AFFTA Legislative Update
1st Session 111th Congress
As the first session of the 111th Congress comes to a close, historic steps have been taken in the areas of climate change, clean water funding, and fish habitat protection and enhancement. Each of the legislative initiatives discussed in this update, if enacted into law, would significantly improve fisheries and aquatic resources across the Nation. Congress is poised to enact legislative initiatives that will provide billions of dollars annually to protect and enhance resources critical to fly fishermen and ultimately the fly fishing industry. AFFTA has played an active role in supporting climate change and clean water initiatives outlined in this legislative update – including letters of support and direct input with legislators in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
Set forth below are brief summaries of the major legislative initiatives currently being supported by AFFTA and the conservation community.
Climate Change Legislation
On May 15, 2009, Congressman Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced comprehensive climate change legislation – H.R 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This measure contains sweeping provisions impacting nearly every aspect of society, including, the protection of critical aquatic resources. Of particular interest to AFFTA and the fishing community is the inclusion of adaptation provisions providing potentially billions of dollars annually to improve fish habitat impacted by climatic changes.
Thousands of miles of trout streams and critical salmon habitat are extremely sensitive to even minor changes in climatic conditions. AFFTA worked closely with Congressman Dingell and members of the conservation community to have robust adaptation provisions included in H.R. 2454.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 was approved by the full House of Representatives on June 26, 2009. The bill is now pending in the United States Senate.
On September 30, 2009, Senator John Kerry and Senator Barbara Boxer introduced S. 1733, The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009. AFFTA, in concert with other members of the conservation community worked to have strong adaptation provisions included in S. 1733. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee reported this bill largely on a party-line vote on November 5, 2009. However, the final disposition of climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate remains in flux with other Senators, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) likely to play significant roles in shaping a final climate change bill.
AFFTA is currently engaged in discussions with Senator Baucus’s staff on developing adaptation provisions that will provide significantly greater resources for fish and wildlife habitat than are currently contained in the House-passed climate change bill.
Clean Water Funding Legislation
In March 2009, the House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 456) authorizing over $15 billion of new money for Clean Water Act Projects, including the upgrade of wastewater treatment plants and the control of non-point source pollutants. This legislation received broad bi-partisan support, will likely be merged with a similar Senate measure and will likely be enacted into law during the second session of the 111th Congress. This is the first time new funding for The Clean Water Act has been authorized since 1987 and it marks a significant step toward improving water quality and fish habitat of importance to millions of American fisherman.
On May 7, 2009 Senators Boxer (D-CA), Inhofe (R-OK), Cardin (D-MD) and Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 1005 was reported by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with strong bi-partisan support. This legislation is currently awaiting consideration by the full Senate.
Clean Water Protection Legislation
The United States Senate has taken the lead in advancing legislation to restore critical protections for wetlands and streams lost through a series of recent Supreme Court Decisions. On April 2, 2009, Senator Feingold (D-WI) introduced S. 787, The Clean Water Restoration Act. AFFTA has played an active role along with other leading conservation organization in supporting this legislation.
On June 18, 2009, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee reported S. 787 and the bill is now awaiting consideration by the full Senate. This legislation remains controversial and is opposed by leading agriculture and development interests, and, as such, the fate of S. 787 remains uncertain.
In the House of Representatives, Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) and Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) are preparing companion legislation to S. 787 for introduction. Chairman Oberstar has met extensively with AFFTA and other conservation organizations to solicit their input and support.
AFFTA will be working closely with Chairman Oberstar in the coming months to successfully advance legislation restoring Clean Water Act protections.
Fish Habitat Legislation
AFFTA has also been engaged in supporting legislative measures to specifically improve fish habitat. For example, AFFTA has joined a coalition of conservation organizations seeking to ensure that our Nation’s transportation programs include critical fish habitat considerations. Inadequate fish passages related to transportation projects remain a substantial problem throughout much of the United States.
Congress may take up a $500 billion transportation funding and policy bill during the second session of the 111th Congress and AFFTA will be working closely with policy makers to protect and enhance fish habitat as part of this legislation.