4:04 PM EDT

Tom Udall, D-NM 3rd

Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the motion to recommit, and I first want to say that this is not a motion to kill the bill. This is a motion to recommit that will make the bill fairer and will make it more balanced.

The motion to recommit would merely strike the most egregious provisions of this bill, sections 106 and 107, which are known as the judicial review provisions of this bill. In the first instance, Members should be appalled at how this bill came to the floor and how the judicial provisions that are in it got here. We had very short notice to the committees. There was no bill actually introduced. There was a committee print. That means it was never introduced as a bill in the Committee on Resources.

Apparently, the majority did not want to expose their bill to public light. Therefore, it being a committee print, there is no legislative history; and this is, in the annals of the Committee on Resources, absolutely unprecedented action.

Let me tell my colleagues what the judicial review sections do in this bill. First of all, when a court hears an action, you have before that court in these hazardous fuels actions citizens and Federal agencies and others. This section, adopted in this bill which had no hearings, adopts a standard where the Federal agency decides what is in the public interest.

When the issue comes before the court and you have citizens and Federal agencies and others that are before the court, the section that is adopted, the judicial review section, does something which is unprecedented and I do not think has been done in Federal court before. It says that the Federal agency that is acting in the public interest should be given great weight in terms of what they decide. So it tips the scale in favor of the Federal Government, and it basically rigs the system in favor

of the Federal agencies.

Throughout the debate here today, I have been asking the majority why: Why would you, who favor limited government, who favor smaller government, who are always talking in our committee about the Federal powers being too broad, why would you want to give a Federal agency not only the power to determine the public interest, but when it gets in the court, you say to the Federal Court that this Federal Court has to decide in favor of the agency? Well, the only answer I could get from the other side

is that some Senator from the other body introduced an amendment, which never made it out of the Senate, and because she happens to be in our particular party, that that is why this language is good language.

Well, she may not be right all of the time. Make no mistake about it, the majority may talk a lot about limited government, but they have a very specific purpose here. They want to give the Federal agencies, which my understanding is the President has requested this authority, unprecedented power in the Federal courts at the expense of citizens.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, let me just urge a vote for the motion to recommit. It makes the bill a more balanced bill, it makes it a fairer bill, and it protects the rights of citizens.

4:05 PM EDT

Tom Udall, D-NM 3rd

Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the motion to recommit, and I first want to say that this is not a motion to kill the bill. This is a motion to recommit that will make the bill fairer and will make it more balanced.

The motion to recommit would merely strike the most egregious provisions of this bill, sections 106 and 107, which are known as the judicial review provisions of this bill. In the first instance, Members should be appalled at how this bill came to the floor and how the judicial provisions that are in it got here. We had very short notice to the committees. There was no bill actually introduced. There was a committee print. That means it was never introduced as a bill in the Committee on Resources.

Apparently, the majority did not want to expose their bill to public light. Therefore, it being a committee print, there is no legislative history; and this is, in the annals of the Committee on Resources, absolutely unprecedented action.

Let me tell my colleagues what the judicial review sections do in this bill. First of all, when a court hears an action, you have before that court in these hazardous fuels actions citizens and Federal agencies and others. This section, adopted in this bill which had no hearings, adopts a standard where the Federal agency decides what is in the public interest.

When the issue comes before the court and you have citizens and Federal agencies and others that are before the court, the section that is adopted, the judicial review section, does something which is unprecedented and I do not think has been done in Federal court before. It says that the Federal agency that is acting in the public interest should be given great weight in terms of what they decide. So it tips the scale in favor of the Federal Government, and it basically rigs the system in favor

of the Federal agencies.

Throughout the debate here today, I have been asking the majority why: Why would you, who favor limited government, who favor smaller government, who are always talking in our committee about the Federal powers being too broad, why would you want to give a Federal agency not only the power to determine the public interest, but when it gets in the court, you say to the Federal Court that this Federal Court has to decide in favor of the agency? Well, the only answer I could get from the other side

is that some Senator from the other body introduced an amendment, which never made it out of the Senate, and because she happens to be in our particular party, that that is why this language is good language.

Well, she may not be right all of the time. Make no mistake about it, the majority may talk a lot about limited government, but they have a very specific purpose here. They want to give the Federal agencies, which my understanding is the President has requested this authority, unprecedented power in the Federal courts at the expense of citizens.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, let me just urge a vote for the motion to recommit. It makes the bill a more balanced bill, it makes it a fairer bill, and it protects the rights of citizens.

4:11 PM EDT

Bob Goodlatte, R-VA 6th

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo), the chairman of the Committee on Resources, who has done an outstanding job leading this legislation to the floor of the House. [Page: H4323]

4:12 PM EDT

Richard Pombo, R-CA 11th

Mr. POMBO. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and I tell my colleagues that this is another attempt, again another attempt to protect the status quo.

We all come down on the floor and we talk about how important it is to protect the health of our forests from the risk of catastrophic fire, but my friends on the left have continually, throughout the day, argued to protect the law exactly the way it is and to not make the necessary changes that we have to make in order to move this forward.

The provisions that we talk about in the motion to recommit are the result of negotiations between both bodies, between the minority and the majority; and it was a compromise that was reached. Granted, it is not where we started. It is not the language that I would have used to deal with this specific problem. But it was a compromise, and it was something that we all agreed on.

I would remind my colleagues that the underlying bill is an attempt to step into our national forests, areas that have been mismanaged for over 100 years, to step in and try to bring some balance, to bring local control, to bring local input and some balance into the decisions that are being made to protect those forests. That is the attempt that we are trying to make.

I am not interested in protecting the status quo. I am not interested in protecting the bureaucracy in Washington. I am interested in protecting the health of our forests and reducing the risk of catastrophic fire.

4:14 PM EDT

Bob Goodlatte, R-VA 6th

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, this is a catastrophic wildfire. It is not a natural fire that burns along the ground and takes out the brush. It consumes millions of acres of big, beautiful trees, 6.9 million acres last year, more than the size of the entire State of Vermont.

[Time: 16:15]

This is the risk in every part of the country. This is a serious problem in the West, but it is also a serious problem in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, and West Virginia, all across the south and Missouri. Every part of this country is impacted, and that is why this is bipartisan legislation crafted by Members of the House of Representatives from all across the country.

The gentleman from New York (Mr. Boehlert), the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Gilchrest), the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo), the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. McInnis), the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Walden), the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm), the gentleman from California (Mr. Thompson), and the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. Ross) contributed to the effort to make this good, bipartisan legislation.

This is what happens with a catastrophic wildfire. It does not leave a healthy forest. It leaves this kind of devastation subject to erosion. And then it rains. This is what happens when it rains. It washes everything into the rivers and streams. It turns the ground to glass. This water will not go into the ground. The ground will not percolate, these forest fires are so intense.

This is one of the main reservoirs for the city of Denver, Colorado, and this is what was washed into it after a forest fire, damaging the water supply of the community.

This is what happens in the East and Southeast, bugs: pine beetle outbreaks in Georgia and Alabama and Tennessee and the woolly adelgid in Virginia. This picture shows what happens in the eastern part of the United States without this legislation.

What does the motion to recommit do? It takes out a key provision in the bill which is the source of this problem, which is the process. The process takes 2, 3 years. The forest go up in flames from wildfires before we ever get to treat the forests for disease and insects and for buildup of fuel density that causes this kind of fire.

Do not let him take out the key provision of the bill which expedites the process. It still allows for public comment, and it still provides for public input in the administrative proceedings. It still allows for judicial review, but it does it in a fair and timely fashion that recognizes that if we do not make a change in the bureaucratic morass that we are in today, we are going to see this year after year after year until we do not have any forests.

Let us protect our endangered species and our watersheds. Let us protect our citizens from air pollution and our firefighters from dying in these hazardous fires.

Mr. Speaker, I urge Members to oppose the motion to recommit and support the underlying bill.