Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and a bicameral group of lawmakers in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting the agency include measures to better support the involvement of residential and small commercial energy consumers as it works to establish the Office of Public Participation (OPP). 

As one of the lead agencies responsible for developing energy infrastructure and ensuring reliability of the electric grid, FERC has sweeping authority over the wholesale power markets and ultimate jurisdiction in the federal siting and permitting process for natural gas pipelines. While FERC’s decisions determine which energy projects are constructed and significantly influence the energy prices consumers pay, private citizens have expressed frustration that participating in FERC’s complex proceedings is extremely challenging.

“As sponsors of the Public Engagement at FERC Act, we write to commend the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the steps you are taking to encourage and facilitate greater public involvement in FERC proceedings as directed by Congress,” wrote the lawmakers. “As the Commission determines how to fulfill its responsibility to coordinate assistance to the public, we encourage you to pay particular attention to providing residential and small commercial energy consumers a strong voice in shaping our nation’s energy future.”

The lawmakers continued, “As you work to establish an organizational structure for this office, we urge the Commission to consider measures included in the Public Engagement at FERC Act as a way to further improve public participation and remove technical barriers that may prevent consumers from making their voices heard.” Specifically, the lawmakers urged the Commission to consider measures included in the Public Engagement at FERC Act to further improve public participation and remove technical barriers that may prevent consumers from making their voices heard, including:

  • The employment of directed outreach methods, such as consultation services and technical assistance, to ensure the interests of residential and small commercial consumers are adequately represented; and
  • The creation of a Public and Consumer Advocacy Advisory Committee for the office composed of representatives from the national and state-based nongovernmental consumer advocacy community and provide intervener funding to individuals or small commercial energy consumer groups to encourage their participation in FERC proceedings. 

The lawmakers concluded, “As Federal policies continue to expand FERC’s impact on utility bills paid by families and small businesses, it is essential that the public play a more prominent role in decisions made by the Commission. Energy consumers have waited more than 40 years for FERC to create an office to strengthen public involvement and ensure the decisions being made are in the best interest of those who will be most impacted. We hope you will consider the priorities laid out in our legislation and establish the Office of Public Participation without delay.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.

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WASHINGTON – Amid the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, a bill written and passed into law by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner is set to create more than 18,851 jobs nationwide in 2021, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Great American Outdoors Act, which was championed by Sen. Warner and signed into law by President Trump last year, provides for up to $1.6 billion a year for five years to help address a multi-billion-dollar deferred maintenance backlog at national parks and other public lands.

Warner announced today that among the projects that will receive funding this year are overdue upgrades at three National Park Service (NPS) sites in Virginia: the GW Memorial Parkway ($207.8 million in overdue upgrades); Colonial National Historical Park ($10 million in upgrades); and Skyline Drive ($26.2 million in upgrades), as well as additional repairs at Shenandoah National Park (to the tune of $3.5 million).

“Amid the COVID-19 crisis, this law will create thousands of jobs,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m proud that Virginia’s national park sites will finally be receiving crucial repairs that have been postponed for years. Future generations will reap the benefits of this once-in-a-lifetime investment in our national treasures.”

The Great American Outdoors Act is a product of Sen. Warner’s effort of more than three years to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the overall maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars. A previously released estimate found that the law is expected to create or support more than 10,000 jobs in Virginia over the life of the bill.  

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined by Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, urging the EPA to use all tools available to meet the 2025 goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The pollution reduction requirements in the Bay TMDL are vital to protecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay and ensuring the Bay’s surrounding states each do their part in reducing pollution. Recently, however, Pennsylvania has fallen behind in their TMDL requirements. While the Trump Administration refused to use its legal authority to ensure compliance, the Senators are urging the EPA to take the necessary action to do so.

The Senators write, “On December 29, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, a historic and comprehensive agreement that includes accountability features to restore clean water in the seven jurisdictions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The agreement is a national and indeed international model for watershed restoration. It sets limits for pollution that equate to a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, 24 percent reduction in phosphorous, and 20 percent reduction in sediment. As the Bay TMDL states, ‘The TMDL is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures needed to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025[.]’”

“The Courts have upheld the legality of the Bay TMDL. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted, the ‘Clean Water Act does not simply direct the publication of the TMDL; it is one step in a process with several layers, each placing primary responsibility for pollution controls in state hands with ‘backstop authority’ vested in the EPA,’” they continue. 

“The implementation of the Bay TMDL and the Bay jurisdiction’s Watershed Implementation Plans are, therefore, part of EPA’s legal obligation to achieve and maintain the nutrient goals of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL under the Clean Water Act,” the Senators note.

The Senators point to the need for action, writing, “We are at a critical juncture in implementation of the Bay TMDL. EPA’s response to Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) noted that Pennsylvania is on track to meet only 75 percent of its nitrogen reduction targets and the Commonwealth itself identified a $324 million annual shortfall in their plan. The State of New York’s Phase III WIP is also 1 million pounds under its nitrogen goal. We ask that you use all tools at your disposal—including those identified in Bay TMDL Section 7—to make sure that all jurisdictions are on track for 2025.”

The text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Administrator Regan:

Congratulations on your confirmation as Administrator to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

We stand by to offer our partnership to your efforts as Administrator of the EPA to achieve our mutual goal of clean water in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.

On December 29, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a historic and comprehensive agreement that includes accountability features to restore clean water in the seven jurisdictions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The agreement is a national and indeed international model for watershed restoration. It sets limits for pollution that equate to a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen, 24 percent reduction in phosphorous, and 20 percent reduction in sediment.  As the Bay TMDL states, “The TMDL is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures needed to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025[.]”

The goal of the Clean Water Act is to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” To that end, states are first required to set water quality standards for all waters within their boundaries regardless of the sources of pollution.  When those water quality standards cannot be met and maintained through effluent limitations and technology-based controls on point sources, water quality-based controls are required under Section 303(d) of the Act. States are required to identify waters within its boundaries that cannot achieve water quality standards based on effluent limitations, and then “shall establish for [impaired] waters […] the total maximum daily load, for those pollutants which the Administrator identifies […] as suitable for such calculation.” A TMDL is a specification of the maximum amount of a particular pollutant that can pass through a waterbody each day without violating water quality standards.  Such “load shall be established at a level necessary to implement the applicable water quality standards with seasonal variations and a margin of safety which takes into account any lack of knowledge[.]” Once the 303(d) list and any TMDLs are approved by the EPA, the reporting state must incorporate the list and TMDLs into its continuing planning process.

The Courts have upheld the legality of the Bay TMDL. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted, the “Clean Water Act does not simply direct the publication of the TMDL; it is one step in a process with several layers, each placing primary responsibility for pollution controls in state hands with ‘backstop authority’ vested in the EPA.”

In addition to these requirements, Section 117(g) of the Act requires EPA to take certain actions regarding the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement and the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.  It states that the EPA Administrator, “in coordination with other members of the Chesapeake Executive Council, shall ensure that management plans are developed and implementation is begun by signatories to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement to achieve and maintain (A) the nutrient goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreements for the quantity of nitrogen and phosphorous entering the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed; (B) the water quality requirements necessary to restore living resources in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem; […] (D) habitat restoration, protection, creation, and enhancement goals established by Chesapeake Bay Agreement signatories for living wetlands, riparian forests, and other types of habitat associated with the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem; and (E) the restoration, protection, creation, and enhancement goals established by the Chesapeake Bay Agreement signatories for living resources associated with the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.” (emphasis added).

The implementation of the Bay TMDL and the Bay jurisdiction’s Watershed Implementation Plans are, therefore, part of EPA’s legal obligation to achieve and maintain the nutrient goals of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL under the Clean Water Act.  

Since the inception of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL – and through its Reasonable Assurance and Accountability Framework in Section 7 – EPA has communicated its expectations for the Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia to develop Watershed Implementation Plans and two-year milestones and “demonstrate satisfactory progress toward achieving nutrient and sediment allocations established by EPA in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL.” In addition, the Agency laid out potential backstop actions the Bay jurisdictions would face if they failed to demonstrate progress on their obligations under the Bay TMDL, noting that the “identification of possible federal actions is intended to strengthen our individual and collective resolve to make the difficult choices and decisions along the road to a restored Chesapeake Bay and watershed and fill in the gaps to aid States and the District to meet their commitments in order to ensure that the allocations in the TMDL are achieved.”

Time and again, EPA has demonstrated through its approach in establishing and implementing the Bay TMDL, including its application of “backstop actions” when states deviated from their respective obligations, its view that the Bay jurisdictions are responsible for meeting the allocations in the Bay TMDL.  Indeed, as recently as April of 2017, in laying out its expectations for Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan, EPA noted several examples of potential actions it could take specific to Pennsylvania if it determined that the state did not meet these expectations.  Those backstop actions included: (1) Targeting federal enforcement and compliance assurance in the watershed; (2) Directing Chesapeake Bay funding to identified priorities; (3) Establishing finer scale wasteload and load allocations through a Pennsylvania state-specific proposed amendment to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL; (4) Requiring additional reductions of loading from point sources through a Pennsylvania state-specific proposed amendment to the Chesapeake Bay TMDL; and (5) Initiating a process to propose promulgating nitrogen and phosphorous numeric water quality standards for Pennsylvania applicable to streams and rivers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

EPA’s defense of the Bay TMDL and its historic approach to the Bay jurisdiction’s development of the Watershed Implementation Plans clearly indicates that it took its responsibilities under Sections 303d and 117(g) seriously and that it viewed achieving the allocations in the Bay TMDL as necessary to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.  

We are at a critical juncture in implementation of the Bay TMDL.  EPA’s response to Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) noted that Pennsylvania is on track to meet only 75 percent of its nitrogen reduction targets and the Commonwealth itself identified a $324 million annual shortfall in their plan. The State of New York’s Phase III WIP is also 1 million pounds under its nitrogen goal. 

We ask that you use all tools at your disposal—including those identified in Bay TMDL Section 7—to make sure that all jurisdictions are on track for 2025.  

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load has made strong progress towards cleanup of this national treasure and economic engine in our region. We are at a critical moment, and we look forward to working with you to make sure we meet our 2025 goals for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen's (D-NH) bipartisan letter to President Biden urging him to prioritize robust investments in programs that promote energy efficiency in his upcoming budget proposal to Congress. In the letter, Shaheen and the Senators noted these investments would combat climate change by reducing harmful emissions and pollution and stimulate our economy by creating sustainable jobs and reducing energy costs for consumers. 

Since the pandemic has slowed progress in energy efficiency and led to job losses disproportionately harming workers of color, the Senators expressed urgency in delivering funding to unleash the full potential of the energy efficiency. 

“We applaud your commitment to restoring our nation’s global leadership on climate change while creating jobs here at home. To further these goals, we respectfully request you provide robust funding for programs that promote energy efficiency throughout our economy as your administration crafts its budget recommendation to Congress for fiscal year 2022,” wrote the Senators. “Increasing investment in energy efficiency programs within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) can deliver significant emissions reductions, grow jobs in the clean energy sector and provide savings to American consumers.”

They continued: “Unfortunately, the pandemic and associated economic impacts have hit the energy efficiency sector especially hard, slowing progress and costing jobs, particularly for workers of color. According to recent analysis, more than 300,000 American jobs in energy efficiency have been lost since the beginning of the pandemic, representing a 12.8% reduction from pre-pandemic levels. Though jobs have been slowly returning, we need to invest in programs and implement policies—as we did in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—to truly unleash the job-creating potential of this sector.”

The bipartisan letter was also signed by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Kelly (D-ZA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Senator Shaheen is a leader in the Senate for safeguarding our environment, combating the effects of climate change and investing in energy efficiency policies. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Shaheen traveled to Paris to participate in high-level discussions at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference that led to the international Paris Climate Accord. Shaheen also introduced the widely praised Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), which contains key energy efficiency policy reforms that will strengthen the economy and reduce pollution. Policy experts at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that over the lifetime of the legislation through 2050, the bipartisan bill will save consumers more than $41 billion on their energy bills, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.18 billion metric tons, which is the equivalent of taking 3.1 million cars off the road each year for 30 years, and add more than 100,000 jobs to the economy. Shaheen is a founding member of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, which brings together an equal number of Republicans and Democrats to craft and advance bipartisan solutions to address climate change.

Read the Senators’ full letter here or below:

Dear President Biden: 

We applaud your commitment to restoring our nation’s global leadership on climate change while creating jobs here at home. To further these goals, we respectfully request you provide robust funding for programs that promote energy efficiency throughout our economy as your administration crafts its budget recommendation to Congress for fiscal year 2022. 

Increasing investment in energy efficiency programs within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) can deliver significant emissions reductions, grow jobs in the clean energy sector and provide savings to American consumers. Specifically, the Buildings Technologies Office and the recently reauthorized Federal Energy Management Program develop and deploy cost-effective technologies and tools to improve energy efficiency performance of residential, commercial and federal buildings and their interactivity with the electric grid. The Advanced Manufacturing Office accelerates research, development and deployment of advanced technologies that make U.S. companies competitive in international markets. Moreover, the Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program empower our states and community organizations to help put people to work improving the efficiency of homes, businesses, manufacturing plants, institutional buildings and other facilities that are critical to community development and resilience. Investing in these programs will also help address equity issues by reducing pollution that disproportionately impacts minority communities, lowering the higher energy burdens faced by low-income households and creating more comfortable and habitable shelters as the severity and pace of climate disasters continue to increase across the country. 

The environmental and economic benefits of energy efficiency are clear. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy efficiency globally has the potential to achieve more than 40% of the energy-related emissions reduction needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the United States, energy efficiency employment grew by 20%, nearly three times the rate of growth in the overall economy, in the five years leading up to 2020, and energy efficiency jobs are available in nearly every county in every state. Unfortunately, the pandemic and associated economic impacts have hit the energy efficiency sector especially hard, slowing progress and costing jobs, particularly for workers of color. According to recent analysis, more than 300,000 American jobs in energy efficiency have been lost since the beginning of the pandemic, representing a 12.8% reduction from pre-pandemic levels. Though jobs have been slowly returning, we need to invest in programs and implement policies—as we did in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—to truly unleash the job-creating potential of this sector. To help us understand these trends and the potential for growth, we also encourage your administration to recommit to collecting data and publishing an annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report and properly funding the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  

Finally, while DOE is clearly a leading agency in the federal government’s efforts to improve energy efficiency, we encourage your administration to prioritize energy efficiency across the administration and throughout sectors of our economy. We have a tremendous opportunity ahead to encourage work on energy efficiency through the General Services Administration, Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development programs, Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, and more.  

We look forward to working with you to unlock the unrealized potential of energy efficiency. Thank you for your consideration. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supporting two major projects designed to increase the reliability of rural electric utility systems in Virginia. The Senators today announced two low-interest loans of $25 million to the Northern Neck Electric Cooperation in Warsaw, Va., and $16 million to the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative in Palmyra, Va., through the Electric Loan Program, which targets rural regions where capital is limited to finance infrastructure upgrades, create jobs, and improve rural electric customers' operations in Virginia. 

“We applaud this investment in Virginia’s rural communities,” said the Senators. “These low-interest loans will help improve reliability for local residents and businesses, which in turn strengthens our entire economy.”

The $41 million in funding will be disbursed to the following electric cooperatives in Virginia:

  • $25,000,000 in loans to the Northern Neck Electric Cooperation in Warsaw, VA to build and improve 40 miles of electrical line, fund smart grid projects, and make system improvements. Northern Neck Electric Cooperation will also use the funding to install 45 miles of fiber-optic communication lines.
  • $16,000,000 in loans to the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative in Palmyra, VA to build and improve 27 miles of electrical line, fund smart grid projects, and make system improvements.

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WASHINGTON — Today, Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Congresswoman Elaine Luria, sent a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) urging them to expedite regulatory processes for offshore wind development in Coastal Virginia. 

“Virginia’s diverse maritime industry, workforce, port assets, deep, wide channels, and no overhead obstructions have positioned the Commonwealth to become a hub for manufacturing and ongoing operations and maintenance activities for projects along the Atlantic Coast,” said the lawmakers in the letter. “We are proud that the first two wind turbines permitted and constructed in federal waters are off our Commonwealth’s coast, producing clean energy for Virginians. Unfortunately, we have heard from local stakeholders and constituents that the adjacent Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project is at risk of delays due to the backlog at BOEM.” 

In December 2020, Dominion Energy filed a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the 2,640-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project. In the letter, the lawmakers expressed concerns that bottlenecks in the permitting process may slow progress and prevent offshore wind investments. Currently, offshore wind developers have submitted thirteen COPs to BOEM but have yet to receive a clear timeline for action. This backlog could stifle the development of an offshore wind industry supply chain. 

The full text of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Director Lefton, 

We write concerning the Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for the 2,640-megawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) commercial project, filed by Dominion Energy on December 18, 2020. As representatives from the Commonwealth of Virginia, we value the critical role offshore wind will play as part of the renewable energy portfolio of the United States, as well as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)’s role in supporting this emerging technology. As you begin your tenure as Director, we want to draw your attention to the backlog of offshore wind project COPs and urge you to take all necessary measures to address this backlog. We ask the Bureau to thoughtfully advance the CVOW permitting process. 

The offshore wind energy industry in the United States is projected to become a $50 billion business over the next 30 years. Virginia’s diverse maritime industry, workforce, port assets, deep, wide channels, and no overhead obstructions have positioned the Commonwealth to become a hub for manufacturing and ongoing operations and maintenance activities for projects along the Atlantic Coast. We are proud that the first two wind turbines permitted and constructed in federal waters are off our Commonwealth’s coast, producing clean energy for Virginians. Unfortunately, we have heard from local stakeholders and constituents that the adjacent CVOW project is at risk of delays due to the backlog at BOEM. 

Offshore wind is poised for substantial growth at a time when we must seize opportunities to help our region and nation recover from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are concerned that bottlenecks in the permitting process slow progress and prevent critical investments in the US offshore wind industry. We understand that developers have submitted thirteen COPs to BOEM but have not received a clear timeline for action. This backlog could delay the development of an offshore wind industry supply chain. 

We must explore any actions the federal government can take to expedite our regulatory processes for offshore wind development. We understand that staffing shortages hinder BOEM’s ability to quickly review necessary documentation and we are committed to assisting BOEM in this matter. Please provide any additional information that will help us fully understand the challenges BOEM faces and how you plan to expedite the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you and your staff to maximize the potential of offshore wind development off Virginia’s coast and across the Atlantic Coast.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of the bipartisan, bicameral spending bill to fund federal programs crucial to Virginia and keep the federal government open through 2021. The legislation also includes comprehensive measures to help Americans amid the ongoing economic and public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following today’s Senate passage, the bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature. 

“For nine long months, folks waited for Congress to deliver critical relief as they watched COVID-19 further devastate their communities. Today, despite that unacceptable delay, relief is officially on its way,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to help get this legislation into shape and in the hands of House and Senate leaders. And while I know that this bill is not perfect, I’m glad to know that it will help American families weather this winter and get through the holidays.”

“While this relief should have been passed much earlier, I’m pleased to see families, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and more get the assistance they need,” Kaine said. “This legislation makes critical investments in unemployment assistance, food aid, housing assistance, and other areas to directly help those struggling amid the pandemic. Though we still have more work to do to help Americans get back on their feet, I’m relieved Congress was able to come to this bipartisan compromise and fund these priorities before the holidays.” 

The following list includes some of the priorities Warner and Kaine advocated:

  • Assistance for out of work Virginians: Extends federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, preventing hundreds of thousands of out-of-work Virginians from losing benefits over the holidays. The senators were cosponsors of the legislation that provided the model for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), through which more than 9 million Americans are currently receiving benefits. More recently, the Senators called on leadership to extend and add additional weeks of federal employment benefits to both PUA and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs. Additionally, it gives states the option to offer additional weekly financial relief for Americans with a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income who are not able to claim their full benefit, modeled after Senator Warner’s legislation.
  • Stimulus checks: Includes a stimulus payment for low- and middle-income Americans; with $600 for individual filers and $1,200 for joint filers, with an additional $600 for each qualifying child in the household. Early in the crisis, Senator Kaine called for stimulus efforts to include direct payments to households. 
  • Vaccines: Includes over $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and an additional $8.75 billion to support vaccine distribution, particularly for states and localities, to slow the spread of the pandemic and take a step towards a future where COVID-19 is managed.
  • Emergency housing aid and protections: Creates a new $25 billion emergency rental assistance fund to prevent evictions during the pandemic, which will be delivered through state and local governments. Earlier this year, the Senators joined their colleagues in introducing legislation to provide emergency housing assistance for those facing potential evictions. The bill will also extend the CDC eviction moratorium to allow time for implementing the emergency housing aid.
  • Relief for hard-hit small businesses and nonprofits: Provides targeted relief for small businesses struggling with the effects of the pandemic. This includes a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans for small businesses and nonprofits that experienced a substantial revenue decline in 2020, as well as other funds for small business relief. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is directed to provide guidance to ensure priority access for underserved communities, such as minority-owned businesses. The bill also includes grants for small businesses and nonprofits in sectors likely to continue to see substantial drops in revenue in 2021, particularly in the live entertainment sector. This aid will ensure that Virginia’s small businesses are able to stay afloat during the pandemic, keep workers on payroll, and return to job creation as COVID-19 is controlled. The Senators have been strong supporters of providing relief to small businesses, cosponsoring the Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act, which included many of the provisions in the final bill, and the Save our Stages Act, on which the live entertainment grants are modeled. 
  • Targeted relief for underserved communities: Provides the largest single investment in our country's history for minority-owned and community-based lending institutions. Largely drawn from Senator Warner’s Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, the provision provides $12 billion to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) to build capital and unlock affordable access to credit for underserved and minority neighborhoods, which have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19.
  • Education Stabilization Fund: Provides $82 billion to provide emergency support to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. The legislation includes provisions of Kaine’s Coronavirus Relief Flexibility for Students and Institutions Act that allow colleges to use emergency stabilization funds to cover lost revenue and better target funds designated for colleges hardest hit by COVID-19 by requiring an application to demonstrate need. 
  • Broadband: Includes $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on provisions Senator Warner drafted with bipartisan Senators. Additionally, the bill includes an extension of the deadline to use Coronavirus Relief Funds so that state and localities interested in using the money for broadband expansion have more time, as Senator Warner called for.
  • Support for child care providers and families: Includes $10 billion in flexible funding for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help support child care providers and ensure that working parents have access to child care during the pandemic. The bill also includes $250 million for Head Start programs.
  • Public health data modernization: Includes Senator Kaine’s Saving Lives Through Better Data Act, which will improve the nation’s public health data systems at CDC and through grants to state and local health departments to expand and modernize their systems, promoting more seamless communication, which can save lives when we’re faced with public health threats such as COVID-19. The omnibus authorizes $100 million for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2025.
  • Telehealth: Includes Senator Kaine and Senator Schatz’s Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act of 2019, which creates a grant program to evaluate, develop, and expand the use of distance health education models such as ECHO to increase access to specialty care in rural and medically underserved populations. The omnibus authorizes $10 million for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026. The funding bill also permanently expands coverage of and payment for telehealth to treat mental health care, which is in line with Senator Warner’s CONNECT for Health Act, which Senator Kaine is a cosponsor.
  • Ends surprise billing: Includes a provision to end surprise billing, something Senators Warner and Kaine have long advocated for. 
  • U.S. Postal Service: Converts the CARES Act $10 billion loan into direct funding for USPS without requiring repayment. These funds will be used for operational costs and other expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Warner is a cosponsor of the Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act, which would provide USPS with significant direct funding. 
  • Veterans: Provides $104.4 billion in funding for the VA, an increase of $12.5 billion over FY20 levels. This funding increase provides $2.7 billion more than the previous fiscal year for health care delivered at VA facilities nationwide. The bill provides robust funding in several areas important for Virginia veterans, including $815 million for critical VA Medical and Prosthetic research, an increase of $1.18 billion over FY20 levels for electronic health record modernization, nearly $2 billon in support of programs to prevent veteran homelessness and $312.6 million for suicide prevention.
  • Infrastructure: Includes funding for key projects that were championed by Warner and Kaine to benefit Virginia’s infrastructure:
    • Includes a provision pushed for by Senators Warner and Kaine to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge on the Potomac River, which will double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and D.C. The current two-track Long Bridge is the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., and it is at 98 percent capacity during peak hours, which means it is one of the most significant rail chokepoints along the East Coast. The new Long Bridge program will double the capacity of the Potomac River rail crossing by adding a second two-track bridge adjacent to the existing bridge and including a new bike-pedestrian shared use path spanning the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Potomac River. Senators Warner and Kaine introduced the Long Bridge Act of 2020 in August to allow for this construction.
    • Includes the full federal funding of $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to fund critical capital investment and safety projects. In addition, the bill provides $14 billion in emergency relief for public transit agencies to continue operations during the pandemic, ensuring access to transportation for frontline workers and civil servants.
    • Includes a one year extension of Community Development Block Grant funds to the City of Norfolk and other localities to build climate resilient infrastructure projects. Senators Kaine and Warner joined Senator John Hoeven in introducing S.4017 in June, which would also have provided an extension for the NDRC program.
    • Includes $87.5 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program—an increase of $2.5 million from FY 2020. The Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and protection efforts, and the majority of its funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration.
    • Authorizes federal funds to cover 65% of the costs associated with construction projects to address close to $1.5 billion of flood control needs in the City of Norfolk.
    • Grants a critical cost adjustment to allow work to continue on the Deep Creek Bridge inChesapeake to address traffic concerns.
    • Authorizes over $102.7 million in federal funds for construction of the North Landing BridgeReplacement project.
    • Provides up to $9 million for the Federal Aviation Administration to continue its remote tower system pilot program at smaller airports, including the Remote Air Traffic Control Tower at Leesburg Executive Airport.
  • Great American Outdoors Act: With Senator Warner’s Great American Outdoors Act now law, the FY21 omnibus affirms funding for several deferred maintenance projects in Virginia:
    • George Washington Memorial Parkway – A $207 million project to restore 7.6 miles of northern section of the GW Parkway and implement critical safety measures. The Senators have long advocated for federal funding for this project for several years as seen here and here.
    • Shenandoah National Park – A $27 million project to pave and restore nearly 50 miles of Skyline Drive and various overlooks. Shenandoah will also receive nearly $3.5 million to remove unnecessary buildings and restore greenspace within the park.
    • Colonial National Historical Park – A $16.5 million project to restore nearly 5 miles of shoreline along the York River.
  • FBI Headquarters: Provides no funding for a new FBI headquarters and includes language that encourages General Services Administration (GSA) to provide a new prospectus, particularly after the Trump Administration abruptly abandoned plans to develop a new campus headquarters for the FBI. Earlier this year, Senators Warner and Kaine opposed an attempt in an earlier Republican COVID-19 relief package that would have provided $1.75 billion for construction of a new FBI HQ in its current downtown D.C. location.  
  • Miners’ Benefits: Extends the funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund until the end of 2021 by extending the tax on mining companies that helps fund the program. Both Kaine and Warner introduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Solvency Act calling on Congress to extend the excise tax through the end of 2030.
  • Shipbuilding & MILCON funding: Provides $23.27 billion for shipbuilding for 10 battle force ships including full funding for a second Virginia-class submarine, which Senators Warner and Kaine personally advocated for. The bill also appropriates $237 million for 6 MILCON projects in Virginia, including:
    • Humphreys Engineer Center, Training Support Facility (Army) - $51m
    • Norfolk, E-2D Training Facility (Navy) - $30.4m
    • Norfolk, Corrosion Control and Paint Facility (Navy) - $17.671m
    • Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Access Control Point Main Gate with Land Acquisition (Air Force) - $19.5m
    • Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Story, Operations Facility and Command Center (Def-Wide) - $54.5m
    • JEB Little Creek-Story, NSWG Facilities (Def-Wide) - $58m
  • Federal contractors: Senators Warner and Kaine also pushed to extend a provision from CARES (3610), which allows contractual adjustments for a paid leave program, allowing contractors to keep employees on the payroll if federal facilities close due to the pandemic – an important provision for our defense industrial base and cleared national security workforce. 
  • Foster care and homeless youth: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Murray and Senator Portman, the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act, to remove barriers to financial aid for students experiencing homelessness or students formerly in foster care by easing the application and determination for becoming eligible for aid. The bill also includes language allowing foster youth to remain in the system until October 1, 2021, regardless of their age—a move that Senators Warner and Kaine called for in a recent letter to the administration.
  • Funds Childhood Disease ResearchProvides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. The Senators worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
  • Supporting working students and families: Includes key provisions of Senator Kaine’s bill with Senator Baldwin, the Working Students Actto reduce the “work penalty” that many students who work while attending school face. Currently, students who work while attending school often are eligible for less financial aid due to their work income. The appropriations bill enacts a 35% increase for working students and 20% increase for families to the income protection allowance (IPA), shielding more of their income from reducing their financial aid.
  • Student Loan Repayment: Extends an important change to existing tax policy allowing employers to use pre-tax dollars to help pay down employees’ student debt until 2025 – a provision modeled after Senator Warner’s bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act to help more than 44 million Americans with student loan debt.
  • Ashanti Alert: Includes $1 million in federal funding to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. Following the abduction of 19-year old Ashanti Billie, who did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert, Senator Warner secured unanimous passage of this national alert system through the Senate on December 6, 2018, and has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide ever since.
  • Nutrition: Provides $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through June 30, 2021 for all SNAP participants. Excludes unemployment compensation from being counted as income for the purposes of calculating SNAP benefits and eligibility. Provides $400 million for food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
  • Farmers: Provides $13 billion for direct payments, purchases, and loans to producers who have suffered losses due to the pandemic, including funds to support the food supply chain through food purchases, donations to food banks, and support for local food systems. Additionally, it includes $5 billion for supplemental payments to row crop producers; $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers and contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry; $225 million for producers of specialty crops; and $1.5 billion to purchase food for distribution to those in need.
  • Timber Harvesting/Hauling: Provides up to $200 million to support timber harvesting and timber hauling businesses impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Dairy: Provides up to $400 million for a Dairy Product Donation Program, modeled after the 2018 Farm Bill pilot program to facilitate the donation of dairy products and minimize food waste. 
  • Textiles: Allows USDA to make payments to users of upland cotton and extra-long staple cotton.
  • Fisheries: Provides $300 million in assistance to help fisheries mitigate COVID-19 related impacts. 
  • Water Utility Bill Assistance: Provides $638 million for a new program to help low-income families cover the costs of drinking water and wastewater utility bills by making funds available to states and Tribes. These localities will provide dollars to owners or operators of public water systems or treatment works to reduce arrearages and rates for low-income households.
  • Appalachian Regional Commission: Includes a record $180 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an increase of $5 million from FY20.

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WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $7,485,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to construct a new stormwater pump station in the Olde Towne Historic District of Portsmouth. It’s estimated that this project will reduce the flooding risk for the entire Olde Towne Historic District, including 210 buildings, and protect an area of approximately 23 acres.

“We’re pleased to announce this federal funding to support the construction of a critical flood mitigation project in Portsmouth,” said the Senators. “Recurrent flooding can have detrimental effects on a region. This project will better protect the treasured Olde Towne Historic District from future flood damage.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met virtually with Patrick Kenney, the new superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.  

In the meeting, Sen. Warner and Superintendent Kenney discussed park priorities for 2021 and beyond, including Department of the Interior projects that were made possible by the passage of Sen. Warner’s legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).  During the meeting, Sen. Warner reiterated his commitment to seeing through the implementation of the GAOA and addressing the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog – an effort he has championed since 2017.

“America’s great outdoors are part of the heritage and beauty of our nation. But to preserve them, we need to quickly start tackling our parks’ deferred maintenance needs, which are only getting worse by the second,” said Sen. Warner. “I am committed to working with Superintendent Patrick Kenney to help protect, maintain, and preserve the public lands within his jurisdiction, particularly Shenandoah National Park, which will be receiving GAOA funds to help address a portion of the park’s nearly $90 million deferred maintenance backlog. While we may have cleared the hurdle of getting the GAOA passed and signed, our work is not done until this law is fully implemented and important repair and upkeep projects are tackled across the Commonwealth.”

On Monday at an outdoor and socially-distanced ceremony at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Sen. Warner was awarded the National Park Foundation’s Hero Award by Foundation President, Will Shafroth. The award commemorates Sen. Warner’s work in getting the GAOA signed into law.

The Great American Outdoors Act is a product of Sen. Warner’s more than three years effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars. At Shenandoah National Park, the current maintenance backlog sits at $88,765,195. At Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park, the maintenance backlog sits at $823,242.

Superintendent Kenney, who was appointed superintendent of Shenandoah National Park on August 5, 2020, is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in zoology.  He began his NPS career in 1990 at Big Cypress National Preserve as a natural resource manager. He then served as superintendent of Cape Lookout National Seashore, where he improved access to the park by awarding a ferry service contract, establishing two gateways, and opening the Beaufort Visitor Information Center. He later served as deputy superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, where he managed the operations of 2.2 million acres, a staff of 800, and an annual budget of $35 million. He is also a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute – Leadership for Democratic Society and is a Project Management Institute certified Project Manager.

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WASHINGTON – Today at an outdoor and socially-distanced ceremony at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was awarded the National Park Foundation’s Hero Award by Foundation President, Will Shafroth. The award commemorates Sen. Warner’s work in getting The Great American Outdoors Act, a bill he championed, signed into law.

“As a lifelong advocate of our national parks and public lands, I am honored to be an inaugural recipient of the National Park Foundation’s Hero Award. I am incredibly proud that Congress was able to come together and pass The Great American Outdoors Act this year, which included my bill – the Restore Our Parks Act – that will allocate up to $6.65 billion to the National Park Service to address critical maintenance needs at our beloved national parks,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan legislation represents a truly once-in-a-generation investment in our national parks and other public lands that will protect these cherished sites for decades to come. It’s only fitting that we were able to celebrate at the Jefferson Memorial, which will in fact be one of the first projects to receive funding from the new law. Ushering the bill’s passage and eventual bill signing wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless advocacy of the National Park Foundation.”

“As we reflect on Senator Warner’s leadership in passing the Great American Outdoors Act, the National Park Foundation is proud to recognize his commitment to national parks across our nation,” said Will Shafroth, President & CEO, National Park Foundation. “A true park hero, Senator Warner has been a champion for Virginia’s treasured places such as Shenandoah National Park, Great Falls Park, Petersburg National Battlefield, and Fort Monroe National Monument, among others. He has also been a great proponent for the Foundation’s work to enhance national parks through philanthropy, and we are grateful for his ongoing support.”

The Great American Outdoors Act is a product of Sen. Warner’s nearly three year initial effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars.

In June, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog. 

In addition, a recent NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for the Great American Outdoors Act.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore 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 exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The new law would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, A. Donald McEachin, Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton (all D-VA), wrote a letter to President Trump requesting that he extend a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling to the Commonwealth of Virginia. This letter follows the President’s decision to exempt three states led by Republican governors (Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) from his Administration’s plan to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing. This, despite requests for an exemption from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation, and Virginia’s coastal communities, whose industries would be severely impacted by the proposal. 

“In Virginia, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to offshore drilling, including the Commonwealth’s most populous cities, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In addition, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that would prohibit oil and gas drilling and related infrastructure in Virginia waters,” wrote the lawmakers. “Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the Commonwealth’s economy, natural resources, and military assets. Virginia’s coastal communities rely predominantly on industries that would be affected by your proposal including tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and deepwater port commerce. Further, the Department of Defense’s analysis has shown that oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia could potentially disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities critical to the U.S. military’s readiness and our national security.” 

They continued, “For these reasons and more, Virginians are overwhelmingly opposed to your administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Virginia has been as vocal in its opposition to opening up its offshore area to oil and gas drilling as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, Virginia has not received the same promises as these states.” 

In 2018, the Trump Administration proposed a program to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing. This program was subsequently opposed by Republican and Democratic governors all along the Atlantic seaboard. Offshore oil and gas drilling has also been opposed by more than 285 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 2,300 elected officials, 46,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast. 

In their letter, the members of Congress noted the President’s lack of explanation for Virginia’s exclusion, and urged the President to take the concerns from Virginia coastal communities just as seriously as those in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

A copy of the letter can be found here and text is available below.

 

Dear President Trump:

We write today regarding your recent issuance of a Presidential Memorandum to the Secretary of the Interior extending a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina until at least 2032. We are deeply concerned that a similar moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling has not been extended to the Commonwealth of Virginia, despite requests from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation, and Virginia’s coastal communities. 

In 2018, your administration released the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program, which would have opened more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to oil and gas leasing including the coast of Virginia. Republican and Democratic governors along the Atlantic seaboard have indicated their opposition to this proposed plan. In addition, over 285 localities on the East Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast, 2,300 elected officials, 46,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families along the East Coast have expressed their opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling.

In Virginia, more than 20 communities have officially voiced their opposition to offshore drilling, including the Commonwealth’s most populous cities, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. In addition, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law earlier this year that would prohibit oil and gas drilling and related infrastructure in Virginia waters.

Offshore oil and gas drilling threatens the Commonwealth’s economy, natural resources, and military assets. Virginia’s coastal communities rely predominantly on industries that would be affected by your proposal including tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and deepwater port commerce. Further, the Department of Defense’s analysis has shown that oil and gas leasing off the coast of Virginia could potentially disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities critical to the U.S. military’s readiness and our national security. 

For these reasons and more, Virginians are overwhelmingly opposed to your administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling off the Atlantic Coast. Virginia has been as vocal in its opposition to opening up its offshore area to oil and gas drilling as Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, Virginia has not received the same promises as these states. Your September 8, 2020, Presidential Memorandum, and accompanying remarks in Jupiter, FL, provided zero reasons for extending the moratorium for three states while excluding every other affected state.

Throughout this process, your Administration has emphasized the consideration and importance of the “local and state voice.” Therefore, we respectfully urge you to take the concerns from Virginia coastal communities just as seriously as those in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced legislation to strengthen the public’s ability to evaluate the impacts of natural gas pipelines being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This bill makes it easier for the public to offer input and clarify the circumstances under which eminent domain should and should not be used. Among other guidelines, this bill requires public comment meetings to be held in every locality through which a pipeline would pass, at every stage of the review process, in order to minimize situations where individuals are forced to commute long distances with very little time to comment. It also strengthens landowners’ rights by improving the processes in which landowners are notified of a pipeline application and bolstering their ability to intervene to ensure any concerns about their property are given fair consideration and compensation. This bill builds upon an earlier version of legislation the Senators introduced last Congress.

While Congress does not decide on the merits of individual gas pipeline projects, Congress provides the legal authority under which FERC is tasked with evaluating the benefits and drawbacks to energy infrastructure proposals.

Each of the FERC reforms outlined in this bill is directly based on input submitted by Virginia residents to Warner and Kaine during FERC’s consideration of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

“During the public comment periods for the ACP and MVP, we heard a whole series of legitimate complaints about FERC’s flawed process – from inadequacy of notice for the comment period, to public hearings that were held too infrequently and too far away from where impacted Virginians live. Simply put – FERC did not give people enough opportunity for input and did not ensure all affected landowners were given a fair deal. Based on the concerns that we heard, we’ve drafted our bill to improve the way FERC gathers public input on matters of such importance as to whether their land is taken. We have to make a commitment on something as important as this to have a better process to listen to the public and ensure communities have a real say in these decisions,” said the Senators.

 

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy applauds Senator Kaine and Warner’s leadership in ensuring poorly planned energy infrastructure does not degrade the essential values of our National Scenic Trails,” said Sandra Marra, President and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “As stewards of the Appalachian Trail, we must examine the big picture impacts of proposed developments, and the Pipeline Fairness Act will require that same perspective and commitment from FERC. We will continue to work with the Senators to protect the values of our National Scenic Trails, which benefit millions of visitors, thousands of volunteers, and hundreds of trailside communities.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Improve the process by which landowners are notified of a potential pipeline project affecting their property;
    • Require that FERC review companies’ notices to landowners  to ensure notices meet the requisite criteria;
  • Require that applicants for a FERC Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (e.g., companies with pipeline proposals) provide clear and complete instructions to all affected landowners on how to request an appeal or “rehearing” through FERC, including the deadline to file, no later than 60 days before the deadline to intervene. The notice must make it clear to landowners that they must appeal in a timely manner to FERC for a rehearing to preserve certain rights to seek judicial review;
  • Prevent pipeline projects from exercising eminent domain or commencing construction until:
    • the project has received all requisite permits, certifications, or other permissions from necessary federal and state agencies
    • FERC has issued rulings on all timely landowner rehearings. This process improvement comes in response to a public request by two FERC Commissioners;
  • State that it is the policy of the United States that eminent domain be limited to situations in which the taking of property for natural gas pipelines is for public, not private, use. This language is modeled after a 2006 Executive Order by President George W. Bush clarifying the scope of federal eminent domain authority;
  • Help ensure fair appraisals and offers of compensation for affected property owners by giving landowners the opportunity to accompany appraisers during the inspection of property, which must be completed prior to an offer of compensation. That offer of compensation must be of fair market value or better;
  • Require a single programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) if two gas pipelines are proposed within one year and 100 miles of one another, and provide that if there is more information that comes out after a draft EIS than is in a draft EIS, FERC must do a supplemental EIS, with another public comment period;
  • Mandate public comment meetings in every locality through which a pipeline passes, at every stage in the process (draft EIS, final EIS, supplemental EIS) so members of the public do not have to drive long distances to meetings where they are only able to speak for just a few minutes;
  • Specify that eminent domain takings of land under conservation easement be given fair compensation not just for the land value but for the lost conservation value of the land;
  • Ensure that plans to mitigate unavoidable impacts be subject to public comment so the public can verify that the mitigation is fair and proportionate;
  • Require cumulative analysis of visual impacts on National Scenic Trails (including the Appalachian Trail) for multiple pipelines that cross the same trail within 100 miles, in order to prohibit any downgrading of National Scenic Trail scenic integrity requirements in current law if the project represents a net degradation to the trail;
  • Codify the end of “tolling orders—” a longstanding practice that allowed FERC to place landowner rehearing requests in limbo while pipeline constructions were allowed to continue — and strengthen landowners’ ability to proceed to court should FERC not rule on grievances in a timely manner. The “tolling orders” practice was recently struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit;
  • Extend the deadline in which FERC must consider landowners’ rehearings from 30 days to 45 days to ensure the Commission has a reasonable amount of time to address landowner concerns.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge across the Potomac River – a move that would double the capacity of the rail crossing between Virginia and the District of Columbia (D.C). The Long Bridge Act of 2020would authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to transfer to Virginia and D.C. the land needed for the construction of the new commuter rail and pedestrian bridge adjacent to the existing bridge. 

“Adequate rail infrastructure is an essential aspect of our Commonwealth’s economy. It helps ensure fast and convenient transportation for passengers and commuters and facilitates commerce by providing a reliable way to move and ship goods,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “This legislation will allow NPS to transfer the needed land to Virginia so that it can build the new Long Bridge and double the amount of rail capacity in this important passageway.”  

“The legislation introduced by Senators Warner and Kaine is a significant milestone in transforming passenger and freight rail service along the East Coast,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The construction of the Long Bridge is a project of national significance – unlocking the gridlock across the Potomac, expanding rail capacity, creating essential rail redundancy, and supporting economic recovery and growth.”

The existing Long Bridge is one of the most significant choke points along the East Coast. It’s the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to D.C. and serves as the main rail connection between the Southeast and the Northeast for passenger and freight rail, carrying almost 80 CSX, Amtrak and VRE commuter trains per day.  

The construction of the new Long Bridge is at the center of an investment by the Commonwealth of Virginia, which recently reached a landmark $3.7 billion rail agreement with CSX, which includes acquisition of 350 miles of rail and 225 miles of track, and allows Virginia to double VRE and state-supported Amtrak service. Under current law, NPS does not have the legal authority to convey the needed land to Virginia and D.C. without an act of Congress.

This legislation would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to transfer approximately 4 acres of land to Virginia and the D.C. for the construction of rail and other infrastructure relating to the Long Bridge Project. 

U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA) and Don Beyer (D-VA) have introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives to facilitate the construction of the new Long Bridge.

The text of this legislation is available here

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law. The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s parks and could create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. The legislation overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives earlier this week and was approved by the Senatein June. 

“As the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to financially strain communities across the country, this new law will help create tens of thousands of jobs and make a positive economic impact for gateway communities that depend on our national parks,” said Sen. Warner“Now that this bill is the law of the land, Virginia’s historical sites will finally start receiving crucial repairs that have been postponed for years. I want to thank my colleagues for joining me in my years-long effort to create jobs and make sure our nation’s historical treasures are around for years to come.”

Today’s bill signing comes nearly three years after Sen. Warner’s initial effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars.

In June, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog.  

In addition, a recent NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for the Great American Outdoors Act.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore 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 exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more. 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill he championed that would address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Service (NPS) sites across the country and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). With the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this bipartisan bill will help create more than 100,000 jobs across the country and stimulate local economies that rely on outdoor tourism industry. In June, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan legislation and with today’s passage in the House of Representatives, the bill will now head to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

“In passing the Great American Outdoors Act, the House has reaffirmed Congress’ bipartisan commitment to preserving America’s irreplaceable natural and historic resources for future generations. The House vote clears the final hurdle to getting this bill to the President’s desk, closing a years-long effort to address the mounting deferred maintenance costs that have accumulated at national parks across the Commonwealth and the country,” said Sen. Warner. “After the economic devastation we’ve seen come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is another tool in the toolbox to help stimulate our nation’s struggling economy and create up to 110,000 additional infrastructure-related jobs. I am grateful for all those who contributed to this process. I look forward to the President quickly signing this momentous legislation into law, which could create 10,000 new jobs in the Commonwealth, help preserve vital tourism for communities, and ensure that future generations of Americans will continue to experience and take advantage of America’s historical and natural treasures.”

Congressional passage of the bill comes nearly three years after Sen. Warner’s initial effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at $1.1 billion dollars.

In June, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog. 

In addition, a recent NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for the Great American Outdoors Act.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore 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 exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

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WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill championed by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) that would address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Service (NPS) sites across the country and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s national parks and create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for approval. 

“Over the past few years, I’ve been sounding the alarm on the mounting costs associated with repairing and maintaining our national park sites across the Commonwealth. Frankly, the National Park Service hasn’t had the federal resources it needs to preserve our natural treasures in Virginia and across the country. Failing to act now would have put these historical treasures at risk, and would have taken a devastating toll on small towns and communities whose economies depend on Virginia’s outdoor tourism industry,” said Sen. Warner. “Last year, Virginia’s national parks helped to support and create 17,300 jobs – an increase of 1,300 from 2018. And once this bill is signed into law, more than 10,000 jobs could be created in Virginia just by the work needed to restore and maintain Park Service sites. I’m proud that the Senate finally passed this commonsense bipartisan solution, and now it’s up to the House to ensure we protect and preserve these irreplaceable resources for years to come.”

Today’s Senate passage comes more than three years after Sen. Warner first led the effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the increasing maintenance backlog surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia. 

Earlier this month, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog. 

Last week, a new NPS study highlighted the financial impact national parks sites have on Virginia’s economy. Last year, 22.8 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending $1.2 billion. Additionally, national parks in Virginia helped support 17,300 jobs and contributed over $1.7 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy. Because of the economic impact national parks have on communities across the country, more than 800 organizations have pledged their support for getting the Great American Outdoors Act swiftly passed and signed into law.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Actwhich would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to take care of maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S.Department of the Interior announced its own proposaldrawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance.

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore 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 exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November. 

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Actwhich would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

“Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is a remarkable achievement in advancing historic bipartisan legislation for our national parks. The National Park Foundation is grateful for Senator Warner’s steadfast commitment to Virginia’s national parks and a bright future for all of our special places with his leadership on this bill. GAOA will ensure that national parks receive the funding required to address deferred maintenance needs, that parks remain accessible to all Americans, and continue to serve as economic engines for local communities in Virginia and across the country,” said Will Shafroth, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation.

“Senator Warner helped make history when the Senate passed the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act today, an effort that culminates his years of work to restore our national parks. If the House of Representatives follows through, this will be one of the most significant pieces of conservation and recreation legislation enacted in more than 50 years,” said Marcia Argust, Project Director of the restore America’s parks campaign at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Investment in our parks and public lands will have a high rate of return for park resources, visitors, and local economies, especially in Virginia, where park tourism supports over 17,000 jobs annually.” 

“Today, because of the leadership of Congressional park champions like Senator Warner, the momentum to fix our national parks and public lands is stronger than ever before,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “On top of cuts to funding and staffing, our parks also face billions of dollars in needed repairs, from aging water systems at Grand Canyon to crumbling trails at Shenandoah. Senator Warner has spoken up in support of these treasured places and all they protect for years, and because of his inspiring work on this legislation, we are one step closer to preserving America’s legacy and providing much needed relief to local economies across the country.” 

“Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act with overwhelming bipartisan support brings us one step closer to an historic achievement on behalf of historic and cultural resources and our public lands. This legislation is a bipartisan solution that would provide $9.5 billion in dedicated funding over five years for much needed repairs of the National Park Service and other federal agencies. Along with fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this bill would ensure preservation of some of our nation’s most iconic historic places. We thank Senator Warner, along with Senators Portman, Alexander, King, Manchin, Gardner, Daines, Cantwell and others for their leadership on this once-in-a-generation legislative accomplishment for our public lands,” said Tom Cassidy, Vice President for Government Relations and Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is an outstanding accomplishment for the Commonwealth of Virginia, providing critical funding for desperately needed repairs and maintenance at our treasured national park sites,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “Virginia is home to national icons including Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and offers some of the most beautiful places in the world for travelers to get outside, slow down, and connect with nature and each other. The funding from the Great American Outdoors Act will greatly benefit our natural wonders, from the shores of Coastal Virginia to the mountainous cliffs of Southwest Virginia. We owe a deep gratitude to Senator Warner for his leadership and for pushing forward such significant legislation, providing vital resources to preserve the beauty and abundance of our natural resources in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“The Blue Ridge Parkway is more than just a scenic road and a connector to the region’s landscape. It is an economic driver for adjacent communities creating a $1.4 billion impact in economic benefits,” said Landon Howard, President of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “Thanks to Senator Warner’s leadership to restore our national parks, Roanoke, one of the largest communities along the Blue Ridge Parkway, will benefit greatly from the restoration contributing to jobs and the economy in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.”

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here

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Today, U.S. Sens. Mar R. Warner (D-VA),  Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) highlighted a new National Park Service (NPS) study which shows that in 2019, visitor spending in communities near national parks resulted in a $41.7 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 340,500 jobs. The senators’ Restore Our Parks Act legislation, currently being debated on the Senate floor, will help address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the NPS to ensure this economic benefit continues for communities near national parks across the country. The measure, which is included in the broader Great American Outdoors Act legislation, will provide up to $6.5 billion over five years to address priority deferred maintenance needs at our national parks.

“Now, more than ever, we need our parks. Families are eager to spend time outdoors together as the economy reopens across the country. This new National Parks Service study underscores the importance of our national parks to our economy and job creation around the country. My bill with Senators Warner, King, and Alexander, the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, will help rebuild our national parks infrastructure to ensure that folks can continue to visit and bolster the surrounding communities for generations to come. The Restore Our Parks Act will address the more than $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at our national park sites throughout the country, including the more than $100 million maintenance backlog in Ohio’s eight national parks. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation when it comes to a vote next week,” said Portman.

“It’s no secret that national parks serve as important economic engines for our local communities,” said Warner.  “In fact, today’s new report only emphasizes the important financial role national park sites play in the Commonwealth. Last year, Virginia’s local treasures helped to support and create 17,300 jobs – an increase of 1,300 from 2018. In addition, we saw an increase in economic activity right here in our own backyard, with 22.8 million visitors who helped contribute $984 million dollars in added value to Virginia’s economy. With the Senate now expected to vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, we are one step closer to protecting and preserving these irreplaceable resources for years to come.”

“Last year, national parks across the country welcomed 398 million visitors – including the record breaking 12 million visitors at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee,” said Alexander. “Although visitors to national parks contributed nearly $42 billion to the economy last year, many visitors were shocked to find roads, picnic areas, trails, campgrounds, and visitor centers in bad shape or even closed.  The Restore Our Parks Act will cut the national park maintenance backlog in half and will continue to support the 340,000 jobs that depend on visitors coming to our 419 national parks.”

“Each year, Acadia National Park brings millions of people to our state – and in addition to exploring one of the most beautiful parks in the world, these visitors spend their vacations frequenting Maine shops, dining at Maine restaurants, and enjoying the wide variety of recreation Maine has to offer,” said King. “Today’s study is further proof that national parks are a major contributor to regional economies – and yet another example of why we need to take care of these natural treasures. Our bipartisan bill invests in these lands, and these investments will yield economic and cultural benefits today, tomorrow, and for generations to come.”

Earlier this year, Sen. Warner joined several of his colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act. Notably, the legislation includes Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander and King’s Restore Our Parks Act, legislation to help address the backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS), including over $100 million in deferred maintenance at Ohio’s eight national park sites. 

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), spoke on the Senate floor about the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill championed by Sen. Warner that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Service (NPS) sites across the country. The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s parks and create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. Yesterday, the bill cleared a key procedural hurdle– known as a “cloture vote on the motion to proceed”  by a vote of 80-17, setting up the bill for a final up-or-down vote in the Senate later this week.

In his remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Warner said: “This represents one of the largest investments in the infrastructure of our national parks in the over 100-year history of the National Park Service. In addition to preserving our national treasures for future generations to enjoy, this legislation will also create tens of thousands of jobs across the country and provide a positive economic impact for gateway communities that depend on our national parks. A recent study by the National Park Service indicates that the Great American Outdoors Act will support over 100,000 jobs and contribute $17.5 billion in total economic output through funding deferred maintenance projects at the Park Service. In Virginia, over 10,000 jobs could be created by eliminating the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites.”

Background on the Great American Outdoors Act: 

Last week, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars in overdue projects and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog.

The Senate’s action on this bill comes more than three years after Sen. Warner wrote and introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to provide relief to national parks across the country. In March 2017, Sen. Warner teamed up with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to address maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance. (In an attempt to address overdue maintenance needs at national parks nationwide, the Administration has also unsuccessfully pressed to dramatically increase entrance fees.)

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore 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 exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

A list of organizations in support of the Great American Outdoors Act can be found here.  

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here.

  

The full text of Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery appears below: 

Mr./Madam President, I rise today to join my colleagues in support of the Great American Outdoors Act.

This historic legislation represents the most significant investment in our public lands in a generation… and a job-creating investment in our outdoor economy.

The Great American Outdoors Act will provide up to $9.5 billion over five years to address the deferred maintenance backlogs at the National Park Service, and other federal land agencies. This bill also finally provides full and mandatory for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It has been a long road getting to this point, but I am thrilled we are finally considering this important, job-creating legislation.

Years of chronic underfunding has forced the Park Service to defer maintenance on countless trails, buildings, and historic structures – as well as thousands of miles of roads and bridges. Today, the National Park Service faces a deferred maintenance backlog of $12 billion. Over half of all Park Service assets are currently in desperate need of repairs. In Virginia alone, the deferred maintenance backlog sits at over $1.1 billion… more than any other state but California and the District of Columbia. 

To address this growing problem in Virginia and across the country, Sens. Portman, King, Alexander, and I introduced legislation – the Restore Our Parks Act – that would provide $6.5 billion to the Park Service to reduce its maintenance backlog utilizing unobligated energy revenues. In March, our bill was combined with Sen. Gardner and Sen. Manchin’s LWCF legislation to form the Great American Outdoors Act.

This bill on the floor today will provide up to $6.65 billion over five years to repair our national parks. That’s enough to address more than half of the current deferred maintenance backlog and completely fund the highest-priority deferred maintenance projects within the agency. This represents one of the largest investments in the infrastructure of our national parks in the over 100-year history of the National Park Service.

In addition to preserving our national treasures for future generations to enjoy, this legislation will also create tens of thousands of jobs across the country and provide a positive economic impact for gateway communities that depend on our national parks.

A recent study by the National Park Service indicates that the Great American Outdoors Act will support over 100,000 jobs and contribute $17.5 billion in total economic output through funding deferred maintenance projects at the Park Service. In Virginia, over 10,000 jobs could be created by eliminating the maintenance backlog at Park Service sites. And I want to give a few examples of how this legislation will create jobs and help preserve our natural heritage in my home state.

Here in the National Capital Region, the George Washington Memorial Parkway—which is managed by the National Park Service—has over $700 million in deferred maintenance. Matter of fact, anyone who travels on that road knows that north of the T.R. Bridge, we actually had a sinkhole appear in the parkway within the last year—an enormous safety threat as well as an inconvenience to the traveling public. Our legislation would help rebuild this critical transportation route between Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland… reducing traffic and creating jobs.

In Virginia, we’re blessed with a number of historic battlefields. The Richmond National Battlefield Park has over $5 million in deferred maintenance. And the nearby Petersburg National Battlefield has nearly $9 million in deferred maintenance. Our legislation would help preserve these important pieces of our heritage, while also supporting the local economies.

At Shenandoah National Park, one of the crown jewels of the National Park Service, the maintenance backlog sits at $90 million. Our legislation will put people to work on these overdue repairs…including to Skyline Drive and stretches of the Appalachian Trail… which are at the heart of Virginia’s outdoor tourism industry.

As you head Southwest, the Blue Ridge Parkway has accumulated over $508 million in deferred maintenance needs. That’s over $1 million per mile of the Parkway. The Great American Outdoors Act will put Virginians to work on these repairs… so visitors can continue to appreciate the beauty of the Appalachian Highlands and support the local economy.

I’ll give one final example: Colonial National Historical Park, which is home to Historic Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield. At this park containing some of our country’s most significant sites, there are deferred maintenance needs totaling over $433 million. With this legislation, the wait on these repairs is over. We’re going to create jobs and make sure this important part of our history is around for years to come.  

In addition to securing up to $9.5 billion to address the maintenance backlog at our public land agencies, the Great American Outdoors Act provides full, mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF is the most important tool the federal government and states have to conserve natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage, and to expand recreation opportunities to all communities.

Over the past four decades, Virginia has received over $368 million in LWCF funding that has been used to protect critical places in the Commonwealth like Rappahannock River Valley and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuges and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. With full funding for LWCF, we will be able to conserve additional critical lands in the Commonwealth and provide more recreation opportunities for Virginians from the coalfields to the Chesapeake Bay and everywhere in between.

In closing, I urge my colleagues to support this historic legislation that will help restore our national parks and public lands, create tens of thousands of jobs across the country, and expand recreation opportunities for millions of Americans.

Thank you, Mr./Madam President. I yield back. 

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate voted 80-17 to take up the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill championed by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) that would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at National Park Sites (NPS) across the country. The bipartisan legislation includes Sen. Warner’s Restore Our Parks Act, which would help tackle the $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s parks and create up to 10,340 jobs in the Commonwealth alone. Today’s procedural vote – known as a “cloture vote on the motion to proceed” – sets up the bill for a final up-or-down vote in the Senate later this week.

“We are one step closer to passing this critical bill that would preserve our cherished national parks and help create jobs in the Commonwealth during this time of economic crisis. For years, I have been sounding the alarm about urgently-needed repairs to our trails, buildings, roads, and bridges that have been ignored for too long,” said Sen. Warner. “If Congress continues to delay addressing these infrastructure challenges, our local communities will be at further risk of losing out on important tourism dollars on top of the economic challenges they are currently facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Virginia’s national parks supporting more than 16,000 jobs and contributing $953 million dollars in value added to our economy,that’s a loss we just can’t afford. After clearing an important first step on this bipartisan bill today, we’re now closer than ever to making sure our bipartisan solution to the parks backlog becomes law.”

Last week, the National Park Service released a report that estimated that an average of 40,300 direct jobs and 100,100 direct and indirect jobs would be supported nationally by the Restore Our Parks Act if passed as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. In Virginia, where the maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars in overdue projects and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia, it is estimated that 10,340 jobs would be created or supported as a result of Sen. Warner’s push to address the national parks backlog.

Today’s vote comes more than three years after Sen. Warner wrote and introduced the first comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to provide relief to national parks across the country. In March 2017, Sen. Warner teamed up with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act, which would have eliminated the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a thirty-year designated fund to address maintenance needs at visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds, as well as transportation infrastructure operated by NPS such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Arlington Memorial Bridge. That same year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal – which was introduced in the Senate as the National Park Restoration Act by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME) – would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance. (In an attempt to address overdue maintenance needs at national parks nationwide, the Administration has also unsuccessfully pressed to dramatically increase entrance fees.)

In March 2018, after extensive negotiations among Sens. Warner, Portman, Alexander, and King, the bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites. The bill would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore 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 exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. In February 2019, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act and, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner, along with Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Portman, King, Alexander, and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide $9.5 billion over five years to the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education to address the deferred maintenance backlog at these agencies. The legislation would also provide permanent, mandatory funding for the LWCF, which provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve and protect public lands. Virginia has received approximately $368.5 million in LWCF funding over the past four decades to help protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more.

A list of organizations in support of the Great American Outdoors Act can be found here

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here

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 WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) announced that a new National Parks Service (NPS) study of their Restore Our Parks legislation found that the legislation will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years to help address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the NPS. Next week, the Senate will consider S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act, landmark legislation to address the deferred maintenance backlog across the federal land management agencies and to provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Great American Outdoors Act includes the Restore Our Parks legislation, which will provide up to $6.5 billion over five years to address priority deferred maintenance needs at our national parks.

“For years, Congress has critically underfunded our national parks resulting in the buildup of $12 billion in deferred maintenance costs. Despite receiving more than 318 million visitors annually, our national parks have been unable to maintain upkeep and repairs on visitor centers, rest stops, trails, campgrounds, and transportation infrastructure operated by the Park Service. Addressing these critical needs will not only help preserve America’s story for generations to come, but it will help support the communities across the country that rely on the economic activity generated by our national parks. In the Commonwealth alone, our national parks support more than 16,000 jobs and contribute $953 million dollars in value added to our economy. I’ve been calling on Congress for years to make these much-needed investments and it’s time we get it done,” said Warner. 

America is hurting right now and folks need jobs. That’s why I’m so pleased the National Parks Service study shows that my bill with Senators Warner, King, and Alexander, the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, will support more than 40,000 direct jobs over the next five years as we rebuild our national parks infrastructure. The Restore Our Parks Act will address the $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at our national park sites throughout the country, including themore than $100 million maintenance backlog in Ohio’s eight national parks. We need our parks more than ever, and our parks need us. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation when it comes to the Senate floor,” said Portman. 

“The Great American Outdoors Act is the most important legislation in 50 years to help our national parks and public lands. In addition to cutting in half the deferred maintenance backlog for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and our nation’s 418 other national parks, the National Park Service just announced the legislation will help support over 100,000 new jobs, which is good news for a lot of American families. With the strong support of President Trump and over 800 conservation and sportsmen’s organizations and 59 Senate cosponsors, it should become law by the 4th of July,” said Alexander.  

“Each year, millions of people come from across the globe to see the sun rise from Cadillac Mountain, walk to Thunder Hole, or explore any other of the breathtaking, one-of-a-kind vistas Acadia National Park has to offer,” said King. “When those people come to our state, they spend money – supporting Maine jobs, shops, industries, and communities. Today’s report makes clear just how vital ANP and other national parks around the country are to America’s economy, and emphasizes the importance of our bipartisan Restore Our Parks legislation – which, in light of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on tourism, is needed now more than ever.”

NOTE: Earlier this year, Warner joined several of his colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act. Notably, the legislation includes Senators Warner, Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King’s (I-ME) Restore Our Parks Act,legislation to help address the backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS), including over $100 million in deferred maintenance at Ohio’s eight national park sites. Portman worked with his colleagues to expand his legislation in the Great American Outdoors Act to also include funding to address the deferred maintenance backlog at the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education. The Great American Outdoors Act now provides $1.9 billion per year for five years into the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund from half of unobligated on and offshore energy revenues to address maintenance needs on all federal lands.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Reps. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.)  Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and members representing the Chesapeake Bay region in a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging continued investment in the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The letter, sent to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Matthew Lohr, underscores the importance of supporting the region’s farmers in their efforts to reduce pollution and provides recommendations as the Department prepares a final rule on the implementation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which supports these efforts. 

The Members write, “As members of the Chesapeake Bay delegation, we write with recommendations regarding implementation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) under the 2018 Farm Bill. We thank you and your team for your ongoing work to implement the 2018 Farm Bill, which included key improvements to benefit water quality and the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

“As you know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s financial and technical assistance for conservation efforts plays a critical role in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed and supporting states’ efforts to meet their commitments under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025. These programs are essential to support farmers throughout the region as they adopt best management practices to limit the runoff of nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus and to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” they continue. 

The Members go on to lay out four major recommendations to help ensure the continued benefit of the program to the region. The recommendations include: ensuring that the Chesapeake Bay Watershed remain designated as a Critical Conservation Area (CCA), highlighting the need for administrative and financial support for lead partners in RCPP implementation, and pressing for clarity and transparency on reporting requirements on conservation goals and outcomes.  

In addition to Sens. Warner, Van Hollen and Casey, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), signed the letter.

In addition to Representatives Sarbanes and Scott, Representatives Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Abigail D. Spanberger (D-Va.) and Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) joined the letter. 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Chief Lohr:

As members of the Chesapeake Bay delegation, we write with recommendations regarding implementation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) under the 2018 Farm Bill. We thank you and your team for your ongoing work to implement the 2018 Farm Bill, which included key improvements to benefit water quality and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. 

As you know, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s financial and technical assistance for conservation efforts plays a critical role in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed and supporting states’ efforts to meet their commitments under the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint by 2025. These programs are essential to support farmers throughout the region as they adopt best management practices to limit the runoff of nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus and to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

RCPP was created in the 2014 Farm Bill by consolidating four previously separate programs, including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI). CBWI provided an annual average of over $47 million over five years for conservation in our region, but that level of funding has not yet been provided to the region through RCPP. The 2018 Farm Bill made further modifications to RCPP, and the program continues to significantly contribute to farmer and partner driven conservation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. To further enhance opportunities for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and implement the changes included in the 2018 Farm Bill, we provide the following recommendations for inclusion in the RCPP final rule:

1)      Ensure the Chesapeake Bay watershed remains a Critical Conservation Area (CCA)

Agricultural conservation efforts are central to the Chesapeake Bay states’ Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). Our states’ agricultural sectors are committed to ongoing efforts to contribute to meeting nutrient reduction goals by 2025. Focused and targeted investments through partner driven programs like RCPP are a critical component of supporting our farmers in their efforts to improve the health of the Bay. We appreciate that the Farm Bill allocated 50 percent of RCPP funding to CCAs, and urge you to ensure that the Chesapeake Bay retain its CCA designation.  The 2018 Farm Bill made clear that Congressional intent was for the current CCAs to remain in place for the duration of the 2018 Farm Bill, unless the resource concerns of a given CCA were fully addressed. As conveyed through our states’ WIPs, there is still significant conservation needed to address water quality goals in the Chesapeake Bay.

2)      Provide support for the critical role that technical assistance plays in RCPP agreements.

We urge you to ensure that partners have appropriate technical assistance and administrative support from NRCS. We appreciate that Section 1464.23 (c) of the interim rule allows NRCS to provide funding to a partner for activities such as outreach, education and the development of metrics. As part of this critical component of RCPP projects, we also support the coverage of project management as part of an “Enhancement TA” allocation, within both RCPP Classic as well as the 2020 Alternative Funding Arrangement (AFA) funding announcement. We urge you to explicitly authorize this option in the final rule. There is a high administrative burden on lead partners and allowing them to recoup at least part of these costs is important and should be clearly stated. Additionally, we urge NRCS to provide clear guidance regarding the distinction between partner and NRCS roles under AFA or grant agreements. Following the publication of the AFA announcement, several outstanding questions remain, including questions around NRCS sign-off on implemented practices, producer privacy, contracts between partners and producers and the role of partners in monitoring project implementation following AFA completion. 

3)      Clearly include and identify reporting requirements in the final rule.

As highlighted in the Background section of the interim rule, and as directed in Section 2703 of the 2018 Farm Bill, NRCS must provide a semi-annual report on the status of obligated contracts and an annual report describing how the Secretary used technical assistance. This transparency and information is critical to partners in the Chesapeake Bay, and we urge NRCS to ensure that these details and directives are included in the final rule. Further, Section 2706 of the 2018 Farm Bill also required reports to Congress on RCPP projects. We recommend that these requirements also be specified in the interim rule. For CCAs, these reporting requirements include critical information regarding how conservation outcomes and goals are being achieved through the selected RCPP projects.

4)      Align Chesapeake Bay CCA goals with local WIP goals, CEAP findings and prioritize conservation outcomes.

The 2018 Farm Bill adds language to the purpose of RCPP directing USDA to engage producers and partners in projects to achieve “greater conservation outcomes and benefits” for producers than would otherwise be achieved. We therefore urge NRCS to ensure that RCPP implementation maximizes conservation outcomes and benefits for the Chesapeake Bay. We urge you to work with your State Technical Committees to inform the project selection and ranking process at the state level. Further, our states’ WIPs, which include local area goals, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) can help identify the acres, practices and projects with the greatest potential for water quality benefits. Through RCPP, and through collaboration with Bay partners, NRCS should ensure that targeted conservation efforts continue to improve the health of the watershed.

Thank you for considering our recommendations and we look forward to working with you on RCPP implementation and continued efforts to support farmers and program partners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. John Sarbanes (both D-Md.) in leading Chesapeake Bay delegation members in sending a bicameral letter to Bay Watershed Governors Larry Hogan (R-Md.), Tom Wolf (D-Penn.), John Carney (D-Del.), Ralph Northam (D-Va.), and Jim Justice (R-W.Va.); and Mayor Muriel Bowser (D-D.C.) urging them to maintain rigorous environmental standards crucial to the health of the Bay, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to relax enforcement of these standards. In their letter, the Members also ask the states and the District of Columbia to provide an update on their current actions to ensure proper enforcement. 

“As you know, Americans are currently facing the worst public health crisis in a century and we appreciate the work that you and your states are doing on the front lines to address it.  Yet, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPA has taken several actions that will increase pollution and cause significant adverse impacts to public health and our environment,” the members begin.

They continue, “Specifically, the relaxation of the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program, outlined in the EPA memorandum released on March 26, 2020, could have significant negative impacts on the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its 64,000 square mile watershed, and those Americans who depend on it for recreation, fishing, and clean water. As the Executives of the states containing the Chesapeake Bay watershed, each of you is entrusted with the responsibility of preserving and restoring the health of the nation’s largest estuary and its thousands of rivers and streams.”

The lawmakers denounce EPA’s recent announcement to relax environmental enforcement, writing, “The vitality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is contingent upon compliance with statutory pollution limitations. EPA’s decision to refrain from enforcement action against entities’ failure to comply with their obligations under federal law, federal permits, EPA administrative orders and EPA-related judicial consent decrees abdicates its duty to ‘protect human health and the environment’.”

The members press the states and D.C. to take action – and provide an update on their enforcement plans – concluding, “We urge you all to reject the EPA’s memorandum and provide an update on your plans to ensure critical and essential environmental enforcement within your authorities during this time. Maintaining transparency and the ability for the public to comment on any actions is necessary at all times, especially now, and we urge all state and local governments to utilize technology to meet these obligations. As many of you are partnering to respond to the COVID-19 on a regional basis, we must all work together to meet our mutual goal of clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2025.”

In addition to Sens. Warner and Van Hollen, and Representative Sarbanes, the letter was signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.),  and Representatives Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), David Trone (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Donald Beyer (D-Va.), and Elaine Luria (D-Va.). 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Mayor Bowser, Governor Cuomo, Governor Hogan, Governor Carney, Governor Wolf, Governor Justice, and Governor Northam:

We write to you today as we are deeply concerned about the actions of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, Americans are currently facing the worst public health crisis in a century and we appreciate the work that you and your states are doing on the front lines to address it.  Yet, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPA has taken several actions that will increase pollution and cause significant adverse impacts to public health and our environment. 

Specifically, the relaxation of the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program, outlined in the EPA memorandum released on March 26, 2020, could have significant negative impacts on the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its 64,000 square mile watershed, and those Americans who depend on it for recreation, fishing, and clean water. As the Executives of the states containing the Chesapeake Bay watershed, each of you is entrusted with the responsibility of preserving and restoring the health of the nation’s largest estuary and its thousands of rivers and streams.

Since the states and EPA agreed to the Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration goals in 2010, much progress has been made towards improving the health of the watershed. Today, we are at a critical juncture.  Positive signs of recovery have emerged in the Chesapeake Bay itself and in tributaries throughout the entire watershed, proving that the collaborative restoration effort is working.  We are more than half-way to achieving the shared goal of clean water by 2025.

However, each jurisdiction still has much work left to do, as detailed in your recent Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP).  And we are concerned that the recent decision from EPA on environmental enforcement during the COVID-19 pandemic could weaken your ability to achieve the goal of clean water by 2025. 

The vitality of the Chesapeake Bay watershed is contingent upon compliance with statutory pollution limitations.  EPA’s decision to refrain from enforcement action against entities’ failure to comply with their obligations under federal law, federal permits, EPA administrative orders and EPA-related judicial consent decrees abdicates its duty to “protect human health and the environment”.  During the worst public health crisis in a century, we expect EPA to prioritize its core mission of protecting public health and our environment.

Additionally, communities of color and low-income neighborhoods in our watershed, and across the nation, will disproportionally bear the brunt of pollution attributed to the announcement that normal enforcement operations are indefinitely suspended. These populations, in particular, have endured public health disparities for years due in part to the fact that many households in these communities live in close proximity to such facilities. EPA’s changes to enforcement and compliance standards may slow the march toward greater environmental justice and expose people who are already at a high risk for contracting COVID-19 and other diseases to greater danger.

We urge you all to reject the EPA’s memorandum and provide an update on your plans to ensure critical and essential environmental enforcement within your authorities during this time.  Maintaining transparency and the ability for the public to comment on any actions is necessary at all times, especially now, and we urge all state and local governments to utilize technology to meet these obligations. As many of you are partnering to respond to the COVID-19 on a regional basis, we must all work together to meet our mutual goal of clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2025. 

Our unique partnership of states, localities, and the Federal government has led to tremendous progress to restore the Chesapeake Bay watershed that we share. We have urged EPA to reverse its damaging decision and ask that you continue your longstanding commitment to enforce environmental laws and make progress towards our 2025 goals. 

We look forward to your response. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) urged the Trump Administration to work with the European Commission and other European aviation officials to address the negative economic and environmental impacts of a rule that is forcing airlines to fly nearly empty “ghost flights” in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

“Amid the spread of the coronavirus, airlines around the world have seen passenger levels drop dramatically. This month, the International Air Transport Association said that global revenue losses for passenger business could be between $63 and $113 billion,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “With demand dropping, there have been reports of air carriers flying “ghost flights” – in many cases with less than 40% of the aircraft occupied – in order to meet their slot requirements at European airports. In addition to the costs to airlines of running these flights, we should be concerned about the environmental impact of running undersold and empty flights for the sole purpose of maintaining global slots.”

“Some slot regulations have been relaxed around the world, in particular with regard to flights to and from mainland China. However, I urge European officials to make similar moves to provide flexibility around slot allocation rules,” he continued. “The response to this virus is truly a global concern, and we must recognize that certain norms need to be reviewed, as the world takes appropriate measures to slow the outbreak.”

The current “use-it-or-lose-it” rule requires that airlines fill 80 percent of the slots allocated to them at major European airports in order to keep the same slots in the next season. However, as demand for flights has fallen due to the coronavirus outbreak, airlines have been forced to fly nearly empty flights in order to keep their European airport slots.  

Around the world, the novel coronavirus has sickened more than 113,000 people and killed more than 4,000 people to date. In the Commonwealth of Virginia alone, there have been eight identified cases of the virus.

In his letter, Sen. Warner noted that the regulation governing the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule allows for non-use of the slots in “unforeseeable and irresistible cases outside the air carrier's control.” He also highlighted that this exemption has been previously used, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and amid the SARS outbreak in 2003.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. A list of Sen. Warner’s work on coronavirus is available here.

 

March 10, 2020

The Honorable Elaine Chao

Secretary of Transportation

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue SE

Washington, D.C. 20590

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Chao and Secretary Pompeo:

As the United States and governments around the world react to the outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, I write to urge you to work with the European Commission and other European aviation officials to address the potential negative impacts of the so-called “use-it-or-lose-it” rule at European airports as a result of COVID-19. 

The novel coronavirus has sickened more than 113,000 people around the world, and killed more than 4,000 people to date.  While this situation is rapidly evolving around the world, including in the United States and Europe, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high and the spread of the disease in other countries shines a light on the need for a whole-of-society response.

The EU’s slot regulation rule, or “use-it-or-lose-it,” requires that airlines fill 80 percent of the slots allocated to them at major European airports in order to keep the same slots in the next season.  Amid the spread of the coronavirus, airlines around the world have seen passenger levels drop dramatically.  This month, the International Air Transport Association said that global revenue losses for passenger business could be between $63 and $113 billion.  With demand dropping, there have been reports of air carriers flying “ghost flights” – in many cases with less than 40% of the aircraft occupied – in order to meet their slot requirements at European airports.  In addition to the costs to airlines of running these flights, we should be concerned about the environmental impact of running undersold and empty flights for the sole purpose of maintaining global slots.

Some slot regulations have been relaxed around the world, in particular with regard to flights to and from mainland China.  However, I urge European officials to make similar moves to provide flexibility around slot allocation rules.  The regulation governing the rule allows for non-use of the slots for “unforeseeable and irresistible cases outside the air carrier's control.”  The Commission has invoked this exemption before, in 2002 following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, in 2003 amid the SARS outbreak, and in other cases of global financial stress on airlines.

The response to this virus is truly a global concern, and we must recognize that certain norms need to be reviewed, as the world takes appropriate measures to slow the outbreak.  I encourage you to work with stakeholders to ensure the stability of passenger-travel industries.  I ask that you keep me apprised of your efforts in this matter – I stand ready to help in any way I can.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jon Tester (D-MT) in announcing a path forward for the Restore Our Parks Act – legislation championed by Sen. Warner to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at national parks across the country. Yesterday, the President announced that he would back the bipartisan legislation, as well as full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). For nearly three years, Sen. Warner has led the effort to provide relief to national parks in Virginia, where the increasing maintenance backlog currently sits at more than $1.1 billion dollars and surpasses that of every state except for California and the District of Columbia.

“We’ve been working on the parks legislation for the last four-plus years, and as Rob mentioned, it has broad bipartisan support,” said Sen. Warner. “We’ve got a nearly $12 billion backlog. In my state, Virginia, it is more than $1 billion dollars of that backlog. And we’re not only talking about trails and bridges. Anybody who lives in the national capital region – you commute on G.W. Parkway, you can see the deteriorated state of that road. That is one of those assets that we have deferred maintenance on.”

He continued, “Deferred maintenance is simply a bill put off. We’re going to provide in this legislation $6.5 billion dollars – so about 50 percent of those needs we’ve met. Once this bill gets implemented and put into law, it will put 100,000 Americans to work on this restoration – 10,000 in Virginia.”

The Restore Our Parks Act, which has been praised by key stakeholders, would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and 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 November, the Restore Our Parks Act was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where it awaits approval.

A full list of deferred maintenance needs at Virginia’s national parks can be found here.

A link to the full press conference is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) requested an update from the National Park Service (NPS) on the Northern Neck National Heritage Area Feasibility Study. Congress first directed NPS to conduct the study more than a decade ago as the first step in the process of designating the Northern Neck a National Heritage Area (NHA), which would provide federal recognition and resources to communities to protect, commemorate and promote the Northern Neck's unique place in American history. The study began a decade ago, and members pushed NPS to give an update on the study and to explain the apparent delays in its release.

“We understand the process of conducting a National Heritage Area feasibility study is rigorous and takes years to complete. However, we are concerned by the delayed timeline for the study and the lack of information communicated about its status," wrote the members in a letter to National Park Service Acting Director David Vela. “Designation as a National Heritage Area would allow the communities of the Northern Neck to better promote and protect this historical region. These communities are eager to begin collaborating with the Park Service and move to the next step in earning recognition for this important region.”

Congress has designated over 55 NHAs to recognize places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a nationally important landscape. This community-led conservation and development program promotes economic development, education and stewardship, and community engagement. The NHA designation process typically requires a two-step process. For the first step, the NPS conducts an initial study of the suitability and feasibility of designating the area an NHA. Legislation is enacted to designate the area as an NHA once a study is completed. Congress directed NPS to conduct the Northern Neck study as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (P.L.111-11).

In their letter, the members asked for more information regarding the current status of the Northern Neck Feasibility Study, the next steps that remain in the process of releasing the study, and the estimated completion date. The members also asked for an explanation of the apparent delay given that the NPS website stated the study would be completed “sometime in 2019” and whether NPS requires additional resources to complete the study.

The members also underscored the Northern Neck’s unique and rich geography and history as the birthplace of James Madison, James Monroe, and the U.S.’ first president, George Washington. They also noted that the Northern Neck has maintained many of the scenic features of its past and character, making it a prime candidate for NHA designation.

 The text of the letter is available below.

 

Dear Acting Director Vela:

We write today on the status of the Northern Neck National Heritage Area Feasibility Study. Congress directed the National Park Service to study the feasibility and suitability of designating Virginia’s Northern Neck as a National Heritage Area in Section 8102 of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (P.L.111-11).

As you know, National Heritage Areas play an important role in the recognition and preservation of natural, cultural, and historic resources that are part of the fabric of American history. Virginia’s Northern Neck has a unique and rich geography and history. Beginning in the upland forests of Westmoreland County, the Northern Neck is surrounded by the Potomac River, the Rappahannock River, and the Chesapeake Bay. Originally home to members of eight Algonquian tribes, it was scouted by English explorer Capitan John Smith more than 400 years ago and settled by the English in the mid-17th century. The Northern Neck is the birthplace of James Madison, James Monroe, and our first President, George Washington, who called the Northern Neck “the garden of Virginia.”

The Northern Neck has maintained many of the scenic features of its past and its character, in part because of the farmers and watermen who continue the legacy of earning their livelihoods from the rich soil and surrounding waters. Designation as a National Heritage Area would allow the communities of the Northern Neck to better promote and protect this historical region. These communities are eager to begin collaborating with the Park Service and move to the next step in earning recognition for this important region. 

We understand the process of conducting a National Heritage Area feasibility study is rigorous and takes years to complete. However, we are concerned by the delayed timeline for the study and the lack of information communicated about its status. The Park Service’s Northeast Regional Office initiated this study in 2010, and we understand it was scheduled for completion in 2019. In order to provide our stakeholders with more information about the status of the feasibility study, we request answers to the following questions:

1.      What phase of completion is the Northern Neck Feasibility Study currently in? What are the next steps in the review process for this study?

2.      Is there an estimated completion date for the Northern Neck Feasibility Study? Why was the completion date for this study been delayed from what was listed on the Park Service’s website?

3.      Does the Park Service require additional funding or resources to complete the Northern Neck Feasibility Study?

We appreciate all the Park Service does to protect our national treasures. The Park Service is instrumental in telling America’s story and supporting communities across Virginia and the country. Given the importance the National Heritage Area designation would have for communities in the Northern Neck and the Commonwealth, we would appreciate a prompt response to these questions.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.

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