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VIDEO: Ranking Member Pingree Slams House Republicans’ Plan to Defund National Parks, Shut Down Public Museums

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, today derided Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2024 funding bill for the Subcommittee, which defunds cash-strapped National Parks, decimates funding to prevent climate disasters, and shuts down public museum exhibits. In the markup of the Subcommittee’s Appropriations bill on Thursday evening, Pingree voiced her strong opposition to the proposed funding bill, calling it “one of the most harmful attacks on America’s efforts to tackle climate change.”

“Republicans’ 2024 Interior funding bill takes an aggressive anti-environment stance that would endanger public health, hurt our economy, and make us less safe. The ensuing collapse of our means of protecting the environment and public health would lead to more asthma, more cancer, and more natural disasters afflicting American families,” Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) said. “These devastating Republican cuts are not numbers on a page. This is the air in our skies and in our lungs. This is water we drink and bathe and cook with. These are basic life necessities that we have a simple obligation to protect for the American people. On top of these dangerous cuts, Republicans are slashing funding for the arts and prohibiting the Smithsonian from moving forward with the National Museum of the American Latino or operating the Molina Family Latino Gallery. These cuts are cruel and a clear representation of their values. The ramifications of cuts in this bill would reach every corner of the United States. It damages our public lands, promotes dirty energy, jeopardizes biodiversity, and hinders our response to the climate crisis. With this bill, the majority has again subverted the relevance of the Appropriations Committee.”

The draft bill includes $34.8 billion, which is $5.7 billion below the 2023 level, a cut of 14 percent.

The legislation:

  • Hinders the U.S. response to the Climate Crisis and fails to address the growing number and severity of extreme weather events by cutting efforts to reduce carbon emissions and community resiliency programs. 
  • Slashes funding for national parks, threatening Americans’ ability to enjoy public lands.
  • Exacerbates environmental discrimination against rural and poor communities by defunding environmental justice initiatives. 
  • Promotes dirty energy by requiring fossil fuels lease sales while prohibiting growth in clean energy projects.
  • Cuts funding for arts and humanities programs.
  • Fails our nation’s wildland firefighters by not providing any of the funding requested by the Administration to support firefighters and their families through better compensation, safe housing, and health and well-being assistance.
  • Incites hate and discrimination by promoting racial conspiracy theories, prohibiting funds for advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, censoring commemoration of LGTBQI+ pride, and prohibiting the Smithsonian Institution from highlighting the contributions of American Latinos in U.S. history and culture.

Find more information on the bill here

Pingree delivered the following remarks at the markup of the Subcommittee’s fiscal year 2024 funding bill:

Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, for yielding and thank you Chairman Simpson for your work on the subcommittee this year. 

Climate change has reached a crisis point and experts agree that we must take bold action to avoid a major, irreversible catastrophe. So, I am greatly disappointed and frustrated by the bill before us. This bill is one of the most harmful attacks on America’s efforts to tackle climate change. 

The bill cuts funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by nearly $4 billion or 39 percent and it rescinds more than $7 billion of vital investments provided by the Inflation Reduction Act for the United States to take immediate, economy-wide climate action. 

This bill, in addition to the cut proposed in the State Foreign Ops bill, nearly eliminates the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which was established by the Inflation Reduction Act to mitigate the costs of climate pollution through investment in low- and zero-emission technologies. 

According to a recent McKinsey analysis, the Greenhouse Gas fund will reduce 850 metric megatons of greenhouse gas emissions over a decade. This accounts for one-sixth of the reductions needed during that timeframe to meet our climate goals. Additionally, it is expected to create one million jobs over the next decade. 

So, the majority’s attacks on the Greenhouse Gas Fund are a very disturbing indication of yet another willful denial of the crisis we collectively face. 

The damage inflicted by this bill extends beyond climate change. The bill eliminates the environmental justice program and rescinds $1.4 billion from the Environmental and Climate Justice Grants provided through the Inflation Reduction Act. It curtails the progress that has been made to ensure that all people enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards. It abandons those groups who currently bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences, which includes large swaths of rural communities that many of my colleagues across the aisle represent. 

The bill also slashes funding for enforcement of the clean air and clean water acts, which will lead to increased levels of pollution and create an unfair playing field in which polluters have the advantage.

The cuts in this bill are so severe that even agencies that usually enjoy bipartisan support are targeted for damaging reductions. 

The bill cuts the National Park Service by 13 percent. This cut means park rangers will lose their jobs. Further, it severely hampers the Service’s ability to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources in our national parks and jeopardizes the visitor experience.

The bill also significantly reduces funding for the Arts and Humanities agencies. The arts have incredible value as a positive tool for economic development, education, and community building and I will strenuously oppose these cuts in the final spending agreement.

The bill fails our nation’s wildland firefighters. It does not provide any of the funding requested by the Administration to support wildland firefighters and their families through better compensation, safe housing, and health and well-being assistance. Without this funding, the firefighters will lose the compensation increases first provided in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law at the end of this year. 

I was relieved to see that the bill continues the advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service that was put in place by Democrats last year. The truth of the matter is that if Congress did its job, advance appropriations would be unnecessary. Unfortunately, House Republicans are showing us why such a backstop is critical. By reneging on the budget agreement and doggedly pursuing partisan appropriations bills, they are putting us on a path to a government shutdown. 

Finally, the bill includes an exhaustive list of anti-environment riders that seek to derail any effort to combat climate change and undermine clean water and clean air protections.

They give an open invitation to exploitative oil, gas, and mineral leasing by blocking environmental regulations and even overriding judicial review. At the same time, the bill suppresses clean energy production. Clean, renewable energy is critical if we are going to save our planet for future generations.

And, sadly, the bill also contains numerous discriminatory riders, which have proven so divisive in earlier markups. I am particularly shocked to see the majority’s posture towards Latinos, with a policy rider that prohibits the Smithsonian Institution from highlighting the contributions of American Latinos in U.S. history and culture by denying funds for the new National Museum of the American Latino and for the operation of the Molina Family Latino Gallery.

The majority of Americans support becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and they support taking responsibility for future generations. The austere and irresponsible cuts in this bill do not align with their values. 

I would like to thank Ranking Member DeLauro for her tireless efforts on the Committee and the staff on both sides of the aisle.

 I oppose the bill. I urge my colleagues to oppose the bill and I yield back.


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