Press Releases

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, 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 – 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, 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,

###

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,

###

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,

###

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.

###

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.

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, members of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following statements on President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021(FY21) budget: 

“Simply put, the President’s budget fails Virginia. With the deficit at record highs thanks to the President’s massive tax cuts for big business and the wealthiest Americans, this proposal attempts to balance the budget at the expense of hardworking Virginians and investments in our local economy. It completely eliminates funding for the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay – an ecological treasure and important economic engine that supports thousands of jobs. It repays our federal workers for their years of service with deep cuts to their retirement benefits. And instead of investing in our coal communities, the Trump budget would eliminate the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation program that helps communities in Southwest Virginia invest in clean-up and economic revitalization efforts,” said Warner.

“This budget is yet another alarming example of the President’s attempts to leave the most vulnerable Americans behind. It slashes Medicaid, which 1.2 million Virginians rely on for their health care. It cuts food stamp benefits, which keep 695,000 Virginians from going hungry. And it guts other critical programs like community development block grants and home heating assistance. As we have done successfully in years past, we are going to fight on the Budget Committee to reject these harmful cuts and pass a budget that better reflects the needs of all Virginians,” said Kaine.

Below is a list of some of the impacts President Trump’s budget would have on Virginians:

Medicaid: The budget proposes cutting Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. The budget would give states the ability to pursue damaging work requirements, more stringent eligibility criteria, increased co-payments, and more. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The budget would restrict access to SNAP, a safety net to prevent the most vulnerable Americans—particularly seniors and children—from going hungry.

Chesapeake Bay: The budget proposes to decimate the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. These cuts would threaten key federal assistance that helps localities, farmers, and others take steps to reduce the pollution flowing into the Bay.

National Institutes of Health (NIH): The budget proposes $38 billion for NIH, a nearly $4 billion cut from FY20. Millions of Americans rely on NIH research to inform our understanding and development of new and innovative treatments for serious illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

After School Programs: The budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding for afterschool programs, which would affect 20,504 children in Virginia.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): The budget would eliminate the PSLF program, denying Virginia’s hardworking public servants—such as teachers, nurses, and first responders, and other public service professionals—the loan forgiveness they earned.

Airports: The budget would eliminate Airport Improvement Program Discretionary grants. In FY19, these grants provided more than $64.8 million for airport improvements across the Commonwealth at both large and small airports.

Port of Virginia: The budget would eliminate the Port Infrastructure Development program. Previously funded at $225 million, funds from this program support critical infrastructure improvements at the Port of Virginia.

Shenandoah Valley Battlefields: The budget would eliminate the Heritage Partnership Program, funding to support the maintenance of Shenandoah Valley Battlefields.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): The budget proposes to eliminate LIHEAP, which was previously funded at $8.7 billion. This vital safety net program helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills in localities across the Commonwealth.

Abandoned Mines: The budget would eliminate Abandoned Mine Land Grants, which provided $115 million in discretionary funds last year to help places like Southwest Virginia reclaim and repurpose abandoned coal lands.

Virginia Tribes: The budget would reduce housing block grants to tribes by more than one quarter. Virginia tribes rely on these funds to develop low-income housing.

Affordable Housing: The budget would eliminate the Choice Neighborhoods, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and HOME Investment Partnerships programs—programs that support the building and rehabilitation of affordable housing. In 2019, Virginia cities and counties received $57 million in CDBG grants and $25 million in HOME grants. In 2018, Newport News and Norfolk received $60 million in Choice Neighborhoods grants to build affordable housing in the Marshall-Ridley neighborhood and St. Paul’s area, respectively.

Economic Development Administration (EDA): The budget would eliminate the EDA. Virginia was awarded 12 EDA grants for $4 million in 2018, including funding to help the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) build an apprenticeship academy and prepare young Virginians for jobs in a growing industry. 

Federal Employees: The budget would make federal employees’ health and retirement benefits more expensive for workers. 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Elaine Luria (D-VA), sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting $5.4 million in the Army Corps FY 2020 Work Plan for the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project. The funding will be used to complete the Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED) phase of the project. The first phase of the project was authorized in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which was supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine to develop mitigation solutions to reduce water surge risk in Norfolk. The project is eligible to be authorized for general construction in the 2020 WRDA.

“The City of Norfolk, Virginia is a highly urbanized area with most of the City falling below an elevation of 15 feet. The low elevation places Norfolk at risk from flooding due to high tides, nor’easters, and hurricanes. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene caused debilitating floods in the region resulting in millions of dollars in damages and the displacement of thousands of families. This flooding, because of the concentration of globally valuable military and economic assets located in Norfolk, poses great risk to key national assets,” wrote the members of Congress.

The Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project will establish a series of structural and non-structural barriers to reduce the risk of water surges in structures including:

  • The Hague / Downtown Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 600 linear foot storm surge barrier with a pump and power station. The surge barrier would tie into 27,236 linear feet of constructed floodwall and 2,582 linear feet of earthen levee. Three pump stations also would be constructed and operated for interior drainage.
  • Pretty Lake Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 114 linear foot storm surge barrier with a pump and power station. The feature would tie into 5,642 linear feet of floodwall.
  • Lafayette River Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 6,634 linear foot storm surge barrier with a power station. The feature would tie into 1,535 linear feet of constructed earthen levee. Three tide gates would be constructed and operated.
  • Broad Creek Storm Surge Barrier: This feature would be a 1,291 linear foot storm surge barrier with four operational tide gates and a power station. The surge barrier would tie into approximately 8,787 linear feet of flood wall. One pump station also would be constructed and operated for interior drainage.
  • Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF): These Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) features would include approximately 0.3 acres of oyster reef and approximately 8.9 acres of living shoreline to increase resiliency.

In their letter, the members of Congress also emphasized that every additional year it takes to complete Norfolk’s flood risk management project only hurts the city’s ability to better prepare for extreme weather.

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

 

Dear Acting Director Vought and Assistant Secretary James:

We write today to urge you to include funding for the City of Norfolk, Virginia’s Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) project in the FY 2020 Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) Work Plan. Specifically, we request $5.4 million in the Work Plan to complete the Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED) phase of the project.

The City of Norfolk, Virginia is a highly urbanized area with most of the City falling below an elevation of 15 feet. The low elevation places Norfolk at risk from flooding due to high tides, nor’easters, and hurricanes. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene caused debilitating floods in the region resulting in millions of dollars in damages and the displacement of thousands of families. This flooding, because of the concentration of globally valuable military and economic assets located in Norfolk, poses great risk to key national assets. 

The City hosts Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world with a capital replacement value of over $4 billion. Norfolk is home to the United States Fleet Forces Command, including the former U.S. Atlantic Fleet and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Command Transformation, the only NATO command headquartered in North America. The City also hosts Norfolk International Terminals, which is the largest terminal of the Virginia Port Authority—the third busiest port on the eastern seaboard.  

Sea level rise combined with land subsidence exacerbates storm flooding. The frequency, extent, and duration of flooding has increased in recent years in the region and is projected to rise in the future. Norfolk is one of the cities with the highest rate of relative sea level rise (combined sea level and subsidence) among Atlantic coastal communities, as documented in the “Evidence of Sea Level Acceleration at U.S. and Canadian Tide Stations, Atlantic Coast, North America,” and the U.S. Geological Survey Report, “National Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise.” Recent storms that flooded major portions of Norfolk were Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the November 2009 nor’easter, Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For these reasons, the Army Corps identified Norfolk as one of the nine areas of high risk by the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS).

The purposes of the City of Norfolk, Virginia Coastal Storm Risk Management project are to provide structural and/or non-structural solution sets for mitigating the impacts of flooding, and to assist the City of Norfolk in making prudent decisions regarding their water resource needs. 

Extreme weather events will always be a concern in this region. Each additional year it takes to complete Norfolk’s flood risk management project is another opportunity for the next hurricane to devastate this low-lying coastal area. By mitigating future risks, the government can save money on cleanup costs, while providing area families and communities an assurance of safety in the event of catastrophic weather.

The City of Norfolk’s flood risk management project is a major priority for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we encourage you to consider this request for inclusion in the FY 2020 Work Plan.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting that the Virginia Beach Regional Coastal Storm Risk Management Study be included in the Army Corps FY 2020 Work Plan. The study was authorized in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which was supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine to analyze the flood risk threats from sea level rise, coastal storm surge and rainfall events, and to develop watershed-based mitigation solutions to reduce flood risk in the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake.

“This study is crucial to the long-term vitality and resilience of the City of Virginia Beach and the entire Coastal Virginia region. This region is home to four critical military bases, which employ 33,000 military and civilian personnel and their families. If the Army Corps approves this study, the City of Virginia Beach will be able to continue its efforts in mitigating sea level rise and recurrent flooding, serving as a model to coastal cities in need of more resilient infrastructure, economies, and communities,” wrote the members.

In their letter, the members of Congress also emphasized that the study will help reduce the risk of flooding for vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure in Hampton Roads, which includes critical military installations for the U.S. Navy. The Hampton Roads region is considered one of the country’s most flood-prone areas, facing anywhere from 1.5 to 7 feet of sea level rise by the year 2100.

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

 

Dear Director Vought and Assistant Secretary James:

We write today to express our support for the City of Virginia Beach’s Comprehensive Regional Coastal Storm Risk Management Study, and ask that it be included in the FY 2020 Army Corps Work Plan.

The authority for this study is the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 Section 1201 (9) for Coastal Virginia. This study will analyze the flood risk threats from sea level rise, coastal storm surge and rainfall events, and will develop watershed-based mitigation solutions to reduce flood risk in the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, Currituck County, North Carolina, and the Joint Expeditionary Base at Little Creek- Fort Story. The City of Virginia Beach has support from the USACE North Atlantic Division and Norfolk Division, and has garnered additional support from the business and environmental communities.

This study is crucial to the long-term vitality and resilience of the City of Virginia Beach and the entire Coastal Virginia region. This region is home to four critical military bases, which employ 33,000 military and civilian personnel and their families. If the Army Corps approves this study, the City of Virginia Beach will be able to continue its efforts in mitigating sea level rise and recurrent flooding, serving as a model to coastal cities in need of more resilient infrastructure, economies, and communities. Specifically, the Regional Coastal Storm Risk Management Study advances the Corps’ mission of building long-term coastal resilience as outlined in USACE’s North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study: Resilient Adaptation to Increasing Risk.

In addition, the study will lead to a reduced risk to vulnerable populations, property, ecosystems, and infrastructure – including significant military installations – in one of the country’s most flood-prone population centers and augments existing federal resiliency investments in Virginia Beach and the greater Hampton Roads region.

As the Army Corps works with the Office of Management and Budget to develop its FY20 Work Plan, we encourage you to include the Virginia Comprehensive Regional Coastal Storm Risk Management Study. The City of Virginia Beach is a long-standing civil works partner with the Corps of Engineers and is prepared to provide the matching non-federal cost share to move this vital project forward.

Thank you again for your attention to this issue. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen and 18 other Senators in urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clarify its position on the enforcement of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution reduction targets.

The Members write, “We were deeply disturbed by reports that, at the January 3, 2020 meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Director Dana Aunkst reportedly said that the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was ‘aspirational’ and that the 2025 targets were ‘not enforceable.’ This is totally contrary to the intent of this decade-long effort and, if it is the position of the EPA, risks critical progress to restore the Chesapeake Bay.”

They go on to underline the legal justification of the EPA’s authority, noting, “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.’”

The Members request the EPA to answer a number of questions clarifying its position, and close the letter, stating, “The Bay TMDL has made strong progress towards cleanup of this national treasure and economic engine in our region. We are at a critical moment, when all partners must step up their commitment to reach the 2025 goals. The EPA has a statutory obligation to be an enforcement backstop in this vital project, and we fully expect it to fulfill that role. We look forward to receiving your response by January 24, 2020.”

In addition to Senator Van Hollen, the letter was signed by Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), and Representatives John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Donald S. Beyer, Jr. (D-Va.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Elaine G. Luria (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.).

 

The text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Administrator Wheeler:

We were deeply disturbed by reports that, at the January 3, 2020 meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Director Dana Aunkst reportedly said that the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was “aspirational” and that the 2025 targets were “not enforceable.” This is totally contrary to the intent of this decade-long effort and, if it is the position of the EPA, risks critical progress to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

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 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, states 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 under the Clean Water Act. 

Since the inception of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL – and through its Reasonable Assurance and Accountability Framework – 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 consequences 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 Reasonable Assurance and Accountability Framework, 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 consequences 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. In your confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, you stated that, “I am very much committed to the Chesapeake Bay and to the Chesapeake Bay Program.” 

Because the legislative, administrative, and judicial record on the Bay TMDL clearly conveys EPA’s responsibility, we are extremely concerned by signals that EPA appears to be backing away from its statutory obligations and the Reasonable Assurance and Accountability Framework that it established to ensure the timely restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

In addition to Mr. Aunkst’s alarming comments last week, EPA has undertaken numerous regulatory rollbacks that will negatively impact the Bay. The Administration’s proposed budgets have zeroed out or significantly reduced funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, which Congress has had to restore. Moreover, EPA’s recent response to Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan did not hold that state accountable despite the fact that EPA’s prior evaluation 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. EPA’s evaluation fell short of providing meaningful requirements and steps for Pennsylvania to get back on track to meet their 2025 goals, and did not state whether backstop actions will be required and enforced.

These actions leave us very concerned that EPA is not fully committed to the restoration of the Bay. EPA is the key federal partner in this effort, and the Chesapeake Bay Program is the glue that keeps the partnership together. It’s important that you take immediate steps to demonstrate EPA’s commitment and accountability to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

We request responses to the following questions within the next fourteen days:

1.            Do Mr. Aunkst’s comments that the TMDL is “aspirational” and “not enforceable” represent the Agency’s position?

2.            Do you agree that EPA has the authority to enforce the 2025 nutrient reductions assumed in the Bay TMDL?

3.            Does EPA plan to fulfill its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act and use all tools available to hold jurisdictions accountable to meet the allocations agreed upon in the Bay TMDL by 2025?

4.            Will EPA remain an active member of the partnership with the six states and Washington, DC by ensuring implementation of the Watershed Implementation Plans to achieve the nutrient reduction goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement?

5.            What is your plan and timeline for enforcement, particularly for taking the backstop actions described in Section 7.2.4 of the Bay TMDL and other documents sent by EPA to the Chesapeake Bay states?

The Bay TMDL has made strong progress towards cleanup of this national treasure and economic engine in our region. We are at a critical moment, when all partners must step up their commitment to reach the 2025 goals. The EPA has a statutory obligation to be an enforcement backstop in this vital project, and we fully expect it to fulfill that role. We look forward to receiving your response by January 24, 2020.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA) and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) released the following statement after the Department of Energy (DoE) announced that Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) was not selected as the national laboratory site to host the first Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) in the United States, a machine that’s key for the U.S. to maintain its leadership in nuclear physics:

“We are disappointed by the Department of Energy’s announcement today that Jefferson Lab was not selected to house the proposed Electron Ion Collider. We expect the Department of Energy to provide a full and transparent explanation into its site selection process for this project. Regardless, Jefferson Lab will continue to be heavily involved in the EIC project, and we will work with the Department to secure additional opportunities for Jefferson Lab moving forward – including in the advanced computing space."

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded Senate passage of the Virginia Wilderness Additions Act, a bill they introduced to add a total of 5,600 acres to two existing wilderness areas within the George Washington National Forest in Bath County: the Rough Mountain Wilderness area and the Rich Hole Wilderness area. A wilderness designation is the highest level of protection for public land under federal law. These additions were recommended by the U.S. Forest Service in 2014 and endorsed by members of the GW National Forest Stakeholder Collaborative, a group of forest users that has worked together for seven years to agree on acceptable locations in the GW for wilderness, timber harvest, trails, and other uses.  

“We’re proud that the Senate passed our bill to protect wilderness in Bath County. The George Washington National Forest is a critical part of Virginia’s environment and economy. This legislation would help ensure Virginians can enjoy more of its wildlife, scenery, and trails for generations to come. We’re so thankful to the folks from the U.S. Forest Service, conservationists, and leaders in Bath County for their collaborative efforts to make this happen. We’ll keep working together to get this bill signed into law,” said the Senators

“Senate passage of the Virginia Wilderness Additions Act affirms our belief that working in a collaborative manner with diverse interests groups including the timber industry, wildlife managers, and recreation interests creates an atmosphere where dialogue promotes trust and compromise. It is this spirit of cooperation that the Stakeholder Collaborative agreed to a plan that balances the need for managed young forest, recreation, and uninterrupted wilderness,” said Mark Miller, Executive Director, Virginia Wilderness Committee.

“I have supported an increase in active management of the GW National Forest while working with a diverse group of people that share a common interest in our public lands.  Where previously we may have advocated for different uses of the forest, we now look for ways to accomplish all of our goals.  I support the proposed Wilderness additions in this bill by understanding that the GW is large enough to provide a variety of forest conditions, through differing management techniques, as identified in the Forest Plan.  It is possible to simultaneously increase timber harvests, improve wildlife habitat, and create forest age diversity while setting aside remote areas that are valuable for recreation and certain species of wildlife.  This proposal reinforces several year’s-worth of work and demonstrates the ability to accomplish this balance,” said John Hancock, member and a previous President of the Virginia Forestry Association.

###

Today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner joined Sens. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (both D-Md.) led a letter to House and Senate leadership, urging conference negotiators to include significant increases in funding to the Chesapeake Bay Program within the final Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill. Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Appropriations Committee, and his Bay colleagues fought to pass an increase of $5.28 million – for a total $78.28 million – in the Republican-led Senate’s funding legislation. But to fully invest in the health of the Bay, the Members urge conference negotiators to support the House-passed funding of $85 million.  

The Members write, “As the House and Senate negotiate the final Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, we urge you to accept the funding level with the increased allocation according to the adopted report language from the House-passed Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Bill, which provides $85 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program.”

They continue, “The Chesapeake Bay is an economic driver for the entire region – including recreation, education, and commercial enterprises.  It is critical that the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort meet its 2025 pollution reduction goals. The Chesapeake Bay Program is a national model for clean water partnerships and an important bellwether for the success of other major body of water restoration efforts around the country.  We are within sight of delivering clean water.  For these reasons, we hope you will support funding the program at $85 million in the conference report.”

In addition to Senators Mark Warner and Van Hollen, and Representative Sarbanes, the letter was signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.).

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the letter is signed by Representatives Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Robert J. Wittman (R-Va.), Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Abigail D. Spanberger (D-Va.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Elaine G. Luria (D-Va.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), and Daniel P. Meuser (R-Pa.).

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

 

Dear Chairman Shelby, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Granger:

As the House and Senate negotiate the final Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, we urge you to accept the funding level with the increased allocation according to the adopted report language from the House-passed Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Bill, which provides $85 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program.

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 in Chesapeake Bay restoration.  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.

But as the 2025 deadline approaches, it is clear that more resources are needed to continue the progress made.  New research pertaining to increased nutrient and sediment flows through the Conowingo Dam indicates that we must reduce over 6 million pounds of pollution beyond the original 2010 targets. To address this issue, in December 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program Principals’ Staff Committee (PSC) agreed to work collaboratively on a separate Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).

More broadly, although we now know what conservation practices provide the greatest return, we lack funding for implementation at the scale required.  Dollars are needed at three levels: 1) the small watershed and innovative practices grant programs; 2) local government technical assistance and implementation; and 3) state-based targeted and cost-effective implementation.

We appreciate the $5.28 million increase for a total of $78.28 million for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program passed in the recent Senate minibus, but we think the resource needs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed demonstrate a need for an increase to $85 million. By increasing the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program funding level to $85 million, it would be possible to achieve significant measurable results in each of these areas, and each federal dollar leverages many more in State, local and private funding.

The Chesapeake Bay is an economic driver for the entire region – including recreation, education, and commercial enterprises.  It is critical that the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort meet its 2025 pollution reduction goals. The Chesapeake Bay Program is a national model for clean water partnerships and an important bellwether for the success of other major body of water restoration efforts around the country.  We are within sight of delivering clean water.  For these reasons, we hope you will support funding the program at $85 million in the conference report.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and colleagues sent a letter to House and Senate leadership, urging conference negotiators to include significant increases in funding to the Chesapeake Bay Program within the final Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill. Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Appropriations Committee, and his Bay colleagues fought to pass an increase of $5.28 million – for a total $78.28 million – in the Republican-led Senate’s funding legislation. But to fully invest in the health of the Bay, the Members urge conference negotiators to support the House-passed funding of $85 million.  

The Members write, “As the House and Senate negotiate the final Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, we urge you to accept the funding level with the increased allocation according to the adopted report language from the House-passed Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Bill, which provides $85 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program.”

They continue, “The Chesapeake Bay is an economic driver for the entire region – including recreation, education, and commercial enterprises.  It is critical that the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort meet its 2025 pollution reduction goals. The Chesapeake Bay Program is a national model for clean water partnerships and an important bellwether for the success of other major body of water restoration efforts around the country.  We are within sight of delivering clean water.  For these reasons, we hope you will support funding the program at $85 million in the conference report.”  

In addition to Senator Van Hollen and Representative Sarbanes, the letter was signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). 

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the letter is signed by Representatives Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Robert J. Wittman (R-Va.), Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Abigail D. Spanberger (D-Va.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Elaine G. Luria (D-Va.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), and Daniel P. Meuser (R-Pa.). 

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

 

Dear Chairman Shelby, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Granger:

As the House and Senate negotiate the final Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, we urge you to accept the funding level with the increased allocation according to the adopted report language from the House-passed Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Bill, which provides $85 million in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program.

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 in Chesapeake Bay restoration.  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. 

But as the 2025 deadline approaches, it is clear that more resources are needed to continue the progress made.  New research pertaining to increased nutrient and sediment flows through the Conowingo Dam indicates that we must reduce over 6 million pounds of pollution beyond the original 2010 targets. To address this issue, in December 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program Principals’ Staff Committee (PSC) agreed to work collaboratively on a separate Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).

More broadly, although we now know what conservation practices provide the greatest return, we lack funding for implementation at the scale required.  Dollars are needed at three levels: 1) the small watershed and innovative practices grant programs; 2) local government technical assistance and implementation; and 3) state-based targeted and cost-effective implementation.

We appreciate the $5.28 million increase for a total of $78.28 million for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program passed in the recent Senate minibus, but we think the resource needs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed demonstrate a need for an increase to $85 million. By increasing the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program funding level to $85 million, it would be possible to achieve significant measurable results in each of these areas, and each federal dollar leverages many more in State, local and private funding.

The Chesapeake Bay is an economic driver for the entire region – including recreation, education, and commercial enterprises.  It is critical that the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort meet its 2025 pollution reduction goals. The Chesapeake Bay Program is a national model for clean water partnerships and an important bellwether for the success of other major body of water restoration efforts around the country.  We are within sight of delivering clean water.  For these reasons, we hope you will support funding the program at $85 million in the conference report.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.                                                                                                                      

Sincerely,

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text of the legislation can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

February 25, 2019

 

The Honorable Rick Perry

Secretary

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20585

 

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen

Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

800 K Street NW

Washington, DC 20528

 

Dear Secretaries Perry and Nielsen:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sincerely,

/s/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2017*

 

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

$1,998,224

Assateague Island NS

$2,774,577

Blue Ridge Parkway

$186,619,608

Booker T Washington National Monument

$1,370,913

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

$327,072

Colonial National Historical Park

$421,872,932

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

$1,848,864

Fort Monroe National Monument

$2,280,548

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP

$10,371,731

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

$1,306,614

George Washington Memorial Parkway

$233,441,316

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

$64,760

Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

$531,648

Manassas National Battlefield Park

$6,516,560

Petersburg National Battlefield

$11,754,041

Prince William Forest Park

$18,619,932

Richmond National Battlefield Park

$6,581,205

Shenandoah National Park

$79,208,621

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

$31,149,289

Total

$1,018,629,457


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