The climate funding package that Senate Democrats expect to pass this weekend will include $4 billion in drought-related funding for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and several other western Democrats had been working to get drought funding added to the draft legislation that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., had worked out with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Under the provision, money could be used for compensation to water users for temporary or multi-year reductions in water usage; projects that reduce use of or demand for water supplies, or provide environmental benefits, in the Colorado River Basin; and for ecosystem and habitat restoration projects address drought impacts.
Reclamation would be required to "prioritize the Colorado River Basin and other basins experiencing comparable levels of long-term drought."
The Senate is scheduled to start debating the bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, on Saturday. Schumer expressed confidence that Democrats had the votes to pass it without GOP support. Under budget reconciliation rules, the bill only needs a simple majority to pass the Senate.
The House will be in session next Friday to vote on the bill.
“The western United States is experiencing an unprecedented drought, and it is essential that we have the resources we need to support our states’ efforts to combat climate change, conserve water resources, and protect the Colorado River Basin,” Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Mark Kelly of Arizona said in a joint statement announcing the $4 billion provision.
“This funding in the Inflation Reduction Act will serve as an important resource for Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, and the work we’ve done to include it will help secure the West’s water future.”
At the direction of Reclamation, all seven Colorado River Basin states are negotiating how to slash water usage in 2023. With the region in a 21-year drought, Lake Powell and Lake Mead face a shortfall of 2 million to 4 million acre feet next year.
In addition to the drought funding, Democratic leaders also agreed to drop a carried interest tax provision that would have raised $14 billion in revenue, in favor of an excise tax on stock buybacks estimated to bring in $74 billion.
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The legislation includes $40 billion in Agriculture Committee spending, including more than $20 billion for conservation funding to promote the use of agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There had been some concerns among ag interests this week that the conservation funding would be reduced to pay for the drought provision.
A coalition of conservation and environmental groups appealed to lawmakers Friday to support the bill, citing the funding for conservation programs.
"Increasing funding for USDA’s popular and effective Farm Bill conservation programs is one of the quickest and most practical ways to energize rural economies, improve climate resilience, and ensure that our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters are part of the solution to climate change," the groups wrote in a letter to Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The groups that signed the letter included American Farmland Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environmental Working Group, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund.
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