|2:53 PM EDT||
Norm Dicks, D-WA 6th
Mr. DICKS. I rise in support of my amendment. This would strike section 118, which amends administrative appeals procedures for grazing decisions on public lands to require parties to exhaust all administrative appeals before they may file suit in Federal court.
This is a back-door attempt to curtail the use of court injunctions to stop grazing decisions made by the BLM. Without the ability to seek injunctive relief, opponents of a grazing decision are handicapped because irreparable damage to a resource may occur while the administrative appeals process is being exhausted.
I yield to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran), the ranking member, to further discuss this amendment.
|2:54 PM EDT||
Jim Moran, D-VA 8th
Mr. MORAN. I thank the distinguished gentleman for yielding.
We hear from a number of people and organizations around the country who are concerned about this because without the ability to seek injunctive relief from the courts, opponents of a grazing decision are very much handicapped. Meanwhile irreparable damage to a resource may occur while the administrative appeals process is being exhausted. So that's our concern. I know that's the concern of the ranking member of the full committee.
But let me share another concern that I think underlies this whole issue of grazing. Currently--I know the ranking member's aware of this--the Federal Government charges $1.35 per month, per cow to graze on federally owned lands. In the meantime, States like Idaho charge four times that, $5.12; Montana, $6.12. Nebraska can charge up to $41 per acre to graze on State-owned land. Texas--I know the gentleman is aware of this--Texas will charge $65 to $150 per acre per cow. But the Federal Government
Now that's the kind of Federal subsidy that we really think we ought to go after. When we're cutting deeply into the bone programs for people who are destitute, programs that are absolutely necessary to protect our environment or needed infrastructure in this country, we're giving this kind of a subsidy, $1.35 to graze on Federal land versus as much as $65 to $150 that the great State of Texas charges to graze on State land. And then private land is oftentimes even more expensive. So that's the
kind of subsidy that I don't think passes the test of fairness, if the taxpayer was really aware of the kind of subsidy they're providing some grazers on their federally owned land. It ought to be rectified. But this particular issue simply rubs salt into that wound.
|2:57 PM EDT||
Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd
Mr. SIMPSON. I appreciate the gentleman from Virginia's concern about the cost or the subsidies or whatever he wants to call it, but it has absolutely nothing to do with this amendment. It's a whole different issue. Should the Resources Committee be looking at the prices charged for cattle grazing, or mining, other things? Sure, they should be. It's not the purpose of this bill. It's not the purpose of this amendment.
All this amendment says is that in the past, BLM regulations have required that litigants exhaust the administrative review before litigating in Federal court. That means they have to go through the review process that's been set up administratively before they can go to court.
Recently, numerous lawsuits over grazing have been filed in Federal courts before the administrative review process had been completed. That means they haven't gone through to find out whether they would win or lose on the administrative side. This ties up the BLM field offices because they must respond to both an administrative process on one side and a litigation process on the other side. This provision simply requires litigants to first exhaust the administrative review before litigating
grazing issues in Federal court. Litigants could still file for temporary restraining orders, contrary to what you said. They have to show irreparable harm, and they can still file for temporary restraining orders. Nothing in this provision prevents that.
I would hope--and I know the ranking member of the full committee, Mr. Dicks, because we've talked about this before--if we could spend more money actually managing the lands rather than in court, we would all be better off. All this says is, follow the administrative procedures, and exhaust them before you go to court. You still have that option after those administrative procedures have been exhausted. As I said, you can still get a restraining order if there's irreparable harm. This,
I think, will cut down on the lawsuits, and I think this is a good provision in the bill.
And I would hope that the gentlemen from Washington and Virginia would recognize how well the underlying bill is written and would withdraw the amendment.
|2:59 PM EDT||
Jim Moran, D-VA 8th
Mr. MORAN. It's only if a Federal court finds that the agency failed, or was unable to make information timely available during the administrative review, according to this language. So it's probably an unreal situation.
|3:00 PM EDT||
Jim Moran, D-VA 8th
Mr. MORAN. I would like to make two points. One is that this is clearly authorizing language on an appropriations bill. If we're going to change the law, then it ought to be done by the authorizing committee. [Page: H5611]
But, secondly, I know the gentleman is aware, you can only get an injunction from a Federal judge if you can prove that you are likely to win your case, or if there is imminent harm. So I don't know why the gentleman is so concerned about the existing legal situation.