Senator Wyden (D-OR), Senator Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Lincoln (D-AR), and Senator Bacus (D-MT), Senator Craig (R-ID), Senator Kyl (R-AZ), Senator McCain (D-AZ), Senator Domenici (D-NM), Senator Crapo (R-ID), and Senator Cochran (R-MI) cut a deal today on a new version of HR 1904. Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey led the discussions between the Senators.
According to rumors, the democrats gained very little, but caved very easily to Senate Republican and the Administration's demands. The deal will not be final, until Mark Rey goes back to the Administration to get the Administration's commitment to uphold the deal. Once the Administration signs off, the deal is done.
According to Senator Feinstein and Senator Wyden's office this new deal is not going to be attached to the Interior Appropriations bill. However, according to Senator Bacus' office, the deal now will go to the floor as a stand-alone bill and the four deal-cutting democrat Senators have committed to helping the Administration and the Senate Republicans garner the needed 60 votes to pass a bill that is filibuster proof.
However, the four deal-cutting democrats did not get a promise from the Administration or the Senate Republican's that the deal would remain intact in conference. What this means is that the deal will hold on the floor but as soon as the bill goes to conference -- all deals are off. It is highly likely that Senate Republican's at the urging of Mark Rey, will just attach the original language of HR 1904 in conference. In short, the deal-cutting democrats will likely gain nothing (if the language is just added back in, in conference) for their weak compromise.
American Lands will send out information tomorrow explaining the deal in detail. Generally, the deal-cutting democrats traded an awful lot for incredibly weak and discretionary old-growth language, that will do little, if anything to actually protect old-growth. Generally, here's the very basic information we know about the deal:
Scope: Both the hazardous fuels and watershed definitions are broader and encompass essentially everywhere in the National Forest System. No clear prioritization of the Community Protection Zone.
NEPA: The agency has to consider its preferred alternative, the "no action" alternative, and one other alternative IF the alternative was raised during scoping or during the collaborative process or it meets the agency's stated purposes and needs.
Appeals: replaces appeals reform act with a pre-decisional process
* New admonitions to courts designed to promote logging even if it otherwise would be found illegal under existing law;
* Restriction on venues;
* The public can only litigate if they have exhausted the new pre-decisional review process and they have raised the issue in the pre-decisional review process;
* Injunctions expire after 60 days and can be renewed if parties submit updated information; and
* Court would afford public agencies considerable discretion in determining the scope and extent of activities to be analyzed.
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