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Congressman Jerry McNerney

Representing the 9th District of California

27 CA, OR, AZ, and WA House Democrats Send Letter Opposing Destructive GOP Water Bill

Oct 7, 2015
Press Release

Washington – Ahead of tomorrow’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing where drought legislation is on the agenda, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) today led 26 of his California, Oregon, Arizona, and Washington House Democrat colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell voicing their strong opposition to H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015.

The letter argues that H.R. 2898 does nothing to solve California’s water crisis or address the drought impacting Oregon, Arizona, Washington and states throughout the West. Instead, H.R. 2898 preempts state laws, reduces management flexibility, eliminates protections for salmon and other endangered species, and rolls back our nation’s fundamental environmental laws.

Full text of the letter:

October 7, 2015

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski                                          The Honorable Maria Cantwell

United States Senate                                                             United States Senate

709 Hart Senate Office Building                                          511 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510                                                        Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell:

We are writing to express our concerns with H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, which passed the House in July and will be a part of the upcoming legislative hearing in your Committee tomorrow. This bill does nothing to solve California’s water crisis or address the drought impacting Oregon, Arizona, Washington and states throughout the West. Instead, H.R. 2898 preempts state laws, reduces management flexibility, eliminates protections for salmon and other endangered species, and rolls back our nation’s fundamental environmental laws. 

The State of California opposes federal legislation that would “weaken state and federal environmental protections, pre-empt state law and favor one region or economic sector of the state over another,” which is exactly what this bill does. Moreover, this proposal would not support the State’s groundbreaking work to address the drought through water conservation programs, infrastructure improvements, and innovative water recycling initiatives.

We are pleased that state and federal agencies have been making great progress by working proactively and collaboratively. These agencies should retain the statutory flexibility to best manage our water supply rather than the prescriptive language proposed in H.R. 2898. In fact, the Department of the Interior agrees that this bill is the wrong course of action because it would, “impede an effective and timely response to the continuing drought while providing no additional water to hard hit communities.”

H.R. 2898 is also yet another attempt to chip away at the Endangered Species Act.  Important protections have been targeted in recent legislation for the African elephant, greater sage grouse, gray wolf, northern long-eared bat, Sonoran desert tortoise, and many other species.  H.R. 2898 simply adds the Delta smelt and several salmon and steelhead runs to the list of species that have been deemed as no longer needing protection. 

Further, the bill preempts state law, including California’s long-standing system of water rights, overriding the regulations that Californians themselves have devised to administer the state’s complex water supply system. An expansion of federal management over the world’s most complicated water structure sets a bad precedent for states across the country.

H.R. 2898 also reaches into other Western states, including Oregon and Washington. By weakening protections for fish in California’s Bay-Delta, this bill has potential far-reaching and damaging impacts on the Pacific Northwest’s fishing industry, wildlife, and related economy. On multiple occasions, Senators and House Members of the Oregon delegation wrote to express parallel concerns with similar short-sighted legislation, H.R. 5781, that passed the House in the 113th Congress.

Furthermore, opposition to this legislation includes other key stakeholders such as commercial and sport fishermen, Native American tribes, environmental groups, and recreation employers.  The Obama Administration also issued a veto threat against this bill because of its potential to undermine environmental laws.

Responsible solutions to the West’s short and long-term water shortages require input from all stakeholders without prioritizing sectors of the economy or geographic regions over others, and without further endangering at-risk species. This historic drought demands an unprecedented compromise involving all affected parties. We remain committed to working on federal drought legislation that does not negatively impact the economies, farmers, communities, and environments of California, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, and other Western states.

Sincerely,

_____________________________              _____________________________                

JERRY MCNERNEY                                        JARED HUFFMAN     

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress                                                         

_____________________________                 _____________________________

PETER DEFAZIO                                            MARK DESAULNIER

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress                                                                       

_____________________________               _____________________________                

SUSAN DAVIS                                                ERIC SWALWELL

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress

_____________________________              _____________________________    

EARL BLUMENAUER                                    MIKE THOMPSON

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress                                                        

_____________________________              _____________________________    

TED LIEU                                                       ZOE LOFGREN

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress           

_____________________________               _____________________________                

LOIS CAPPS                                                    MIKE HONDA

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress                                                        

_____________________________            _____________________________                

BARBARA LEE                                               ANNA ESHOO

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress           

_____________________________            _____________________________                

DORIS O. MATSUI                                          JOHN GARAMENDI

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress                                           

_____________________________            _____________________________                

SUZANNE BONAMICI                                    JACKIE SPEIER

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress           

_____________________________           _____________________________                

ADAM SCHIFF                                               SCOTT PETERS

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress           

_____________________________             _____________________________                

SAM FARR                                                     MARK TAKANO

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress           

_____________________________             _____________________________                

RAUL GRIJALVA                                           RICK LARSEN

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress           

_____________________________             _____________________________                

SUZAN DELBENE                                         JIM MCDERMOTT

Member of Congress                                    Member of Congress           

___________________________                                                    

DEREK KILMER                                                                                                                    

Member of Congress           

cc:

The Honorable Al Franken 

The Honorable Martin Heinrich     

The Honorable Mazie K. Hirono

The Honorable Angus King

The Honorable Joe Manchin III

The Honorable Bernard Sanders                                      

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow

The Honorable Elizabeth Warren

The Honorable Ron Wyden

The Honorable Barbara Boxer

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein   

In July of this year, California and Oregon House Democrats sent a letter to U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer opposing H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015. The signatories include 19 California representatives – half of the California House Democratic Delegation – and three Oregon representatives, all who voted against H.R. 2898 in the House.

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Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.