Federal Legislative Update
Environmental issues did not receive serious attention during the 2001 session of Congress. The only significant piece of legislation that passed was a modest Brownfields reform bill. The legislation, H.R. 2869, combined House-passed legislation providing small businesses relief from Superfund liability and Senate-approved language reforming the Brownfields program. H.R. 2869 was literally passed in the closing minutes of the session on December 20 after almost being derailed over a dispute whether the Davis-Bacon federal wage law would apply to Superfund and Brownfields cleanups under the bill.
On November 26, 2001, President Bush signed appropriations legislation (H.R. 2620) to fund the Environmental Protection Agency. Unlike recent years, the bill was free of any contentious "policy riders." For FY02, the bill provides:
- $7.9 billion for EPA, $597 million above the President’s request and $75 million over FY01
- Superfund is funded at last year’s level of $1.27 billion, $2 million above the President’s request
- Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds are funded at $850 million, $25 million more than last year and the budget request
- Clean Water State Revolving Funds are funded at $1.35 billion, the same as last year’s House bill
- State Air Grants are funded at $217 million, $8 million over last year
- Sec. 106 water grants were increased $22 million above the budget request
The 2002 session is shaping up to be one of the busiest sessions in recent memory. In 2001, much of the momentum on many policy issues was understandably lost following the September 11 terrorist attacks. As a result, many issues were pushed off until 2002. This, combined with the fact that the majority in both houses of Congress is up for grabs in the midterm elections in November, should make for a hectic pace.
In terms of schedule, Congress is not expected to convene until January 23 and will recess for a week around Presidents’ Day. As a result, serious consideration of issues may not begin until March. Congress will likely take a week off in June and July and take its traditional summer recess during the entire month of August. The Congressional leadership has set October 4 as the target adjournment date. Given the late starting date, it is likely that the session will extend further into October.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has promised that the Senate will consider several contentious issues, including energy legislation. Numerous environmental issues will be at stake during this debate such as global climate change, adjustments to the Clean Air Act, and oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Given the small amount of attention paid to environmental issues in 2001, and that 2002 is an important election year, there will be pressure in both houses of Congress to achieve some sort of environmental "victory" before the election in November 2002. The scope of any legislation that passes both houses is likely to be narrow.