Environment Issues

Protecting Pollinators

Pollinators—including honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies, and other insects—play an important role in our farms, flower gardens, and food. In fact, some of the crops most important to Oregon’s agricultural economy—blueberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, vegetable seed, squash—rely on bees for pollination and reproduction. More than 75% of America’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by bees, and one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of bees and other pollinators. Worldwide, the contribution of bees and other insects to global food production is valued at $190 billion a year.

Given the importance of these pollinators to our food supply, it is troubling that America’s bee population is struggling. During the last eight years, beekeepers have lost, on average, more than 30% of their bee colonies annually. While many factors are believed to contribute to this die-off, significant evidence links the use of neonicotinoids, a certain class of nicotine-derived pesticides, with bee die-offs.  The threat to bees is real – neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world and their use in U.S. agriculture has been rapidly increasing.

To help address this, Congressman Blumenauer has introduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, to protect pollinators and our food supply. This legislation directs the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend use of the most bee-toxic neonicotinoids for use in seed treatment, soil application, or foliar treatment on bee attractive plants within 180 days, and to review these neonicotinoids and make a new determination about their proper application and safe use.

Oregon has already led the way in protecting our pollinators. The City of Portland has banned the use of neonicotinoids on city property, and the state has prohibited the use of these pesticides on linden trees. Congressman Blumenauer’s legislation follows the decisions of these local communities to take swift action to protect our pollinators.

 

Protecting Public Lands and Oregon Treasures

Mt. Hood and Oregon Treasures:

In 2006, the House of Representatives passed the Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act, introduced by Reps. Blumenauer and Greg Walden (R-OR). The bill designated wilderness and wild and scenic rivers on Oregon’s iconic Mount Hood, created and funded a recreation plan, and supported the development of local forestry and transportation plans. In March 2009, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, legislation to designate 127,000 acres of new wilderness and almost 80 miles of new wild and scenic rivers on and around Mt. Hood. 

Recognizing that Mount Hood is a prime recreation destination for many Oregonians, Congressman Blumenauer is exploring designation of additional wilderness and national recreation areas on the mountain. He strongly believes in preserving key areas important for fish and wildlife, as well as recreation interests.

Owyhee Canyonlands:

Congressman Blumenauer has met with many individuals, organizations, and businesses in Bend, Portland, and Washington, D.C. to hear about the conservation, recreation, and economic benefits of permanently protecting Owyhee Canyonlands in southeast Oregon. Diverse stakeholders from Blumenauer’s district have voiced loud support for conserving this unique landscape. Working with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Blumenauer has made protecting the Owyhee one of his top conservation priorities.

Supporting Outdoor Recreation:

Time and again, Oregonians identify access to the outdoors and outdoor recreation as one of the best things about living in Oregon. Oregon’s 3rd district plays host to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, one of only 11 National Scenic Trails and a true treasure for hikers and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Congressman Blumenauer recognizes the importance of outdoor recreation to communities in Oregon and around the country. Along with legislation and administrative actions to protect these special places, Blumenauer prioritizes ensuring proper funding for trail maintenance and access, so that people can enjoy lands without damaging the environment.

Congressman Blumenauer has introduced legislation to expand outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans, especially underserved communities such as veterans, seniors, and young people, to hold federal agencies accountable for making outdoor recreation a priority, and to help maintain public trails.

As co-chair of the Congressional Trails Caucus, a bipartisan group of representatives from all regions of the country dedicated to increasing awareness about America’s trail system, Blumenauer believes that our investments in trails can dramatically increase the livability of our communities - this is true for trails that provide access to nature and wild places, or trails in our cities that act as arteries connecting our neighborhoods and getting people outside. Trails touch every congressional district, rural and urban, from the Springwater Corridor, a paved biking and walking trail in Oregon's third district, to mountain bike trails in western Nebraska. Through the Trails Caucus, Blumenauer educates his colleagues on the many benefits that trails bring communities, from improving health and physical fitness, and generating economic development, to celebrating our nation’s natural and historic heritage. Trails touch every congressional district, both rural and urban, from the Springwater Corridor, a paved biking and walking trail in Oregon's third district, to mountain bike trails in western Nebraska. Through the Trails Caucus, Blumenauer educates his colleagues on the many benefits that trails bring communities, from improving health and physical fitness, and generating economic development, to celebrating our nation’s natural and historic heritage.

Each year, Blumenauer leads an effort to support funding of the National Trails System. In an era of diminishing funds, we must ensure that funding remains available to preserve and protect these treasured places, including through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other important policies that protect public lands and support projects that provide access for communities. Lack of support jeopardizes access to these trails, particularly for future generations. Inadequate investment in trails also harms our economy – America’s outdoor economy contributes $1.06 trillion to the nation’s economy each year.

 

Mitigating Risks from Fossil Fuel Energy

Congressman Blumenauer believes that we should be significantly reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and as part of that, also believes that we should not be drilling for oil in some of the most treasured places in our country. In 2001, he traveled to the American Arctic, a vast and mostly untouched region. During that visit, he saw abundant caribou and witnessed the fragility of the tundra. The oceans in this region are home to whales, fish, and birds, and provide important habitat for the threatened polar bear population. He came away from that visit with a profound sense that the Arctic is the last place we should be drilling for oil, either onshore or offshore.

He has voted against numerous proposals to open up the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. He has also urged the Obama Administration to not move forward with any oil lease sales in America’s Arctic Ocean, and was pleased when the Department of the Interior announced a moratorium on drilling there in 2015.

In 1990, Congress authorized the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which makes resources available to pay for the immediate costs of cleaning up oil spills. This is funded by an eight cents per barrel excise tax on crude oil and petroleum products.  Certain types of oil – such as oil derived from tar sands and oil shale – are not considered crude oil by definition and therefore oil companies don’t have to pay into the fund for these products. Blumenauer believes this to be unacceptable and has introduced The Tar Sands Tax Loophole Elimination Act, which close this loophole and ensure oil companies pay their fair share into the Fund.

 

Tesoro Savage

As a strong advocate for ensuring that fossil fuel companies are safely transporting oil, coal, and gas, Blumenauer has requested comprehensive and in-depth environmental reviews on the proposed Tesoro Savage Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal on the banks of the Columbia River, which, if constructed, would be the largest oil transport terminal of its kind in the United States. Blumenauer has encouraged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take into account the broad environmental, health, and safety impacts of issuing permits for this proposed terminal on tribal Treaty rights, Columbia River communities, and the river’s thriving fishing and recreation industries. 

 

Salmon and Watershed Restoration

While serving on the Water Resources Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman Blumenauer authorized a program that has become an ongoing source of appropriations funding for salmon habitat restoration projects on the Lower Columbia River and Tillamook Estuaries. Blumenauer has also encouraged the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations to keep all scientifically credible options on the table when crafting an endangered salmon recovery plan. He is a strong supporter of maintaining flows on the Columbia River and its tributaries to allow for the recovery of endangered salmon.

Congressman Blumenauer and Senator Jeff Merkley have introduced the Columbia River Basin Restoration Act, which would provide federal funding for toxics reduction in the Columbia River and support a collaborative strategy developed by stakeholders in the region to reduce levels of harmful pollutants in the river.

 

Superfund

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program was enacted in 1980 to clean up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites. The program created a tax on polluting industries to pay for clean-up where the party responsible for polluting was out of business or could not be identified. These taxes expired in 1995 and have never been reauthorized. Now, the burden of funding cleanups of these toxic waste sites falls on the shoulders of taxpaying Americans. To address this, Congressman Blumenauer has introduced the Superfund Reinvestment Act to reauthorize superfund taxes.

The Portland Harbor on the Willamette River in Portland was designated a Superfund site in 2000. Portland Harbor is contaminated with metals such as mercury, PCBs, pesticides, and other toxins. Congressman Blumenauer is bringing local stakeholders together, including businesses, Tribes, environmental groups, local government, and federal agencies, and community members, to discuss the ongoing process and timeline, and ensure that the river is cleaned up.

 

Oceans

As a lifelong observer of the effects of pollution and runoff on Oregon’s rivers, Congressman Blumenauer is deeply concerned about the state of America’s waterways. In 2015, Blumenauer supported the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule, which protects access to clean and safe drinking water for all Americans.

Blumenauer is also a member of the Oceans Caucus, which focuses on promoting scientific research of our planet's oceans, and the House Congressional Coastal Caucus, which keeps Congress informed about coastal issues and concerns, including the need to reauthorize programs such as the Coastal Zone Management Act, which calls for a coordinated approach to land use planning to balance development along our coasts with protection of our water and estuarine resources. He is outspoken about the dangers that climate change, pollution, unsustainable development and sprawl bring to the environmental health of our coastlines and oceans. Additionally, Congressman Blumenauer has supported greater investments in ocean research and observations to better prepare for the impacts of a changing climate, including rising sea levels, melting ice and ocean acidification.

 

Flood Insurance

Congressman Blumenauer is a leader in reforming the National Flood Insurance Program to ensure that it not only provides assistance to homeowners who experience flooding, but also helps keep people out of harm’s way. More than a decade ago, Congress passed and the President signed the “Bunning-Bereuter-Blumenauer Flood Insurance Reform Act,” which reformed the National Flood Insurance Program to provide mitigation assistance to property owners who live in repetitively flooded areas. Rather than continuing to rebuild in the same place, the legislation provided assistance to repeatedly flooded homeowners in either elevating or moving their homes away from flood-prone areas. Those who refuse mitigation assistance will pay the full actuarial costs for choosing to live in a risky area. In 2012, Congressman Blumenauer again led efforts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program by helping to pass the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which phased out insurance subsidies for high risk, repetitively flooded properties. He has opposed subsequent efforts to undo these reforms in Congress, such as the Grimm-Waters flood insurance legislation, which passed in 2014.

Floods claim more lives than any other natural disaster and inflict untold damage to property, infrastructure and the environment. Increased flooding is one of the impacts associated with climate change and major storm events that threaten communities along our coasts and inland waterways.  Blumenauer has focused on making communities safer and more resilient to withstand these disasters and recover more quickly after they occur. He has worked to incorporate mitigation and prevention into natural disaster policy for decades and recently led efforts in Congress to provide increased funding for FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program. Mitigation builds resistance and ultimately saves money associated with costly disaster recovery efforts. It is estimated that every $1 spent on mitigation saves roughly $3 to $4 on disaster relief spending.

Climate change means that the impacts of disasters will be different and often much more severe than they have been in the past. In 2007, the House passed Blumenauer legislation to require FEMA to take climate change into account when updating its floodplain maps and he continues to support increased funding for FEMA’s Risk MAP program to update the nation’s inventory of flood maps and risk data. This information is used by homeowners, businesses, developers, and government officials to understand flood risk and prepare for a disaster scenario. It is critical that these maps and risk information be up-to-date, reliable and trustworthy.

Congressman Blumenauer has also led an effort in Congress to support the Administration’s Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, a climate adaptation policy aimed at protecting federal investments in infrastructure. While the Standard does not apply to homeowners in the National Flood Insurance Program, it protects public investments by ensuring that federal buildings and infrastructure are built to a higher flood elevation level.