parks for years to come.” 

“The Restore Our Parks Act would provide billions of dollars to address the multibillion-dollar repair backlog at our national parks,”said Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ project to restore America’s parks. “This investment would help preserve these treasured places and support sites that generate more than $18 billion in annual spending in nearby communities by park visitors.”

“For years, our national parks have been plagued with underfunding while also dealing with a mounting backlog of repair needs, totaling nearly $12 billion. Grand Canyon’s water and sewer systems, built during World War II, are failing. Roads in Yellowstone that were originally built in 1905 for carriages, not the millions of cars and RVs that use them today, are sinking. Thanks to the leadership of Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King, park staff could get the funding they need to fix our national parks. The bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act would make a much needed and significant investment to address these and so many more infrastructure needs in national parks across the country, ensuring they are ready to welcome the next generation of park visitors,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association. 

“In 2018, our National Parks contributed $35.8 billion in total economic output and supported 306,000 American jobs. National Parks are a huge attraction for visitors across the country and around the world, which makes investment in the maintenance of our national parks not just an environmental necessity but also an economic priority. U.S. Travel applauds Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for reintroducing the Restore Our Parks Act, which will invest in national park infrastructure and facilities and shrink the nearly $12 billion in deferred maintenance facing our parks,” said Tori Barnes, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, U.S. Travel Association. 

“The nearly $12 billion National Park System deferred maintenance backlog jeopardizes some of our nation’s most iconic historic resources and cultural artifacts. By creating a reliable federal funding source to reduce the backlog, this legislation will enable the National Park Service and other federal agencies to save the historic structures, landscapes, and necessary infrastructure that enable the public to safely enjoy the places that reflect our nation’s history. We commend Reps. Bishop and Kilmer and Sens. Portman, Warner, Alexander and King for their leadership in creating a bipartisan path for Congress to secure the future of important historic and cultural resources now at risk,” said Thomas J. Cassidy, vice president for government relations and policy for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The time is now for Congress to address this national crisis, particularly in the Nation’s Capital. The National Mall hosts more than 35 million visits each year and has the highest deferred maintenance bill of any National Park across the country. As the greatest symbol of American Democracy, we must improve and preserve this historic legacy for generations to come. We express our gratitude to Representatives Bishop and Kilmer in the House and Senators Portman, Warner, Alexander and King in the Senate for their steadfast leadership of this important legislation,” said Catherine Townsend, president and CEO, the Trust for the National Mall. 

The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander and King, other original cosponsors include Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kamala Harris (D-CA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Gary Peters (D-MI), John Boozman (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Steve Daines (R-MT). 

A similar bill is being introduced in the House today by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and has the backing of more than 90 cosponsors.

A list of additional organizations supportive of addressing the NPS backlog can be found here

 

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2017*

 

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

$1,998,224

Assateague Island NS

$2,774,577

Blue Ridge Parkway

$186,619,608

Booker T Washington National Monument

$1,370,913

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

$327,072

Colonial National Historical Park

$421,872,932

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

$1,848,864

Fort Monroe National Monument

$2,280,548

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP

$10,371,731

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

$1,306,614

George Washington Memorial Parkway

$233,441,316

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

$64,760

Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

$531,648

Manassas National Battlefield Park

$6,516,560

Petersburg National Battlefield

$11,754,041

Prince William Forest Park

$18,619,932

Richmond National Battlefield Park

$6,581,205

Shenandoah National Park

$79,208,621

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

$31,149,289

Total

$1,018,629,457


*Due to the continuously changing nature of facilities data, only final, year-end data is reported by the National Park Service. The last year for which data is available is FY 2017.

 

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded Senate passage of a historic lands bill — S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act — that permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program that protects and preserves Virginia’s public lands. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for permanent reauthorization of LWCF. Authorization for the Fund expired at the end of last fiscal year.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is essential to preserving and protecting Virginia’s rich history and beautiful landscapes,” said the Senators. “By providing long-term security for this critical program, communities across the Commonwealth will be able to continue caring for our natural resources and history for future generations to enjoy.”

The LWCF provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve their own history and create close-to-home recreation opportunities. In the span of four decades, Virginia has received more than $350 million in LWCF funding to protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more. This bipartisan package is supported by dozens of conservation and recreation organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, the League of Conservation Voters, the Outdoor Industry Association, and the Nature Conservancy. 

The lands package also reauthorizes the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Grant Program. Historically Black Colleges and Universities Grants support the preservation of sites on HBCU campuses that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Eligible projects include pre-preservation studies, architectural plans and specifications, historic structure reports, and the repair and rehabilitation of historic properties according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Last year, Virginia Union, Hampton University, Virginia State, and Virginia University of Lynchburg received grants totaling $2.27 million under the HBCU grant program.

The lands package also includes a provision introduced by Sen. Warner that expedites access to national parks for Good Samaritans, or eligible search and recovery organizations, after they sign a liability waiver. Sen. Warner pushed for the legislative fix after Alexandria resident Jodi Goldberg’s brother Keith was killed and his body was left at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada in 2012. His family worked for 10 months to get the permits and secure a million-dollar liability insurance policy required by the National Park Service before it would allow a trained volunteer search and recovery team to search for his body in the national park. 

In addition, the bill includes language backed by Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with the entire Virginia delegation, that designates the George C. Marshall Museum and Research Library in Lexington as the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library.

 

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WASHINGTON – A recent national poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows the vast majority of Americans believe Congress should pass bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS). The poll found that 76 percent of respondents favor a plan outlined in the Restore Our Parks Act to set aside billions of dollars to help tackle deferred maintenance at the Park Service. The bill currently has 32 bipartisan cosponsors and is supported by the Trump Administration and more than 100 groups. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed the bill on a bipartisan 19-4 vote last month and it currently awaits consideration by the full Senate.

“These results are clear. Americans want Congress to move forward on our commonsense, bipartisan solution to clear the backlog caused by years of chronic underfunding at our National Parks,” said Sen. Warner. “The Senate should take note of this growing national momentum and move forward to pass this legislation before the end of the year.”

Due to years of chronic underfunding, NPS has deferred maintenance for a year or more on visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds in Virginia, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as Blue Ridge and George Washington Memorial Parkways. In the last year, the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites in Virginia grew by $250 million, to over a billion dollars and the Commonwealth now ranks third among all states in total deferred maintenance, trailing only California and the District of Columbia. That figure includes roughly $80 million of overdue maintenance at Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of our nation’s park system.

Virginia contains 22 national parks and affiliated areas that are spread throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, the Park Service maintains over 120 National Historic Landmarks throughout Virginia, including Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Monticello, and the State Capitol Building. In 2017, over 24 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending over $1 billion. National parks in Virginia helped support more than 15,000 jobs and contributed over $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. 

To see the complete results of this poll, click here. For more information on the Restore Our Parks Act or a list of NPS operated sites in Virginia, click here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen has led a bipartisan letter with his colleagues to the Senate Agriculture Committee urging the inclusion of his legislation, the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act, in this year’s Farm Bill. This bill would dramatically increase the amount of funds available to Bay-area farmers to aid in conservation and anti-pollution efforts.

The Senators write, “As the Senate Agriculture Committee considers the upcoming Farm Bill, we urge you to consider inclusion of the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act. The bill makes a number of changes to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through additional funding, enhancing critical conservation areas, and boosting technological assistance.”

They note that “the bill has broad, bipartisan support from the Governors of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the Mayor of Washington, D.C.” in addition to “over 70 different organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition.”

The Senators close the letter stating, “We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that our regional Bay economy continues to thrive and that all Americans can enjoy this treasure for generations to come.”

Senator Van Hollen was joined in sending the letter by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

Senator Van Hollen introduced the bipartisan Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act of 2017 in November 2017. This legislation increases mandatory funding available to the Bay, strengthens the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP), and provides more opportunities for effective conservation efforts. It builds on the historic funding that Senator Van Hollen obtained in the 2008 Farm Bill to help farmers and protect the Bay.

 

The text of the letter can be found here and below. 

 

Dear Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow:

As the Senate Agriculture Committee considers the upcoming Farm Bill, we urge you to consider inclusion of the Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act.

The bill makes a number of changes to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through additional funding, enhancing critical conservation areas, and boosting technical assistance. These provisions are necessary to ensure that CCA partnerships are consistent with national, regional and state priorities and generate outcomes that address critical resource concerns, such as the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. They will also address issues experienced by stakeholders in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The bill has broad, bipartisan support from the Governors of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the Mayor of Washington D.C.  Furthermore, over 70 different organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition support the bill.  Identical legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Thank you for your attention to and consideration of this important request. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that our regional Bay economy continues to thrive and that all Americans can enjoy this treasure for generations to come.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis sharing Virginia’s concern over the risks of offshore drilling on military assets in Hampton Roads. In the letter, Warner and Kaine raise concerns about how drilling would affect military activities in Hampton Roads, given the region’s deep national security footprint. They also ask if the Department has conducted a comprehensive study assessing the specific challenges the proposed five-year drilling plan may create for military activities in the region. They highlight that Hampton Roads is home to the largest naval installation in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, and has more than a dozen other DOD installations across all service branches.

“We are concerned that allowing offshore drilling in this area would create new challenges for the region’s DOD installations and the activities taking places on and around these waters. In late 2015, we were briefed by DOD on a new map that showed three types of areas impacted: 1) areas that definitively would conflict with military activities, 2) areas that could accommodate drilling with certain stipulations, and 3) areas that are all clear. According to that brief, the Virginia OCS has more acres that meet the first two categories than the third,” the Senators wrote.

Kaine and Warner have also raised concerns about the threat of offshore drilling on the environment and tourism and have called on President Trump to listen to local voices in Virginia and exempt the Commonwealth from this proposal, as the Administration has done in Florida. Kaine has traveled to Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore to meet with local elected officials and military personnel, as well as industry and community leaders, to talk about their concerns over the Administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling.

 

A copy of the letter is available here and below:

April 19, 2018

 

The Honorable James Mattis

Secretary of Defense

1300 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301-1300

 

Dear Secretary Mattis:

 

We write to share our concerns regarding the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Draft Proposed Program to authorize drilling leases on the mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Virginia.

Though we have shared our concerns with BOEM and the Interior Department, we would also like to share with you some particular concerns related to the Department of Defense. In particular, we would like to inquire whether you have conducted a comprehensive study assessing the specific challenges the new 5-year plan may create for military activities in the Hampton Roads region and the Virginia offshore.

As you know, the Virginia coastal region of Hampton Roads has a deep national security footprint. It is home to the largest naval installation in the world at Naval Station Norfolk and more than a dozen other DOD installations across all service branches. Along with tourism and international port commerce, national security is a longstanding pillar of the regional economy.

We are concerned that allowing offshore drilling in this area would create new challenges for the region’s DOD installations and the activities taking places on and around these waters. In late 2015, we were briefed by DOD on a new map that showed three types of areas impacted: 1) areas that definitively would conflict with military activities, 2) areas that could accommodate drilling with certain stipulations, and 3) areas that are all clear. According to that brief, the Virginia OCS has more acres that meet the first two categories than the third.

To further illustrate this point, we are enclosing a presentation from the former commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk summarizing the complexities that offshore drilling rigs would create for military activities on the Virginia OCS. We would also note that Florida, a state with similar geography and a similar DOD footprint, was previously removed from the drilling lease schedule.

 

We have concern that drilling in the region would overall create unnecessary risks. We hope DOD will carefully scrutinize what allowing Virginia OCS drilling would mean for regional military assets.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Mark R. Warner                                                                                Tim Kaine

U.S. Senator                                                                                       U.S. Senator

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of 37 Senators in introducing a resolution calling for the immediate resignation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. The resolution comes in response to Pruitt’s repeated ethics violations, misuse of taxpayer dollars, retribution against whistleblowers, and contempt for science that is fundamentally at odds with the mission of the EPA. A companion resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by a group of 130 representatives.

“We voted against Scott Pruitt’s confirmation because we believed he was the wrong choice to defend public health and the environment. His record since has not only justified these concerns – using discredited polluter arguments to loosen enforcement of clean air and water laws and trying to abolish the Chesapeake Bay Program – but he has also misused taxpayer funds in a shocking number of different ways. From unjustified first class flights, to leasing an apartment from an energy lobbyist, to bizarre spending on a soundproof phone booth and bulletproof desk, to arrogant demands for a motorcade with the right to bypass D.C. traffic lights, to disciplining employees who raised questions about all this, we have had enough. Public servants are entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out policies that are in the best interest of our nation. During his tenure Pruitt has shown no regard for public trust or ethical standards required for him to carry out the post. It’s time for him to resign.”

The resolution follows numerous revelations about Pruitt’s ethical violations, widespread conflicts of interest, and repeated misuse of taxpayer dollars for his personal benefit, including:

  • The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office determined that the EPA violated federal law by purchasing a $43,000 phone booth for Pruitt’s office – and then hiding that purchase from Congress.
  • Pruitt entered into a sweetheart housing deal to rent a Capitol Hill condo from the wife of a lobbyist – paying just $50 a night, and only paying for the nights he slept there.
  • Pruitt has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills for luxury travel perks, including booking lavish first class and charter flights to Europe and elsewhere, staying in luxury hotels, and traveling with a huge entourage of staff and security.
  • Pruitt has reportedly reassigned or demoted EPA staffers who questioned his spending habits – at the same time that the EPA Inspector General is investigating him for giving unusual pay raises to favored aides.
  • Pruitt has deployed EPA enforcement officers to provide round-the-clock security with questionable justification.

The lawmakers also noted in the resolution that, in addition to flouting the ethical standards of his office, Pruitt has done untold damage to the EPA and carried out a long list of actions to benefit friends who are top American polluters – at the expense of the health, safety, and livelihood of American families.

The 39 cosponsoring senators represent the highest number of senators in U.S. history to sign on to a resolution formally calling for a cabinet official’s resignation. 

The full text of the resolution can be found here. The full list of Senate cosponsors can be found here and the full list of House cosponsors can be found here.

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with Tim Thomas, President Trump’s nominee to be the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. During the meeting, Senator Warner and Thomas discussed their shared priorities for Appalachia, including workforce development and combatting the opioid crisis.

“While I remain concerned about the Trump Administration’s proposal to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission, I was encouraged to hear Mr. Thomas lay out his priorities for an active ARC that carries out its mission of fostering economic development in Appalachia,” said Sen. Warner. “When it comes to jumpstarting the region’s economy, we need to take off our Republican and Democratic hats and work together. I encourage my colleagues from both parties to give fair consideration to Mr. Thomas’ nomination for this important post.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that has invested in 25,000 projects across Appalachia’s 420 counties. For more than fifty years, ARC has provided funding and support for job-creating community projects across the 13 Appalachian states, producing an average of $204 million in annual earnings for a region often challenged by economic underdevelopment. Since its inception in 1965, ARC has generated over 300,000 jobs and $10 billion for the 25 million Americans living in Appalachia.

In his FY2018 budget, President Trump proposed eliminating funding for the ARC entirely. In response, Senator Warner and a bipartisan coalition of Senators who represent Appalachian states called on President Trump to reverse his proposal to zero out funding for this important federal-state partnership. In 2017 alone, Senator Warner announced over $7 million in ARC grant funding for projects in Virginia’s Appalachian counties, including:

  • Falls Mills Senior Center Project (Tazewell County) - $500,000. This grant to the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, Inc., in partnership with the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, will help build a community service and senior facility at the Falls Mills Elementary School site.
  • Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone (Covington, Va.) - $100,000. This grant will be matched with $100,000 in local funds to complete a feasibility study and design, marketing, and business plan for the new “Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone,” a business accelerator program and facility to support local enterprises in this emerging industry. It is anticipated that space for 12 businesses will be available in a city owned building that has been identified for renovation, and the project is expected to support the creation of three to five new businesses a year, according to ARC.
  • Floyd Regional Commerce Center (Floyd County) - $1,081,958. This grant leverages $30 million in private investment—will fund approximately 0.21 miles of access road, an industrial cul-de-sac, as well as pedestrian and bike path to facilitate Floyd County’s development of the Floyd Regional Commerce Center. The Floyd County Economic Development Authority estimates that completion of the Commerce Center would promote economic development with the potential to support more than 100 new jobs in the region.
  • William King Museum of Art (Abingdon, Va.) - $500,000. This grant will help the William King Museum of Art will help fund Phase 1 of a larger cultural campus expansion project. The funds will go towards access improvements, additional parking and renovating a currently vacant facility that will become the new Center for Studio Art and Education. With the improvements at the campus, 10 artisans will take up residency at the facility, 2 jobs will be created and 2,500 new visitors are anticipated. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $657,000, bringing the total project funding to $1,157,000. 
  • Southwest Virginia Early Childhood Workforce Development (Abington, Va.) - $99,933. This grant will help United Way of Southwest Virginia assist 70 workers obtain child care credentials and improve child development services for 20 existing businesses in a 13-county area. In addition, the grantee will provide training and other assistance to individuals who wish to establish their own childcare programs in underserved areas, resulting in 10 new enterprises capable of serving 120 children. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $61,783 in matching funds. 
  • Project Discovery Program (Abingdon, Va.) - $75,844. This grant will help People Incorporated of Virginia expand its academic advancement and college attendance program to serve more low-income, first-generation college-bound high school students. The project will provide assistance to 60 students with college readiness skills and financial opportunities. The project will serve Dickenson, Buchanan, Russell, and Washington Counties. In additional to ARC funds, local sources will provide $39,391, bringing the total project funding to $113,235.
  • Frog Level Phase II Water Project (Lee County) - $500,000. This grant will help provide reliable public water supply to Lee County as well as support economic development for the newly-established school of veterinary medicine. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $948,680, and local sources will provide $108,652, bringing the total project funding to $1,557,332.
  • Cool & Connected Pennington Gap Project (Pennington Gap, Va.) - $7,500. This grant will help the city of Pennington Gap fund the renovation of space and the creation of a community computer center at the basement of the Lee Theatre, purchase computer equipment, and provide Wi-Fi access in Leeman’s field. In addition to ARC funds, Sunset Digital Communications will provide $4,000, bringing the total project funding to $11,500.
  • Cool & Connected Jonesville Project (Jonesville, Va.) - $7,500. This grant will help fund the renovation of a community computer center in Jonesville, Virginia at an existing town-owned building located in the town’s Cumberland Bowl Park. The minor renovations will include computer equipment and Wi-Fi access at the park. In addition to ARC funds, Sunset Digital Communications will provide $4,000, bringing the total project funding to $11,500.
  • Tacoma Sewer Project (Wise County) - $500,000. The grant will help the Wise County Public Service Authority begin a project that will provide public sewer collection to a previously unserved community of 48 households and two businesses, and eliminate public and environmental health concerns related to improperly disposed raw sewage. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $750,000, and local sources will provide $155,901, bringing the total project funding to $1,405,901.
  • Lyric Theater Project (St. Paul, Va.) - $300,000. This grant will help the Town of St. Paul renovate and stabilize the interior and exterior of the Lyric Theater to stabilize the building. The renovation will equip the building to hold conferences, events and performing arts for visitor and tourists. The facility will be affiliated with The Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $135,000, bringing the total project funding to $435,000.
  • Spearhead Trails in SW Virginia Project (Coeburn, Va.) - $92,300. This grant will help the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA) to fund a study that will examine existing and potential economic benefits of the Spearhead Trails on the surrounding region, identify priorities for future development, and help SRRA develop a sustainable organizational model. SRRA was chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2008 to support outdoor recreation and tourism investment in the Coalfields of Southwest Virginia. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $30,000 and local sources will provide $7,700, bringing the total project funding to $130,000.
  • Donnkenny, Breaks and Tivis Pump Stations Replacement Project (Dickenson County) - $441,740. This grant will help replace three deteriorating below-ground pump stations with above-ground facilities that meet current design standards. The new pump stations will provide water to 571 households and 10 businesses in distressed communities, as well as to nine tourism-related businesses in the Breaks Interstate Park, and will ensure that reliable infrastructure is in place to support future economic development, particularly that which is related to tourism. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $150,000, and local sources will provide an additional $102,260, bringing the total project funding to $694,000.


Senator Warner serves as a co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Appalachia Initiative, which has laid out a roadmap for bipartisan legislation to jumpstart economic growth in the region.

Mr. Thomas currently serves on the state staff of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a field representative based in the senator’s Bowling Green office. A native Kentuckian, Thomas previously served in the administration of former Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher as a special assistant to the secretary of the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet, handling matters including legislative initiatives for the agency, according to the ARC.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke asking him to add public meetings in Virginia Beach and on the Eastern Shore to give local residents the opportunity to share their opinions on the Trump Administration’s offshore drilling proposal. These two areas, which would be directly impacted by this decision, are not currently included on the list of 23 locations where the Department has announced in-person public meetings. Earlier this month, the Trump Administration decided to open nearly all of United States waters to new oil and gas drilling, and while Zinke has since announced Florida will be excluded because of local opposition, the Administration has made no such commitment to Virginia.

“While we appreciate the scheduled meetings in Richmond and in close proximity to Northern Virginia in Washington, D.C., it is important for residents of Virginia’s coastal areas to have the opportunity to attend meetings in their own communities,” the Senators wrote.

At these meetings, participants can talk to Department staff, ask questions, share concerns, and submit written comments, which the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) says it will take into consideration for its analyses of the program.

“The regional economy in Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore relies heavily on sectors potentially affected by offshore drilling – Department of Defense installations, the Port of Virginia, tourism, outdoor recreation, fishing, oyster and clam aquaculture, and other federal facilities like NASA-Wallops. Residents of this region would be most directly impacted by a change in offshore drilling policy, and their significant concerns deserve to be heard in person,” they added.

On Monday, Kaine sat down with Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, local elected officials, hotel and restaurant industry leaders, regional military advocates, and regional conservation leaders such as the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center to listen to local concerns over the Administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling. Kaine and Warner have raised concerns about the threat of offshore drilling on the environment, tourism, and naval operations in Hampton Roads and have called on President Trump to listen to local voices in Virginia and exempt the Commonwealth from this proposal, as the Administration has done in Florida.

The full text of the letter appears below:

 

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We request you add public meetings in Virginia Beach and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia as part of the public comment period for the Draft Proposed Program of the proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.  

While we appreciate the scheduled meetings in Richmond and in close proximity to Northern Virginia in Washington, D.C., it is important for residents of Virginia’s coastal areas to have the opportunity to attend meetings in their own communities. The Hampton Roads region is a major population center. Virginia Beach is in fact Virginia’s most populous city, followed by its neighbors Norfolk and Chesapeake (Richmond is 4th). This region has no currently scheduled public meetings, and the Eastern Shore is even more isolated from the announced meetings. 

The regional economy in Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore relies heavily on sectors potentially affected by offshore drilling – Department of Defense installations, the Port of Virginia, tourism, outdoor recreation, fishing, oyster and clam aquaculture, and other federal facilities like NASA-Wallops. Residents of this region would be most directly impacted by a change in offshore drilling policy, and their significant concerns deserve to be heard in person.

You stated in your announcement removing Florida from consideration for offshore drilling that “Local voice matters.” We strongly agree. That is why we request Virginia coastal localities be granted the opportunity to make their voices heard. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner                                                                                           

Tim Kaine

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Donald McEachin, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, and Bobby Scott sent a letter to the Trump Administration requesting that Virginia be exempted from its offshore drilling proposal, citing localconcerns over the risks to tourism, the watermen’s industry, and the country’s Naval operations.

The Virginia legislators cited Secretary Zinke’s announcement that drilling off the Florida coast was taken “off the table” after listening to “local and state” voices, and asked that the Trump Administration take similar concerns from Virginians just as seriously. Virginia’s coastal leaders -from the Democratic mayor of Norfolk to the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach and the current Governor and Governor-elect of Virginia - have all voiced opposition to drilling off of the Virginia coast.

“As Members of Congress from Virginia, we request you remove the Virginia offshore area from your proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We note your willingnessto listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there. We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia’s coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point,” the group said.

 

The full text of the letter appears below.

Dear Secretary Zinke:

As Members of Congress from Virginia, we request you remove the Virginia offshore area from your proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We note your willingness to listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there. We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia’s coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point.

The statement from your office announcing the removal of the Florida offshore stated, “Local voice matters.” We couldn’t agree more.

While many states have long histories of energy production, states like Florida and Virginia have robust economies based on other sectors like tourism, aquaculture, outdoor recreation, deepwater port commerce, and especially Department of Defense infrastructure. Florida is home to some 20 DOD installations, while Virginia’s coastal area alone has more than a dozen across every service branch, including Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval installation. While it is within DOD’s mandate to work with Interior, any look at a map displays vast offshore areas in which drilling could conflict with military activities. In a time of relatively stable prices and booming oil and gas production elsewhere, the risks outweigh the benefits.

Opposition to offshore drilling is an opinion broadly shared by communities on the Virginia coast, including by the Democratic mayor of Norfolk and the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach. In fact, the city council of Virginia Beach (Virginia’s most populous city) actively voted to shift its prior support for offshore drilling from supportive to neutral, then from neutral to opposed.

We hope you will take opposition from Virginia coastal communities as seriously as you took the concerns from Florida residents and elected officials.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to work with them to fulfill the assurances he made to local leaders on Virginia’s Tangier Island about the future of their community. In a widely reported June 2017 call, President Trump reached out Tangier Mayor James "Ooker" Eskridge after seeing a CNN report on the Island and assured him that the Island would be around for hundreds of years. Right now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that if immediate action is not taken, Tangier Island could be substantially uninhabitable within the next 50 years due to erosion, commonly believed to be caused by sea level rise due to climate change. The island currently shrinks by 15 feet each year.

“We write to follow up on your commitment to Tangier Island, Virginia,” Warner and Kaine wrote. “It meant a great deal for the President of the United States to call Tangier’s mayor and give personal assurance of the island’s future. As Virginia’s U.S. Senators, we wish to work with you to preserve this unique community for future generations.”

The Senators also stressed that whatever one believes the causes of the problem are – sea level rise, erosion, or other – the time is now for solutions.

“We can debate the causes for why this is happening, but regardless, the effects are clear. It is urgent that we address those effects.”

Warner and Kaine, both former governors of Virginia, have each traveled to Tangier Island and seen the island’s vulnerability to rising sea levels, erosion and storm surge first hand. In the letter, they list several ways President Trump and his Administration can work with them to help residents on the island:

  • Expedite a proposed study on Tangier’s infrastructure needs that is currently working its way through the Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Give full and fair consideration to an Army Corps proposal for Tangier to be selected for a new beneficial re-use dredge fill pilot project authorized in the WIIN Act (WRDA 2016).
  • Instruct the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to become more involved in managing an area of the island that was formerly inhabited but has become too low-lying and now serves only as wildlife habitat as, “an opportunity to advance the agency’s wildlife mission while also helping out a community in need.”


Full text of the letter is below:



Dear President Trump:

We write to follow up on your commitment to Tangier Island, Virginia. It meant a great deal for the President of the United States to call Tangier’s mayor and give personal assurance of the island’s future. As Virginia’s U.S. Senators, we wish to work with you to preserve this unique community for future generations. To that end, we have several suggestions we hope you will direct your administration to pursue further.

A proposed study of Tangier’s infrastructure needs is working its way through the Army Corps of Engineers for potential authorization by Congress in the next Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This is a lengthy process, and time is of the essence. Tangier Island has gradually decreased in size, resulting in the abandonment of previously habited parts of the island. If present trends continue, the entire island could be uninhabitable within decades, or sooner in the event of a Harvey or Maria-type storm. We can debate the causes for why this is happening, but regardless, the effects are clear. It is urgent that we address those effects.

We understand that Tangier Island has been submitted for consideration under a new beneficial reuse dredge fill pilot project authorized in the WIIN Act (WRDA 2016). While we are sure competition for this opportunity is intense, we request your administration give Tangier’s application full and fair consideration.

In addition, we understand Tangier leaders have discussed with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service a proposal for the Service to become more involved in managing an area of the island that is now home only to wildlife after it became too low-lying to support permanent human habitation. We hope you will ask agency leaders to seriously consider this.

We know the Service has limited funds and other wildlife assets in the Chesapeake Bay region, but this is an opportunity to advance the agency’s wildlife mission while also helping out a community in need. Given the ban on congressional earmarks and the challenges of small rural communities like Tangier (pop. under 500) in getting federal attention, it is important to secure equities from as many federal and private partners as possible. Tangier residents have pointed out to us that sizable investments have been made in similar nearby islands, such as the uninhabited Port Isobel Island, VA (right off Tangier); uninhabited Poplar Island, MD; and an even smaller (less than 300) community on Smith Island, MD. Tangier Island deserves no less.

We fully appreciate that communities across America much larger than Tangier also have pressing infrastructure needs, particularly in light of recent disasters. It is appropriate to follow robust cost-benefit calculations to determine the best use of limited federal dollars. But there are also rare circumstances under which a project may not score highly on traditional metrics yet is profoundly valuable.

Tangier Island is such a community. Its history and culture predate the United States, and its linguistic characteristics are unlike any in the world. Letting this island wither away due to bureaucratic inertia – or worse, an active decision to write it off – would not only result in the loss of people’s homes and way of life, but would be a cultural and historical loss to America. We should not let that happen. You will note that we agree on this even though the island’s political inclinations are well known. Some fights are important regardless of political benefit.

Tangier Island’s residents have put their faith in you, and we stand ready to work with you. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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Warner, Kaine Announce More Than $2.6 Million in Federal Funds to Help Protect and Restore Coastal Communities

Funds will support local jobs and assist Virginia’s coastal conservation efforts

Aug 24 2017

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced today that Virginia is receiving $2,670,000 in federal funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help the Commonwealth administer its coastal management program. The funding comes as part of the National Coastal Zone Management Program, which serves as an important voluntary federal-state partnership that protects, restores, and responsibly develops our nation's coastal communities and resources by balancing economic development, coastal uses, and natural resource protection.