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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

H.R. 3080 and S. 601: Side-by-Side Comparison of Selected Provisions

Nicole T. Carter
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

John Frittelli
Specialist in Transportation Policy

Linda Luther
Analyst in Environmental Policy

Charles V. Stern
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

H.R. 3080, Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA 2013) as passed by the House, and S. 601, Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA 2013) as passed by the Senate, are both omnibus authorization legislation focused primarily on water resources development activities and practices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The two bills address many similar issues, but often propose different approaches. 

Authorizing and Deauthorizing Projects
. H.R. 3080 would authorize a fixed set of 23 Corps projects (total cost of $13.0 billion) and 2 cost modifications to previously authorized projects. S. 601 would authorize projects or modifications with a completed Chief Report transmitted to Congress before enactment if carried out according to their reports and plan; 22 projects (total cost of $12.4 billion) have had their Chief’s Reports transmitted to Congress as of October 2013; another 7 projects (total cost of $12.8 billion) are awaiting transmission of completed Chief’s Reports. For future authorizations, H.R. 3080 would have the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)(ASA) submit an annual “Report to Congress on Future Water Resources Development” with qualifying studies proposed by nonfederal interests, completed feasibility reports, and modifications to projects for congressional consideration. For three years after enactment, S. 601 would allow the ASA to initiate new studies and proceed with project cost modifications if an appropriations or other act provides amounts to the study or project. H.R. 3080 would deauthorize $12 billion of pre-WRDA 2007 projects within 270 days of enactment; S. 601 would establish a commission to identify, within four years, projects to deauthorize. 

Accelerating Studies and Environmental Streamlining
. Both bills propose provisions to encourage completion of Corps studies within three years and intended to streamline compliance with applicable environmental laws including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

Expanding Nonfederal Roles in Project Delivery and Financing.
Both bills would encourage the expansion of nonfederal opportunities in delivering water resources projects through changes to the provisions for in-kind crediting for nonfederal work and expanding authorities for nonfederal contributions and nonfederal project management and financing. S. 601 also proposes encouraging nonfederal partnerships, including private investment, by authorizing a program for loans and loan guarantees for certain flood control and public water supply projects. 

Investing in Navigation
. Both bills attempt to increase spending from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), but differ in the priorities and use of HMTF funds. Both bills would authorize changes to the inland waterway project delivery and alter cost-sharing for Olmsted Locks and Dam; neither bill would enact changes to inland waterway revenues. 

Reducing Flood Risks.
S. 601 would authorize a new national levee safety program to assist in the development of state levee safety programs and expand the role of the Corps in levee rehabilitation and levee certification. H.R. 3080 would make more limited amendments to flood risk management authorities. 

Addressing Other Issues.
H.R. 3080 would prohibit programs or actions authorized by H.R. 3080 to be used for furthering implementation of Executive Order 13547 related to coastal and marine spatial planning. S. 601 would create a National Endowment for the Oceans. S. 601 would amend the applicability and scope of the oil spill prevention, control, and countermeasure rules related to oil storage.

Date of Report: November 6, 2013
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R43298
Price: $29.95

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Wilderness: Legislation and Issues in the 113th Congress

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Sandra L. Johnson
Information Research Specialist

Katie Hoover
Analyst in Natural Resource Policy

The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System and directed that only Congress can designate federal lands as part of the system. Free-standing bills to designate wilderness areas are typically introduced and considered in each Congress; such bills are not amendments to the Wilderness Act, but typically refer to the act for management guidance and sometimes include special provisions. Numerous wilderness bills were introduced in the 112
th Congress, but it was the first Congress since 1966 that did not add to the wilderness system. The 112th Congress was the first in decades not to designate additional wilderness; the only wilderness law that was enacted reduced the size of a wilderness area. Many bills to add to the wilderness system have been introduced in the 113th Congress.

Wilderness designation can be controversial. The designation generally prohibits commercial activities, motorized access, and human infrastructure from wilderness areas; however, there are several exceptions to this general rule. Advocates propose wilderness designations to preserve the generally undeveloped conditions of the areas. Opponents see such designations as preventing certain uses and potential economic development in rural areas where such opportunities are relatively limited.

Most bills direct management of designated wilderness in accordance with the Wilderness Act. However, proposed legislation also often seeks a compromise among interests by allowing other activities in the area. Pre-existing uses or conditions are often allowed to continue, sometimes temporarily, with nonconforming uses to be halted and/or nonconforming conditions to be rectified. More commonly, the authority is permanent, with limited access permitted for specific areas, uses, and times, or with the authority to operate and maintain pre-existing infrastructure. Wilderness bills often contain additional provisions, such as providing special access for particular purposes, for example, border security. Water rights associated with wilderness designations have also proved controversial; many statutes have addressed wilderness water rights.

Controversies regarding management of existing wilderness areas also have been the subject of legislation. Bills have been introduced to expand access to wilderness areas for border security; to guarantee access for hunting, fishing, and shooting; to release wilderness study areas from wilderness-like protection; and to limit agency review of the wilderness potential of their lands. The latter two issues have been contentious for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands for two reasons. First, BLM is required by law to protect the wilderness characteristics of its wilderness study areas (WSAs) until Congress determines otherwise. Second, a December 2010 secretarial order directed BLM to maintain a wilderness inventory, to consider wilderness potential in planning, and to protect wilderness characteristics of those “Wild Lands” unless alternative management was deemed appropriate. The FY2012 Interior Appropriations Act (Division E of
P.L. 112-74) prohibited using funds to implement the secretarial order, and bills were introduced to terminate the order. In June 2011, Secretary Salazar withdrew the order, but stated that BLM would maintain a wilderness inventory and continue to consider wilderness characteristics as required by law. Legislation in the 113th Congress proposes to eliminate several WSAs.

Date of Report: November 15, 2013
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41610
Price: $29.95

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Friday, November 22, 2013

PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes): Somewhat Simplified

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Under federal law, local governments are compensated through various programs for reductions to their property tax bases due to the presence of most federally owned land. These lands cannot be taxed, but may create demand for services such as fire protection, police cooperation, or simply longer roads to skirt the federal property. Some of these programs are run by specific agencies and apply only to that agency’s land. The most widely applicable program, administered by the Department of the Interior (DOI), applies to many types of federally owned land, and is called “Payments in Lieu of Taxes,” or PILT. The authorized level of PILT payments is calculated under a complex formula. No precise dollar figure can be given in advance for each year’s PILT authorization level. This report addresses only the PILT program administered by DOI. There is no PILT-like program generally applicable to military lands, but a small fraction of military lands are eligible for the DOI PILT program. Furthermore, PILT does not apply to Indian-owned lands, virtually none of which are subject to local taxes.

This report explains PILT payments, with an analysis of the five major factors affecting the calculation of a payment to a given county. It also describes the effects of certain legislative changes in PILT in 2009 and 2012. Before 2008, annual appropriations were necessary to fund PILT, but a provision in P.L. 110-343 for mandatory spending ensured that, beginning with FY2008 and continuing through the payment to be made in 2012, all counties would receive 100% of the authorized payment. Then on July 6, 2012, the President signed P.L. 112-141, containing a provision extending mandatory spending to FY2013. The Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) provided for a sequestration of 5.1% of PILT payments for FY2013.

Since the creation of PILT in 1976, various changes in the law have been proposed. One proposal has been to include additional lands under the PILT program, particularly Indian lands, which are not now eligible for PILT. Most categories of Indian-owned lands cannot be taxed by local governments, though they generally enjoy county services. In some counties, this means a very substantial portion of the land is not taxable. The remaining tax burden (for roads, schools, fire and police protection, etc.) therefore falls more heavily on other property owners. To help compensate for this burden, some counties have proposed that Indian lands (variously defined) be included among those eligible for PILT payments. Examples of other lands mentioned for inclusion are those of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Another proposal from some counties would revisit the compensation formula to emphasize a payment rate more similar to property tax rates (which vary widely among counties), a feature that would be a major change in counties with high property values. Finally, for lands in the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), some have argued that all lands of the system should be eligible for PILT, rather than limiting the PILT payments to lands reserved from the public domain and excluding PILT payments for acquired lands. The exclusion of NWRS-acquired lands affects primarily counties in eastern states.

With PILT’s mandatory spending having expired in FY2013, the program will be subject to the annual appropriations process for the payment to be made in 2014. Over the next few years, the larger debate for Congress might then be summarized as three decisions: (1) whether to approve future extensions of mandatory spending (either temporary or permanent); (2) whether to make the diametrically opposed choice of reducing the program through appropriations or by changing the PILT formula; and (3) whether to add or subtract any lands to the list of those now eligible for PILT payments. Background on all three issues is discussed here.

Date of Report: November 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: RL31392
Price: $29.95

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