WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that includes spending for water conservation projects and energy programs that provide benefits for birds. The “minibus” appropriations bill (H.R. 2740) for fiscal year 2020 includes record-level federal funding for the Everglades, significant resources to address drought in the Colorado River basin and across the arid West, and funding to protect the Louisiana Coast and help advance energy goals.
“This is a huge shot in the arm for Everglades restoration and will go a long way toward protecting places birds need like habitats along the Colorado River and Gulf of Mexico,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, the National Audubon Society’s VP of Water Conservation. “We are grateful to the Chairperson and Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Representatives Kaptur (OH) and Simpson (ID), for recognizing that birds and people benefit from investing in water conservation.”
The bill advances programs that are important for birds and the places they need, including:
Increased funding for projects in the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico
Louisiana representatives Scalise and Richmond championed an amendment to provide $5 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to use dredged material for restoration projects in Louisiana. Louisiana is facing a land loss crisis as it loses a football field of land every 100 minutes. Louisiana’s coast is full of barrier islands, wetlands, and marshes, all of which mitigate land loss, protect communities from storms, and provide important bird habitat.
Appropriators increased construction funding for restoration of America’s Everglades to $200 million (nearly a 200 percent increase), which is a new record for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This amount of funding will speed up progress on projects that can help provide additional options to address recent toxic algae blooms and advance effective restoration for one of the most unique ecosystems in the country. The Everglades is home to 70 threatened and endangered species and more than 300 native bird species like the Roseate Spoonbill.
Additional funding to address drought in the West
The Minibus also includes more than $100 million for Bureau of Reclamation projects and programs that can address water scarcity across the arid West. In May 2019, Reclamation and the seven Colorado River basin states entered into a water conservation agreement aimed to prevent a water crisis that would impact the 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of irrigated agricultural land that depend on a stable water supply and a healthy river system. Funding will provide resources necessary to begin implementing this agreement.
Increased energy spending
This year’s bill includes increases in funding for clean energy across the board, including $2.65 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), a $273 million (11 percent) increase from last year. This includes $270 million for a solar program, whose goals include the research and development of improved photovoltaic solar, with an emphasis on technology that can withstand extreme weather events, as well as more than $103 million for a wind program that aims to accelerate the rollout of offshore wind, among other goals. Renewable energy, properly sited and managed for bird safety, is key to mitigating a changing climate, which is the greatest danger that birds face. These increases are a major victory for the advancement of zero-carbon energy after the administration proposed an 85 percent cut to the Office of EERE in their budget. The bill also includes $290 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program, and creates a program through the Office of Electricity that aims to lower the cost of grid-scale energy storage, technology that will be critical to increasing the share of renewables powering the grid.
It is now up to the United States Senate to pass its version for energy and water funding.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.
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