Merkley Welcomes President Biden’s FY22 Budget, Applauds Robust Funding for Tribal Communities and Forest Resiliency, Environmental Justice, and Climate Initiatives

Merkley Welcomes President Biden’s FY22 Budget, Applauds Robust Funding for Tribal Communities and Forest Resiliency, Environmental Justice, and Climate Initiatives

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, the Chairman of the Senate Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, today welcomed President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for critical programs affecting climate change, forest health, conservation, environmental justice and tribal communities.

“If we’re going to recover from the devastation and tumult brought on by this pandemic, we need to make sure that every family—regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or their income—has access to the same foundation to be healthy and thrive,” said Merkley. “In Oregon, and across America, that means solutions to the environmental justice crises that are making Black and Brown Americans disproportionately sicker, and establishing reliable access to clean drinking water in each and every community. And it means responsibly managed forests that are less likely to fuel catastrophic wildfires, as well as support, and the right to self-determination, for tribal communities. I’m glad that President Biden’s budget reflects those priorities, and I look forward to partnering with the President through my work on the Appropriations Committee to turn our shared vision into a reality.”

The President’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for programs under Chairman Merkley’s jurisdiction total $44.4 billion, an increase of $8 billion.  The substantial increases proposed are needed as a result of a decade of restrictive spending limits that failed to fully accommodate the urgent need to address the climate crisis, invest in infrastructure, and promote natural restoration and public health—as well as the need to rebuild from the previous administration’s damaging efforts to open up public lands for energy development, dismantle science, and take environmental enforcement cops off the beat.

The proposed $11.2 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency is vital to address climate change and achieve clean air and clean water for every community. The budget includes $1.8 billion to tackle environmental injustice and climate change by holding polluters accountable, advancing cutting edge climate research, investing in Superfund cleanup, and reducing the health impacts of pollution in overburdened communities. The EPA investments come after years of flat budgets that left staffing levels at their lowest point in 40 years, and will help rebuild the agency’s core capacity, by restoring 1,000 positions at the agency. In addition, the budget request increases funding for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Fund—a program Chairman Merkley established to accelerate clean and safe water infrastructure development—enabling EPA to help spur more than $16 billion in new infrastructure investments for fiscal year 2022. Since WIFIA’s establishment in 2014 it has financed clean water projects, including seven in Oregon, that have supported 49,000 jobs and served 31 million Americans.

The budget includes $16.4 billion for the Department of the Interior, and increase of $2.5 billion, and dedicates substantial resources to supporting renewable energy development on public lands and shores. It also allocates $86 million for a new Climate Conservation Corps, a concept similar to the Merkley-backed 21st Century Conservation Corp Act introduced by Senator Wyden; in addition to empowering the National Park Service to tell America’s story by better reflecting racial equity and civil rights through a number of initiatives, including a of $10 million proposal to construct a voting rights center at the Selma Interpretive Center to honor the legacy of civil rights leaders including the late Representative John Lewis.

For the U.S. Forest Service, the President’s budget includes $80 million for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program, fulfilling the authorization increase Chairman Merkley secured in the 2018 Farm Bill.  Oregon has four current CFLR projects—more than any other state—and a pent up demand for additional projects.  The President’s budget also reestablishes the Legacy Roads and Trails program to focus on improving watersheds and fish habitat.  A total of $3.8 billion is included at the Forest Service and Department of the Interior for wildfire suppression, including $2.45 billion to continue the “fire fix” which prevents fire borrowing.

Today’s budget request is also in keeping with the administration’s strong commitment to support Tribal Nations with new investments in healthcare, education, water resources, law enforcement, and tribal homeland restoration.  The request includes $8.4 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS), a 35 percent increase over FY2021 enacted levels to improve clinical care services, hospital facilities, and improve water infrastructure in tribal communities. It also includes a $154 million increase for water and sanitation facilities construction, an area Chairman Merkley has highlighted as a fundamental necessity to improve public health.  

$2.7 billion is also included for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to carry out the federal government’s primary trust and treaty responsibilities; and $395.8 million would be allocated to help Tribal communities tackle the climate crisis through the Tribal Climate Resilience and Tribal Climate Adaptation Grant programs, and for the creation of the Tribal Civilian Climate Corps. The request also includes $1.3 billion for the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), an increase of $111 million over FY2021 enacted to support Elementary and Secondary Programs, Education Construction, and Tribal Grant Support Costs.