WASHINGTON, June 15, 2016 - House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop says a final energy bill will have to include provisions to address the drought in California and other Western states. The House-passed legislation (S. 2012) includes provisions sponsored by Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., that would roll back protections for endangered species to provide more water for irrigation in the Central Valley.
“We’re going to have to have some elements of that. We’re going to push for that,” said Bishop, one of 24 House Republicans who were appointed to a conference committee to negotiate with the Senate on the energy bill. Separately, Bishop, of Utah, won’t support a provision in the Senate’s version of the bill that would permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which pays for acquisition of land and water resources by federal, state and local governments.
Valadao's Western Water and American Food Security Act, which was folded into the House version of the energy bill, would allow managers of California’s State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project to pump water for farms. The legislation would essentially overturn biological opinions issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service that ensure water flows for the Delta smelt and salmonids, limiting the amount of water that can be stored for use by farms.
California’s Democratic senators have refused to support the Valadao provisions, and the White House threatened to veto a House appropriations bill that also includes them. The White House’s statement of administration policy on the spending bill included the assessment that it would undermine efforts “to restore and maintain fish populations” in California. The Sierra Club suggested those and other House provisions doomed the effort to enact a new energy bill this year.
Bishop says of the Democratic critics, “They’ve got to pull their heads out and solve the problem.” He stops short of saying that the exact provisions from Valadao’s bill have to be in a final conference agreement on energy legislation, but he says the agreement will have to allow for impounding water for drought relief. “You’ve got to capture the stuff (water) first and keep it. There’s no other way to do it,” he said.
It’s not clear yet whether there will be a conference committee to write a compromise energy bill. The Senate has yet to agree to go to conference with the House amid Democratic resistance to the House legislation.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday wrote senators urging them to support a vote to begin negotiating with the House. “America’s energy landscape has changed dramatically since Congress last passed a multi-title energy bill a decade ago, and it is crucial that federal energy policy reflect these changes in order to maximize and prolong the benefits the recent energy renaissance is producing,” the letter said.
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