Governor Resists Republican Effort to Give Him More Power
They are trying to give the governor the power to work around these restrictive federal laws, yet the governor appears to be refusing their efforts.
Feb 05, 2014
Governor Brown doesn't like the Republican proposal to change federal laws that govern California water. He calls their effort an "unwelcome and divisive intrusion" in the state's efforts to address the crisis. Democrats like to portray Congressional Republican water bills as federal intrusion into a state problem. They accuse Republicans, who claim to be for state's rights, of meddling in the state's affairs. The problem with this theory is that California's water problems, when it comes to the Central Valley, are federally created problems.
The San Joaquin River Restoration was created by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jim Costa. Fixing it requires federal action. The Governor cannot do it without the House and Senate.
The pumping problems in the Delta were created by the federal Endangered Species Act. Changes to the ESA to ease the pumping rules cannot happen without the House and Senate.
The governor doesn't condemn Dianne Feinstein or Jim Costa for meddling in the state's affairs when they create the river restoration that takes hundreds of thousand of acre feet out of circulation for farmers. But, he criticizes Republicans for trying to fix it.
The governor doesn't condemn Democrats for refusing to do anything about the ESA which is a meddlesome law limiting the governor's ability to work around the pumping restrictions. Yet he criticizes Republicans for trying to fix it.
As reported by AP, the Republicans "want to give states more authority over imperiled species that fall within their borders." They are tryiing to give the governor the power to work around these restrictive federal laws, yet the governor appears to be refusing their efforts. Is he afraid that if he has the power to do something he might actually be asked to use it? It sure looks like it!!
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that a Republican effort in Congress to address California's unprecedented drought is an "unwelcome and divisive intrusion" in the state's efforts to address the crisis by pitting water users against one another.
Brown, a Democrat, sent a letter Monday to leadership of the House Committee on Natural Resources and California's entire congressional delegation asking them to oppose HR3964, which is scheduled to be taken up this week.
The legislation, which is sponsored by California's Republican congressional delegation, would allow farmers to increase pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and create a House-Senate committee to tackle water problems.
"It would override state laws and protections, and mandate that certain water interests come out ahead of others," Brown wrote in his letter. "It falsely suggests the promise of water relief when that is simply not possible given the scarcity of water supplies."
California officials announced last week they will not send any water from the state's vast reservoir system to local agencies this spring, the first time that has happened in the 54-year history of the State Water Project. State Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said there simply is not enough water in the system to meet the needs of farmers, cities and the conservation efforts that are intended to save dwindling populations of salmon and other fish throughout Northern California.
The House Majority Whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, said the Brown administration's decision puts unsustainable pressure on already dangerously low reservoirs and groundwater reserves. He urged the governor to relax state environmental regulations, such as those that protect fish, to allow more water to flow to the parched Central Valley.
"This bill ends the madness of putting fish before families and creates a solution to ensure consistent water deliveries for our communities when Mother Nature blesses us with precipitation," McCarthy said in an emailed statement Monday. "Any other proposed idea to ameliorate the effects of today's drought would not be felt for over a dozen years. Our communities cannot wait."
Brown said the federal legislation would interfere with the state's efforts and would "re-open old water wounds."
The prospects for any water bill that passes the Republican-controlled House are uncertain because Democrats control the Senate, and both of California's senators are Democrats.
AP NewsBreak: Changes sought for endangered act
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- Republicans in Congress on Tuesday called for an overhaul to the Endangered Species Act to curtail environmentalists' lawsuits and give more power to states, but experts say broad changes to one of the nation's cornerstone environmental laws are unlikely given the pervasive partisan divide in Washington, D.C.
A group of 13 GOP lawmakers representing states across the U.S. released a report proposing "targeted reforms" for the 40-year-old federal law, which protects imperiled plants and animals.
Proponents credit the law with staving off extinction for hundreds of species - from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale. But critics contend the law has been abused by environmental groups seeking to restrict development in the name of species protection.
Led by Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, the Republicans want to amend the law to limit litigation from wildlife advocates that has resulted in protections for some species. And they want to give states more authority over imperiled species that fall within their borders.
Also among the recommendations are increased scientific transparency, more accurate economic impact studies and safeguards for private landowners.
The Republicans said only 2 percent of protected species have been recovered despite billions of dollars in federal and state spending.
"The biggest problem is that the Endangered Species Act is not recovering species," said Hastings. "The way the act was written, there is more of an effort to list (species as endangered or threatened) than to delist."
The political hurdles for an overhaul are considerable. The Endangered Species Act enjoys fervent support among many environmentalists, whose Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have thwarted past proposals for change.
Federal wildlife officials said they had not yet seen the report from Hastings' group and would not comment until they have a chance to review it, said Chris Tollefson, press secretary for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Signed into law by President Richard Nixon in December 1973, the act has resulted in additional protections for more than 1,500 plants, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and other creatures, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Throughout its history, the law has faced criticism from business interests, Republicans and others. They argue actions taken to shield at-risk species such as the northern spotted owl have severely hampered logging and other economic development.
Those complaints grew louder in recent months after federal wildlife officials agreed to consider protections for more than 250 additional species under settlement terms in lawsuits brought by environmental groups.
Included in the settlement was the greater sage grouse, a chicken-sized bird that has been in decline across large portions of its 11-state Western range. A final decision on whether to protect sage grouse is due next year and could result in wide-ranging restrictions on oil and gas development, agriculture and other economic activity.
The endangered act was last amended in the 1980s. Given the current level of rancor between Democrats and Republicans, academics who track the law were skeptical that the latest calls for change would succeed.
"Both sides have enough power to prevent something happening that they don't like. But nobody has enough power to pass anything," said Dale Goble, an expert on the act who works as a law professor at the University of Idaho.
Goble added that the main reason some species linger for decades on the endangered list is a shortage of federal money to help pay for their recovery.
Vanderbilt Law School professor J.B. Ruhl said previous attempts to reform the Endangered Species Act in the 1990s and again last decade failed. Regardless of the merits of the latest proposal, Ruhl said the topic remains a "third rail" many politicians are unwilling to touch.
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