Senate panel clears $32.1B Interior bill

Working speedily, the Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee approved on Tuesday a $32.1 billion fiscal 2010 spending bill for land, water and firefighting improvements that is 16 percent higher than this fiscal year's spending levels.

Senate Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pushed through the bill on a voice vote.

The bill is $4.5 billion above the fiscal 2009 enacted level and comes in $225 million, or 0.7 percent, below President Obama's request. The House Appropriations Committee has approved a $32.3 billion fiscal 2010 Interior-Environment appropriations bill.

Feinstein told panel members to submit proposed amendments to her and Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Those amendments that can be cleared will be offered in a package as a manager's amendment when the full committee takes up the bill Thursday.

The biggest boost over fiscal 2009 comes in funding for the EPA, which was allocated $10.2 billion, an amount $2.5 billion, or 33 percent, above fiscal 2009. It includes $3.6 billion for water and sewer infrastructure improvements.

The subcommittee said in a statement that, together with economic stimulus funds, there would be "an unprecedented $11 billion provided to states to fund water infrastructure over a two-year period."

The bill includes $6 billion for operations of national parks, national forests, national wildlife refugees and Bureau of Land Management lands -- an increase of $350 million, or 6 percent, over fiscal 2009.

Feinstein and Alexander both singled out the inclusion of $3.5 billion for fighting wildfires and reducing fire risks by the Forest Service and Interior Department as possibly sufficient to avoid future emergency requests.

That amount is an increase of $576 million, or 19 percent, above fiscal 2009 non-emergency funding levels. Feinstein said that amount should hopefully be enough to get through fiscal 2010 without emergency supplemental money.

The Indian Health Service received $4 billion, which is $449 million over fiscal 2009. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was assigned $2.6 billion for education and police activities. The Land and Water Conservation Fund for preserving parks, forests and wildlife refuges was given $419 million, an increase of $127 million over fiscal 2009.

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