Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  October 1, 2015 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT

4:00 pm
to do multiyear projects. so that they can actually have a plan going forward. that hurts national security. the inability to raise the budget caps in this bill and the appropriations process is a critical blow to our troops and to our national security. the second reason is -- reason this is important is because the oco funding in this bill is not going to happen. all right? part of it is because the president is going to veto it but the larger part of it is, the senate, as they have been unable to do for a number of years, has not passed any appropriations bills. because they have rejected their own budget resolution. so this $38 billion in oco funding we're going to hear about, all this great money, it's not going to happen. buzz the appropriators have said it is not going to happen. so to have a national defense authorizing bill with $38 billion in imaginary money is not good for our troops. and it is not good for our
4:01 pm
country. we need to lift the budget caps. we need to spend the money that we need to spend on national security. i will also say that there are other pieces of national security. the budget caps remain in place for the department of homeland security. they remain in place for the department of justice. they remain in place for the department of treasury. three agencies that play a critical role in national security for this country. in tracking the money of terrorists and protecting the homeland and making sure we can try and convict terrorists when we catch them. so it is not good for the country to maintain those budget caps. and that is what this bill does. it also relies on money that simply isn't going to be there by having this imaginary oco funding. the second way i think this bill was not good for the troop, not good for the country is something the chairman alluded to, and that is there are restrictions on what the pentagon can do by way of saving money. the chairman mentioned the a10 but there are a whole host of
4:02 pm
other things the pentagon has proposed as a way to save money and spend it more efficiently which over the course of the last two or three years we have blocked almost every attempt. not every attempt. on personnel savings. we have made changes in the retirement system. we have made changes in the health care system. we saved no money for 10 year. for 10 years we save no money in personnel cost while the pentagon tells thause to be able to properly train our troops, to get them ready to go to battle, they need personnel cost savings. if we don't give them that savings, last year, next year, this year, in the future, they will not have the money for readiness that they need to train and equip our troops. so that's not good for the country. there are a number of other provisions, areas, brac would be a big one. we have seen our army and marine kearp shrink substantially. we've seen our entire military is rick substantially. we have not closed any bases. that's not good for the couldn't troy not find savings there. i yield myself 30 seconds. the speaker pro tempore: the
4:03 pm
gentleman is recognized. mr. smith: to not find savings -- there to spend it on training our troops. over the last two or throo -- or three years we have wound up authorizing and appropriating money in congress for readiness. not this year, assuming you imagine that this oco money will a-- will appear. the bulk of the oco money makes up for the readiness gap. i don't think this bill is good for our country or good for the troops but i do agree with the chairman that that's the criteria on which it should be judged. i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is -- reserves, the gentleman is recognized. mr. thornberry: the gentleman -- i yield two minutes to the gentleman from virginia, mr. forbes. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. forbes: thank you for your hard work on this bill. mr. chairman, one of the things you won't hear outside of this room is anybody challenging the
4:04 pm
substance of this bill. the opponents of the bill time and time again say what a good bill it is. you won't hear anyone challenging the partisanship of this bill because they will praise chairman thornberry for the bipartisan product he's brought to the floor. . you won't hear them saying the right amount of money, too much or too little, because it's almost the amount of money the president requested. or they took it from another priority because they agree it is the amount of money and spud be spent on national defense. the sole reason the bill is being opposed and the president will veto it is because he wants to use national defense as a battering chip to get everything he wants for the i.r.s., e.p.a., and all the other political agenda he has. can you imagine as chairman thornberry mentioned how strong he looks around the globe when he says america's going to be strong, yet he vetoes the bill that authorizes the national defense of this country and gives him almost everything he wants. the president and opponents of
4:05 pm
this bill also need to realize that if they defeat this bill, they will also defeat the construction of three destroyers, two attack subs, three small surface combatants, and delay the air force bomber and tanker programs. mr. chairman, it's time we stop using national defense as some kind of political poker chip that can be gambled away, and it's time we pass this bill. with that i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from virginia yields back. the gentleman from texas reserves. the gentleman from washington. mr. smith: thank you, mr. chairman. i yield myself one minute. first of all, i very specifically challenge the substance of this bill. the o.c.o. funding and the way it is funding is not good for national security and not good for our troops. the substance of the bill is precisely the issue and what it does for defense or does not do for defense. that is why using the o.c.o. funding is the exact wrong way to go. the other thing i will say is i am quite confident that we will get a bill. that's the interesting thing about this argument. as i pointed out the appropriators in the senate have already rejected the
4:06 pm
o.c.o. funding. this $38 billion that we have in here is gone, done, poof, not going to happen. we are going to have to have a further debate about that in the appropriations committee to actually fund any of the stuff that we are talking about in this bill. i am confident that we'll have that debate. i wish i could be more confident it will come out in a positive way. we need to lift the budget caps. we actually need to pass appropriations bills and not shut the government down. we'll see what happens on december 11, but when that happens, we can pass this bill. we are not going to not pass the ndaa. we just need to pass it the right way so it actually helps our country and actually funds the programs that we are talking about. i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from texas. mr. thornberry: i yield myself 30 seconds. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized. mr. thornberry: i thank the gentleman from washington really makes the case when he talks about appropriations, o.c.o. will not happen that way. this is not an appropriation bill. he's exactly right.
4:07 pm
there is more to do to figure all of that out. but that is not a reason to vote against this bill. this bill can't fix what he's complaining about. but it does do something and my point is, why not do what it can? mr. speaker, i yield two minutes to the distinguished chairman of the subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities, the gentleman from south carolina, mr. wilson. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from south carolina is recognized for two minutes. mr. wilson: thank you, mr. speaker. thank you, mr. chairman. i'm grateful to support the national defense authorization act for fiscal year 2016 and also thank chairman m.a.c. thornberry for his leader -- mac thornberry for his leadership and hard work in bringing this conference report to the floor with bipartisan support. i appreciate serving as chairman of the emerging threats and capability subcommittee to oversee some of the most important aspects of the department of defense. the subcommittee's portion of the bill represents a comprehensive and bipartisan product. for this reason it is said that some our democratic colleagues may vote against this bill and worse that the president is
4:08 pm
threatening a veto. mr. speaker, a veto or vote against this bipartisan bill is a vote against security for american families. and a vote against every member of the armed services and its military families. it would be a vote against authorizations that would strengthen our cyberdefense capabilities. it would be a vote against counter terrorism programs and resource for our special operations forces currently fighting overseas. and it would be a vote against reform efforts and programs that would ensure america maintains superiority in all areas of science and technology. mr. speaker, i urge my colleagues to cross the aisle to support this bipartisan national defense authorization act and for the president to sign this important piece of legislation that will soon cross his desk. a vote of veto against this measure is simply put a vote against in providing and endangering american families and a vote against the american dedicated service members who
4:09 pm
mean so much to our country. thank you, chairman thornberry. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from south carolina yields back. the gentleman from texas reserves. the gentleman from washington. mr. smith: i yield myself one minute just to make two quick points. first of all, we will have a motion to recommit that takes the money out of o.c.o. and puts it into the base budget. this is a problem that our bill could fix. we didn't have to buy into the o.c.o. dodge and put money in there we knew wasn't going to exist. our motion to recommit will make that obvious. we will simply take it out of o.c.o., put it in the base budget so that you can do long-term planning with it and so we actually get out from under the budget caps. he second point i will make is -- not supposed to name people. the previous speaker who said voting against the defense bill was all of those bad things, well, people have voted against the defense bill. in 2009 and 2010, all but seven or eight members of the republican party voted against the defense bill. they voted against the defense
4:10 pm
bill because they didn't like don't-ask, don't-tell in one instance and didn't like adding lgbt people to hate crimes in the other instance. they all were perfectly willing to vote against the troops and do all of the awful things the previous speaker said for social policy reasons that had nothing to do with defense. so voting against the defense bill does not mean that you don't support the troops. that's proof because most of the people who are now saying that it does have voted against the bill in the past. if i may i'm not sure if this works, i wanted to yield time to -- do we need to go back over there? i will yield five minutes to the gentleman from maryland, mr. hoyer. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from maryland is recognized for five minutes. i thank the gentleman for yielding. this is my 35th year in the congress of the united states. i don't know that i voted against prior to this year
4:11 pm
either a defense appropriation bill or defense authorization bill. i will vote against this bill. i regret that i will vote against this bill because i regret that we have not gotten ourselves on a fiscally sound path and a bipartisan way that makes this country more secure not only on the national defense side but secure on the domestic side as well. i rise in opposition, mr. speaker, to this conference report which i believe does a disservice to our men and women in uniform and undermines our national security. i do not believe this is the chairman's fault. i want to make that very clear. the chairman has been dealt a hand and he's trying to play the best hand he can. and i understand that. i agree, fully, however, with the ranking member with his
4:12 pm
concerns in opposition to this bill not because of its substance but because of the adverse impact it has on so much else. this continues the republicans' see quester sneak around strategy. what do i mean by that? my republican colleagues historically since i have been here talk about spending money. what they don't like to do is pay for things. that's of course what we do in taxes. it's not for free, national security. , law ion, health care enforcement you have to pay for it. and if you want to put a level of doing something, you need to pay for that or you pass it along to the next generation. this sequester seek around
4:13 pm
strategy of blowing through their own defense spending cap by misusing overseas contingency funding for nonemergency base defense spending, that's why the pentagon is opposed to this. that's why the joint chiefs believe this is bad fiscal policy for the military. our military planners and secretary carter made clear, such an approach to funding undermines the pentagon's long-term planning process which is based on multiyear budgets and predictable funding sfreems. unfortunately -- streams. unfortunately, the fiscal policies of the leadership of this house over the last years, six years, have been anything but predictable. we avoided a shut down of government yesterday notwithstanding the fact 151 of
4:14 pm
my republican colleagues voted ot to fund government today. only democrats ensured the fact that we kept the government opened. 91 republicans voted with us. but that was far less than half of their caucus. this proposal undermines the chances for a bipartisan budget agreement to replace the sequester before the c.r. repassed yesterday expires on december 11. 151 republicans voted even against keeping government opened for a short period of time, approximately two months. this approach, including this bill, also harms fundamental national security priorities by characterizing core defense
4:15 pm
items as part of contingency operations. that is not true. it is not fiscally helpful. this includes the iron dome missile defense programs and all other u.s.-israel joint missile defense programs that helps israel protects civilians from hamas and hezz bowl yap rockets. -- hezbollah rockets. unfortunately, this report prevents the administration from closing the detention facility at guantanamo bay which remains a recruiting tool for terrorists and undermine america's role as a beacon of constitutional rights and freedoms around the world. $2.4 ile, we are spending illion per detainee every year for those rehold at guantanamo. -- those we hold at guantanamo. mr. smith: i yield an additional minute.
4:16 pm
mr. hoyer: the ranking member of the armed services committee oppose this is bill, strongly, as do members of that committee. the president has already made it clear he's going to veto this bill. not because he's against national security and ironically republicans have come to the number that the president proposed. there's a difference. the president paid for his number. he didn't pass it along to our children. we must recognize this conference report for what it is, a vehicle for partisan messaging and an instrument for breaking with the murray-ryan principle of parity in defense and nondefense sequester relief. it's not a bill that makes america safer and a stronger force for justice around the world. therefore i'll oppose it. i thank my friend, mr. smith, once again for the work -- for his work trying to improve this bill in committee, on this floor, and in conference. and for his untiring work in support of the men and women in our nation's armed services.
4:17 pm
i thank the chairman of the committee for the same thing. he was dealt a bad hand. i understand he has to play. it's not good for our country. i urge my colleagues to vote no. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired. the gentleman from washington reserves. the gentleman from texas. mr. thornberry: mr. speaker, i yield myself 30 seconds. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from texas is recognized for 30 seconds. mr. thornberry: i make three brief poivents. number one as this debate goes on it's increasingly clear the real debate is about budget and appropriations not about this bill. secondly, i'm one of those who voted to continue to fund the government because i think it's essential that we pay our troops and there be no lapse in that. unfortunately, we have today the white house playing politics with national security and i think that's what makes an ultimate agreement harder. finally, the president was short in funding israeli missile defense. we fully fund israeli missile defense in this bill and it should be supported. mr. speaker, i yield two minutes to the distinguished chairman of the tactical air
4:18 pm
and land forces subcommittee, the gentleman from ohio, mr. turner. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from ohio is recognized for two minutes. mr. turner: thank you. i rise in support of h.r. 1735, what would be the 5 th consecutive national defense authorization act. what we have here today is, unfortunately, partisan politics at its worse. you have people coming down on the house floor condemning a bill that they voted for. and now they are going to vote against it because the president has decided that he's going to veto it. he's not going to veto it because what's in this bill. he's going to veto it because there's not enough spending on the bureaucracies of the i.r.s. and the e.p.a. we know this because not only has the president said it, even the defense secretary ash carter has said it in front of the armed services committee. now, if this was such a bad bill, you would think this it wouldn't come out -- have come out of our committee for almost unanimous support both sides of
4:19 pm
the aisle, bipartisan, unbelievable support for this bill, and virtually the same structure that it's coming to this floor. only when president obama stepped forward only when the president came out and said, i'm going to veto it, did it lose bipartisan support. this isn't an issue about republicans and democrats. this administration, the author of sequestration, president obama, set forth a plan that's been dismantling our military and needs to be set aside. what we have in this bill is a bill that fully funds national defense even as the minority leader, steny hoyer, said, that fully funds it at the level requested by the president. now you can say there are gimmicks. you can say there are tricks. but you can also say what is important and as you go to the experts to determine whether or not this bill work. chairman dempsey of the joint chiefs of staff stood in front of our committee and asked the question of does the structure of this bill fully fund national
4:20 pm
defense he said absolutely that he could spend it, that it would be the number that is necessary, he also said it was the lower jagged edge of what is necessary for national security. so chairman dempsey says in front of our committee, and he's certainly the expert, that this works, it works. i urge everyone to support this bill, set aside sequestration, set aside partisan politics and support our men and women in uniform. thank you. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from texas reserves. the gentleman from washington. mr. smith: i reserve. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from texas. mr. thornberry: at this time i'm pleased to yield two minutes to the distinguished chair of the strategic forces subcommittee, the gentleman from alabama, mr. rogersing for the purposes of a colloquy. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for two minutes. mr. rogers: i want to thank you for your leadership in getting us here today. i'd like to ask the chairman a question, if i might, does the legislation provide the president the exact amount of money he requested in his budget
4:21 pm
request? mr. thornberry: the gentleman is correct. the total is exactly the amount the president asked for. mr. rogers: that's what i thought. and does the chairman recall who it was that testified that the amount requested for fiscal year 2016 for national defense is, quote, at the ragged edge of manageable risk, close quote. mr. thornberry: as the gentleman from ohio just said, it was the chairman of the joint chiefs said this is the lower raggedofpblge what it takes to defend the country. mr. rogers: and that individual is the president's senior military advisor, isn't he? mr. thornberry: yes, sir. mr. rogers: so we have an easy choice, we can vote for a conference report that sends a bill to the president, that provides authorized funding at exactly the level he requested. or we can send the nation below the quote, ragged edge of manageable risk, closed quote. it's a bill that provides $320
4:22 pm
million increase for our israeli increase on top of the $550 million in the president's request for missile defense cooperation. i'd ask members, especial -- especially those who supported the iran deal, that it's this funning that the administration said was vital to israel's security. because of that deal and it's -- and its termination of multilateral sanctions on ballistic missile proliferation. s that bill that provides $184 billion to -- million to fund an american rocket to end our reliance on russian made rocket engines. s that bill that provides the president's request of $358 million for cooperative threat reduction activities. what does that mean? that's how we fight ebola. mr. speaker, my fellow members, there are some tug boats that we have to take around here from -- tough votes we have to take around here from time to time, this is not one of them. vladimir putin is bombing anti-assad forces in syria. you want to make putin happy, vote against this bill.
4:23 pm
with that, i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from alabama yields back they have gentleman from texas reserves this egentleman from washington. mr. smith: i yield myself two minutes. mr. smith: -- the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for two minutes. mr. smith: the reason we are at the ragged edge of what defense needs is because of the budget caps. that is the issue. that is the substantive issue in why this is important. tied into that is a regrettable fact. the chairman says repeatedly, look, thises the authorizing bill. don't talk to me about the budget, don't talk to me about propings. the defense budget is over half of the discretionary budget system of unfortunately, the defense bill is about the budget and about the appropriations process. and as long as we have those budget caps locked in place, we will be at the ragged edge of what we can do to protect our national security. we shouldn't be there. we should lift the budget caps. this ndaa locks in those budget caps, uses the oco dodge which
4:24 pm
as i pointed out the senate isn't agreeing to the $38 billion isn't going to be there and even worse, what secretary carter has also said is that the oco funding perpetuates the five years of budget cuts and uncertainty of c.r.'s of government shutdown, of threatened government shutdowns, of not being able to plan. secretary carter has been very clear. he opposes this bill because the oco funding is not an adequate way to fund defense because it is one year money, it is a budget gimmick, it doesn't give them the ability to plan and do what they need to protect our country and take care of our troops. opposing this bill because of oco funding is enormously important to our troops and is a substantive part of this. i want to respond about the committee vote. we in committee said, we didn't like the oco funding, we needed that to be fixed. but we're coming out of committee, we're going to give it a chance to work its way
4:25 pm
through the process. no changes were made, we opposed it on the floor. we didn't just wake up yesterday and oppose this. democrats voted against this bill when it came to the house in the first place. the critically important issue we absolutely made a point of in committee was not fixed. so that is why we are opposing this bill. i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from texas. mr. thornberry: i'm pleased to yield two minutes to the distinguished chair of the subcommittee on readiness, the gentleman from virginia, mr. wittman. mr. wittman: recent hi former
4:26 pm
secretary of state dr. henry kissinger proclaimed the united states has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crises tins the -- since the end of the second world war. this statement holds true today as we combat isis in the middle east, as russia again tests our commitment to global leadership and as china continues to increase its defense spending to record levels. congress has a constitutional duty for providing for the common defense of our nation. if congress and the president fail to act on the nda asks we forgo our constitutional duty and weaken the security of our nation and ability to confront crises that occur around the globe. it is also important to point out that this is not the time to play political games with our national security or to hold hostage funding and authorization for the military for political aim. our nation and our men and women in the military deso -- deserve better and they deserve the proper support that congress is under obligation to provide. as we have heard through testimony from our military leaders before the committee,
4:27 pm
our military is approaching the ragged edge of being able to execute our nation's defense strategy. by not passing this ndaa or by allowing sequestration to continue to devastate our nation's military readiness, we place ourselves in a position where we will be unable to defend against the threats we face today and in the future. i urge my colleagues to support this bill and vote in favor of the national defense authorization act of f.y. 2016. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman in virginia yields back. the gentleman from washington. mr. smith: i agree with a lot of what the gentleman said about how critical national security is, yet the republican majority insists on maintaining those budget caps that are devastating to our national security. they will not lift the caps that are causing precisely the problems just described and 151 of them voted yesterday to defund the entire military by shutting down the government. so if we realy believe in all those national security priorities, let's start funding
4:28 pm
them. lift the budget caps and actually pay for it. with that, i yield three minutes to the gentlelady from california, ms. davis. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady is recognized for three minutes. rs. davis: i want to associate myself with the ranking chair. we all work very , -- we all work very, very hard on this committee and i appreciate the work that our chairman has had as well. i have to say, i'm speaking largely as someone who has never not supported an ndaa. i actually did support it in committee and i support it on the floor. but i think we're in a box and sometimes when you get in a box you've got to do something about it. you can't just stay in there and sit. it means making some hard decisions. i've listened in the committee. secretary carter was there. i have to say, i think he was a bit badgered in that discussion
4:29 pm
but at the same time he's a big boy and he can handle that. basically what he said is, of course we support those issues. of course we want a better budget for the men and women who serve our country. because it's in the best interests of the united states of america. but we also have to be concerned about the future, not just about tomorrow. we've got to be able to do this for the men and women and for our country as we move forward. and that's what this doesn't do. we've got to give this a chance. it's got to be a better chance. that's why i feel i have been there. and i have compromised. and there are a lot of members on that committee honestly who are not willing to compromise. we're trying to find that balance. i'm proud of the work we've done on the personnel committee. i'm proud because we made some gains. we sort of shuffled some issues
4:30 pm
a little bit to be able to say to our leaders that we understand their concerns. we understand what readiness means in this country and we've got to deal with that and maybe we can't deal with all these issues that we've tried to make sure we funded to the very, very highest limit that we could possibly do that. we know there's some changes perhaps that are coming and so we do it in incremental way, in a slow way, and something we think is in the best interests of the men and women and the country at the same time. we've got to do that. we have multiple global crises going on in this country so we can't just make a decision for today. it's got to be down the line. what is it that we need to do? we need to be sure -- mr. smith: i yield the gentlelady 30 seconds. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady is recognized for 30 seconds. mrs. davis: what was secretary carter talking about?
4:31 pm
predictability. not just for our folks at the pentagon to be able to make sure that men and women of this country are provided with everything that they need, but we also need to be sure that those who work with our country, we have a very strong contractual relationship with the public-private sector in this country. and we need to provide for them as well. that's why i stand today. i believe it is in the intest interest to go back and work this out. you know what? mr. smith: i yield an additional minute. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlewoman is recognized for one minute. mrs. davis: i work in a community where we have large numbers of military families and guess what. the military is no different than the rest of our country. it is made safer and stronger by homeland security, by law enforcement, by environmental protection, and by strong education programs.
4:32 pm
they care about all those things. so they want us to stand up for their children and for their future. and we can do this together. let's take that chance. it's worth it. thank you, mr. speaker. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlewoman yields back. the gentleman from washington reserves. the gentleman from texas. mr. thornberry: i'm pleased to yield two minutes to the distinguished chair of the subcommittee on oversight, mrs. hartzler. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlewoman is recognized for two minutes. mrs. hartzler: thank you, mr. chairman. i agree with the lady that we need to make our choices. but we don't need to do this in this bill. we can't solve the problems that have been reiterated in this bill. this is a budget issue. and i serve on the budget committee as well and i believe we need to undo sequestration for our national defense. we need to come up with a comprehensive plan to address the cost drivers of our country that are causing us to go into debt. we need to get our priorities
4:33 pm
back as a country and make sure we provide for the common defense. we need to do that in a budget, in a comprehensive way. but we don't need to hold our military hostage today by not approving the expenditure of funds for the vital things that they need. that's what my colleagues are doing. so i appreciate their intent. i look forward to working with, and many of us to, to solve this overall problem. but today our military need to know we are standing behind them and we're going to authorize them with the things we need. this bill is full of the things that our country and our men and women in uniform need. and as the chairman of the oversight investigation subcommittee, we're doing an investigation dealing with the transfer of detainees out of gitmo and what happened with sergeantberg dal and the taliban five. i was especially make sure the detapees are not removed from guantanamo bay and
4:34 pm
brought into our local communities. in addition we set up an additional protocol so that the secretary of defense has to certify that any detainees that go to foreign countries, that country is able to detain them, keep them safe, make sure they don't go back into the fight and continue their terrorist activities. this bill takes care of our troops. it addresses the threats facing us. we have so many. whether it is what's going on in ukraine and with russia, whether it is dealing with isil. whether it is the cyberthreat that we have. every day there are threats coming around us and we address them in this bill. that's why we need to pass it. it also provides for the platforms that we need. i urge my colleagues to do the right thing, to stand with our troops, to provide them with what they need. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady's time has expired. the gentleman from texas reserves. the gentleman from washington. mr. smith: i reserve. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from washington reserves. the gentleman from texas. mr. thornberry: mr. speaker, i'm pleased to yield two minutes to the distinguished chair of the subcommittee on
4:35 pm
military personnel, the gentleman from nevada, dr. heck. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from nevada is recognized for two minutes. mr. heck: i thank the gentleman for yielding. as chairman of the subcommittee on military personnel, i appreciate chairman thornberry's efforts. his dedication to our armed forces, families, and veterans is commendable. supporting the men and women who volunteer to pick up a weapon, stand a post, and guard the freedoms and liberties that make our nation great is a primary function of the federal government. article 1, section 8 of the constitution to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, tood with the adoption of this conference report, we achieve that goal. included in the report are personnel provision that is will allow us to recruit and retain the best and brightest, maintain an agile military force, and ensure our brave men and women in uniform are given the benefits they have earned and deserve. not the president has threatened to veto this conference report even though the report authorizes the amount he requested in his own
4:36 pm
budget because he's not happy with the manner in which it is provided. he is using our military men and women as political pawns to get increases in nondefense spending. i understand that he's urged some of my colleagues to vote no today, and i want to make sure my colleagues know some of the things they would be voting against. a new retirement plan that provides options and a portable retirement benefit for individuals who serve less than 20 years. roughly 8 % of the force. a pay raise for our military men and women, along with many special pays and bonuses, that are critical to maintaining the all volunteer force. and a joint uniformed drug formulary between the department of defense and department of veterans affairs so that transitioning service members get to stay on the drugs that are working for them as they leave active service. and enhance protections for sexual assault victims to include expanding access to special victims' council, protecting victims from
4:37 pm
retaliation, and improving the military rules of evidence. if the president follows through with this veto threat, serpviss members and their families will be -- service members and their families will be deprived of these significant improvements to their compensation and quality of life. i urge my colleagues to stand with our military men and women and their families and support this report. i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. the gentleman from texas reserves. the gentleman from washington. mr. smith: may i inquire how much time remains on reach side? the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from washington has 10 minutes. the gentleman from texas has 10 1/2 minutes. mr. smith: i yield myself 3 minutes. there was a comment earlier about the military being held hostage by these other needs. and i think it's really important to understand that over the course of the last five years with the military -- what the military has really been held hostage to is the budget caps. one government shut down, multiple c.r.s, and multiple threatened government shut downs. that is what is holding the
4:38 pm
military hostage. you talk to them about how they have tried to figure out what they can spend money on and what they can't spend money on throughout that madness, because we can't pass along a budget because we can't lift the budget caps, because we can't pass appropriations, that is what is holding them hostage. a one or two-month delay in passing the ndaa, which by the way we passed in december for the last three or four years, isn't going to hold them hostage at all. what is holding them hostage is that ridiculous budget process that i just mentioned. why do we have that ridiculous budget process? because the republican majority those on maintaining budget caps. it is those budget caps that are holding our military hostage. unless we lift them, we will not be able to adequately fund defense. i have heard a number of times over here that the only reason we oppose this is because we want more spending on other programs. that is not even close to true
4:39 pm
and it's obvious no one is listening to the arguments i have been making. the reason we oppose this is because it perpetuates our military being held hostage to budget caps, budget gimmicks, c.r.s, and threatened government shut downs. this bill has o.c.o. funding in it. it does not have base budget funding. it does not provide the same amount of money for the president that the president's budget provides. because it's not the same money. and the type of money does matter. if you have actual budget authority, if you have actual appropriations you can spend them over multiple years because you know they are going to be there. it is absurd the way we have budgeted for the last five years. and what we are doing in opposing this bill is standing up to that absurdity for many reasons, i will grant you, but number one is to protect our national security and the men and women who serve in the armed forces who have had to live with that government shut down.
4:40 pm
those c.r.s, those threatened government shut downs, and most importantly, those budget caps that the majority refuses to lift. unless we lift those, the military is going to be in this situation in perpetuity. that is unacceptable for our national security. it is all about national security, it is all about defense for why we are opposing this bill. we can't go on like this and have an adequate national security. we have to lift the budget caps. i'll say one other thing. we have to raise taxes somewhere. in the last 1 years we cut taxes by somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 trillion. now, granted unquestionably places in the budget we can cut and we have cut. i yield myself an additional two minutes. we have cut medicare. i know we have cut medicare because the republican party ran all kinds of ads bashing us for cutting medicare back in 2010. we found about $700 billion in savings which extended the life of the program and saved money. so we have saved money.
4:41 pm
but the flat refusal to raise any revenue is what has got our military with the hand around its throat. because believe it or not, you have to actually raise the money if you're going to spend it. as you stand up here complaining about all the things that we are not funding, -- funding this thuret and insist on maintaining the budget caps and insist on not raising a penny in taxes, that is the grossest hypocrisy i can imagine. if you were unhappy with how much money is being spent on the military, have the guts to raise the caps and raise the taxes to actually pay for it. or just stop talking about it and accept it at that level. we are opposing this bill because the budget process that we have been under is what is throttling our military. and until we break that grip, until we get an actual appropriations process, until we get the budget caps lifted and until, i believe, we actually raise some revenues to
4:42 pm
pay for it, we are not going to be doing adequate service to the men and women of our military. i also want to say that i oppose this bill because it also continues to keep guantanamo bay opened at the cost of nearly $3 million per inmate. in addition to being an international problem, it is unbelievably expensive and not necessary. we should shut guantanamo. this bill locks in place for another year that it will stay open and does not give the president any option or flexibility in that regard. again, don't tell me or anyone over here we'll vote no for reasons that have nothing to do with national security. how can you possibly look at the last five years of budgeting and the impact it has had on the department of defense and say that getting rid of the budget caps isn't absolutely critical to national security? i believe that it is and that's why we oppose this bill. i reserve the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from washington reserves. the chair will receive a message. the messenger: mr. speaker, a message from the senate. the secretary: mr. speaker. the speaker pro tempore: madam secretary. the secretary: i have been directed by the senate to
4:43 pm
inform the house that the senate has passed without amendment h.r. 2835, cited as the border jobs for veterans act of 2015. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from texas. thornberry: mr. speaker, i yield myself such time as i may consume. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for one minute. mr. thornberry: i want to make a couple points. number one is i share a lot of concerns about the effects of sequestration on the military. as this conversation continues, it's clearer and clearer that the real problem here is budgets and now we hear taxes. this bill cannot solve either of those problems. we cannot rewrite the tax code or raise taxes. we can't repeal obamacare. there's lots of things we can't do. but we can do some things and we should do that. secondly, a dollar of o.c.o. is just as much as a dollar of base is spent. i don't think if you are in afghanistan you care about the
4:44 pm
label put on the money. the increase in the o.c.o. account is operations and maintenance money which only good for one year anyway. next point, in fiscal year 2013, israeli missile defense was funded in o.c.o. and yet we had members on that side of the aisle, including some who are complaining about that, vote for it. that's what we do sometimes. timely, this president signed into law the exact provisions on restricting gtmo transfers -- i yield myself an additional 0 seconds. mr. speaker, -- 30 seconds. mr. speaker, in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 this president signed into law the exact restrictions on guantanamo transfers that we have in this bill. now, is it all of a sudden such a big deal that he's decided that he's going to veto the bill over it? i think that is a hard case to
4:45 pm
make. mr. speaker, at this point i would be pleased to yield two minutes to the distinguished chair of the house small business committee, the gentleman from ohio, mr. chabot. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman from ohio is recognized for two minutes. mr. chabot: i thank the gentleman for yielding. mr. speaker, the passage of an annual national defense authorization act to lay out our nation's defense and national security priorities is one of our most important duties as members of congress. this year's no different. especially given the very serious conflicts happening around the globe in eastern europe, in the middle east, in the south china sea. which have serious implication force our own security and for our allies. this year's ndaa makes a number of positive changes to d.o.d.'s small business contracting policies to help ensure that small businesses throughout the country can continue to perform the critical support functions that help make america's military still the best in the world. mr. speaker, hitting a small
4:46 pm
business industrial base means taxpayers benefit from increased competition, innovation, and job creation. since 2013 we have lost over 25% of the small firms registered to do business with the government. 25%. that's over 100,000 small businesses. the reforms in this year's ndaa, the bill we are considering now, takes steps to reverse that trend. now, the white house is threatened to veto this bill. that's a shame because this partisan, bicameral bill defends small businesses and ensures that the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in our industrial base. this isn't about political gamesmanship, at least it shouldn't be. this is about two of the most bipartisan issues in the political arena, the men and women in uniform, and the small businesses that employ half of our american work force. i sincerely hope that the president reconsiders and enacts this bipartisan,
4:47 pm
bicameral bill. i want to thank a number of members of my committee who have contributed to this year's bill, including mr. hardy of nevada, mr. knight of california, mr. curbelo of florida, mr. raddy wagon of american samoa, and mr. hanna of new york. i'd also like to thank a number of other members and thank mr. thornberry. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. the gentleman from texas reserves. the gentleman from washington reserves. the gentleman from texas. mr. thornberry: mr. speaker, i'm pleased to yield two minutes to the distinguished gentleman from ohio. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman is recognized for two minutes. mr. wenstrup: our military must always be available and able to ready, aim, fire at a moment's notice. the threats we face around the world today demand it. and as a soldier and veteran, i can tell you that ready in the military needs to be spoken as a command not proposed as a question. there's one crucial element our military has to be ready to engage the threats.
4:48 pm
this bill ensures our military readiness, it ensures that there's a plan for 2016, from isis to russia to north korea, the threats we face are too serious to wait any longer. but in the same week that the president was surprised by the russians bombing u.s.-backed forces in syria, he's threatening to veto this national defense bill. veto our national security, really? i encourage the president to use his phone and to paraphrase his own words, to call the 1980's and ask for their foreign policy back because we need it. . that policy demands that it must be backed by the full confidence of this government now. this can't wait. pass this to give our troops new retirement benefits. pass this to keep our weapons systems at operational level. we've been working on this legislation since the beginning of this year. it's a good bill that adhere's to the law and it's the certainty our troops need. pass this bill, our troops need it.
4:49 pm
they don't let you down, don't at the lem -- don't let them down. i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. the gentleman from texas reserves. the gentleman from washington reserves. the gentleman from texas. mr. thornberry: i yield two minutes to the vice chair of the subcommittee on readiness, the gentlelady from new york, ms. stepanek. the speaker pro tempore: the gentlelady is recognized. ms. stepanek: thank you to chairman thornberry for his leadership, guidance and tireless efforts on this imperative piece of legislation. ust this -- ms. stefanik: just this past week, this served a as another reminder to us all that this region remains unstable and brins about challenges to our national security. the f.y. 2016 ndaa provides our nation's armed forces with the resources they need to defend our national security. since september 11, the army's 10th mountain division out of
4:50 pm
fort drum, chime honored to represent, has been the most actively forward deployed division to iraq and afghanistan. yet sadly just this past month, specialist kyle gilbert, a soldier from the 10th mountain division, died in afghanistan while serving our nation. in new york's north country, our community and our military families understand what fighting for our nation's liberties and freedoms truly means. so when i express my support for the ndaa, the tools it provides and how it enabled our armeds fors to defend our
4:51 pm
>> we are holding the community of douglas county in our hearts today. the work that first responders have done is harrowing. to our first responders, thank you for your work as this community reels from grief. i'm leaving now to go to roseburg. oregon state superintendent rich evans is here to make additional remarks. lease take care. >> the first 911 calls came in in the roseburg area at 10:38.
4:52 pm
all law enforcement responded immediately to the campus. the active shooter was engaged by law enforcement. and later confirmed to be deceased. our number one priority is to make sure the scene is secure and the victims are treated and making sure that we have a complete crime scene and that we continue to make sure that there are no additional threats. the oregon state police is combining with all the local law enforcement including the douglas county law enforcement office making sure that we have set up a command center and set up a center for media relations to assist you in the future. we are working through a family unification center. the families in these type of events are frag i will and make
4:53 pm
sure we are communicating with them as we move forward. these -- i would like to remind the media these scenes change. making sure all victims are safe. additional information may take some time for us to get that information accurately to you. our number one priority is taking care of the victims, families and community of roseburg. i thank the first responders that responded today in a timely manner and thank you. >> we aren't going to take any more questions today. and there is a command center there in roseburg and we will talk to you there. >> not quite 2:00 p.m. pacific time in oregon. officials during this press conference said the shootings reported at 10:30 a.m. roseburg, in the fourth district, represented by
4:54 pm
congressman peter defazio and tweeted a message, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and facebook page said he plans to work with his colleagues in congress to find ways to prevent tragedies. another tweet from senator wyden. we are prying for them. the rrific news from umpqua college. my hearts and prayers are with them. 10 people reported dead in the shootings in roseburg oregon. we will turn events from the washington ideas forum which started yesterday. we will hear from massachusetts democratic senator on the importance of financial reform. and then house republican conference chair on the house res. ig nation of john boehner, both here on c-span.
4:55 pm
>> the c-span networks feature politics, nonfiction books and american history. saturday morning at 10:00 eastern on c-span, liquid water on mars, the committee talked to the experts and the possibility of life in space. and sunday evening at 6:30, policy makers, business leaders and media permits discuss the issues driving the conversation. former massachusetts governor mitt romney and valerie jarrett. on book tv, a discussion on presidential transitions and interviewed. nday, we are live with tom hartman who has authored several
4:56 pm
books, rebooting the american dream. join our three-hour conversation as we take your phone calls, emails, tweets. on american history tv, saturday afternoon at 2:00 in his book "the dead shall rise," the author explores the events of the 1913 murder of 13-year-old frank.g arch n and leo sunday afternoon at 4:00, the 1975 federal energy documentary on the supply and demand of fossil fuels in the u.s. get our complete weekend chedule at c-span.org. sunday, -- >> the supreme court is more than just its opinions. to understand it fully, you need to know about the justice's
4:57 pm
backgrounds, personalities, personal dynamics and with each other and with their clerks. >> national law journal supreme court correspondent, tony morrow and the supreme court's new term. sunday night at 8:00 p.m. on c-span. on monday as the supreme court starts the new term, we have our new series, landmark series. we look at the real story behind march berry versus madison. and the battles between madison nd chief justice john marshal. >> he established the court as the interpreter of the -- itution and fame house maimous decision.
4:58 pm
>> marbury versus madison. >> and author of the great decision. landmark cases, exploring 12 historic supreme court rulings, plaintiffs, lawyers and justices. "landmark cases" premiers live on c-span, c-span 3 and c-span radio and background, order your opy of the companion book. >> the senate small business committee heard testimony from cole congressman scott tipton on the costs and effects of the wastewater spill at the gold king mine. congressman tipton was joined by officials and business owners.
4:59 pm
the hearing is an hour and 10 minutes. >> good morning. call the committee to order. small businesses resulting from the gold king mine wastewater spill. chairman vitter cannot attend and i want to thank him for giving us this opportunity to chair this important hearing and i ask unanimous consent that chairman vitter's hearing statement be entered into the record. before hearing from our first witness, the honorable scott tipton, i want to briefly mention that the e.p.a. was invited to testify but unable to send a representative. they submitted testimony and we have testimony before us and i ask unanimous consent that it be entered into the record. and it will be entered into the
5:00 pm
record. i welcome senator bennett and will be joining us, not as a member of the committee but a member of the senate who will be participating in the senate hearing. in the interest of time, i will withhold my statement. the congressman's district includes the area north of -- includes silver ton, colorado, where the spill occurred. he was first elected to represent this area in 2010. your perspective is invaluable and we appreciate your service and look forward to your statement. thank you coming before the small business committee. mr. tipton: we believe this is a very important issue. when it comes to the e.p.a., the spillings, the questions yet to be answered, certainly the economic impacts that we're going to be feeling, not only in southwestern colorado but in adjoining states as well.
5:01 pm
i would like to also extend my thanks to the small business committee for focusing on what i believe is a very important issue. the life blood in our economy in colorado and the united states which is our small businesses. i'm grateful for your willingness to be able to work with me, to begin what will be a long, complicated process to obtain a complete picture of what the economic impacts of the e.p.a.-caused gold king mine blow justice have been so far and into the future -- blowout have been so far and into the future. why in the wake of this isaster a focus on its impacts . there's without going going to be a long term impact on communities in the area. focus on one sector where we are likely to see the most impact more than any other and that's in regards to tourism. many decades ago western colorado relied largely on its mining and agricultural
5:02 pm
industries for economic growth. however, our state economy is diversified. we're fortunate to be able to have beautiful landscapes that stimulate a now thriving tourism economy. tourism relies on our state's reputation for throwing vistas, unparalleled outdoor recreational opportunities and some of the finest tourist facilities in the nation. the outdoor recreation industry booms in the winter, skiers from all over the world descend on our slopes, it thrives the rest of the year by offer aing mountains to hike and explore, kayaking and other outdoor ac ativities on our rivers. -- activities on our rivers. many small businesses that kater and offer these amenities are found throughout my district, including southwest colorado's region directly impacked i about the the gold king mine spill. a study published earlier this year provides a very detailed look at the importance of tourism to the various regions and counties in the state of
5:03 pm
colorado. in 2014 direct travel spending in colorado totaled around $18.6 billion, supporting approximately 155,000 jobs and over $5 billion in wages. the first county down stream from where the gold king mine is located relies heavily on tourism to sustain its economic well-being. a county of over just 53,000 eople, it shares that direct travel spending, over $273 million, supporting about 3,000 jobs and generating close to $8 million in local tax revenue. let's not discount the importance of tourism in the telecommunicate self, the home of similar -- the county itself. it has a population of just 692 people. in 2013 tourists brought $14.2 million to the county. that's a little over $200,000 for every man, woman and child that lived there. a loss of that revenue would devastate the economy of a
5:04 pm
remote area with few other economic opportunities. the e.p.a. maintains the people, businesses and local governments can apply for compensation for their economic losses. this sounds great in theory. but calculating a dollar amount in this situation is a difficult process -- prospect at best. for example, how do local businesses accurately estimate lost revenue from tourists that don't come this summer or the next or one after that? almost every county in colorado has seen a year over year crease in direct tourism spending since 2009. how do you calculate the loss that would have been seen from larger increases? these are the questions that we must start to try to grapple with. some say designating silverton as a superfund site is the most sensible solution to clean up tampa. but what do the town residents think? shouldn't they be at the center of this debate? it's my understanding that the majority of the town's residents oppose such listing on the national priorities list. fearing this designation would
5:05 pm
negatively impact the tourist economy on which the town is heavily dependent. there appears -- their fears are not without merit. designating it a superfund site, a town in which many need tourists, could damage the town's reputation and prove costly to the local economy. many of the local businesses in durango and silverton are small operations. are as are many of the ranches and farms in the area and down stream. as a small businessman myself for over three decades, i know how important credit and loans are to staying afloat in a lean year. but ultimately a bank wants their money back and won't loan to a business they believe is in decline or a farm or ranch whose ac a sess to clean water supply is constantly in jeopardy. the sun certain status of the river means many businesses -- the uncertain status of the river means many businesses are struggling or feel they're about to be endangered. without certainty, providing
5:06 pm
crop water, they may not be able to secure the funding of the sort that they need to be able to make it through potentially lean times. a a listing under the superfund could taint this area for decades to come. without regard to the impact that it could have on businesses. i think we can all agree that tourism requires a clean environment. especially river-based tourism where people come to swim, fish or kayak. tourism is also dependent on a perception. a believe that -- a belief that the area is contaminated with toxic waste would undeniably affect how many people willing to spend the night and their money there. superfund status is a billboard announcing to the world that the environment here is not safe for humans. whether it's true or not, people will look to the rivers, see that the superfund designation is there and decide possibly to go else where. superfund status does bring with it a stigma. right or wrong. often with that perception is a reality. that seemingly simple choice, to spend vacation dollars somewhere other than southwest colorado could whoa have a severe impact on the small
5:07 pm
business owners who rely on that tourism income. we all want the best possible solution to this devastating spill. but throwing the full weight of superfund designation when other equally and even more effective options could be available could have serious consequences for these communities and beyond. i've always believed that local communities know what's best for themselves. they have an intimate understanding of their hometown economies and hear firsthand from their customers about why they visit the area. is up planting government's knowledge with their knowledge stands to deepen economic harm already in this area. we should seek solutions and put the power in the hands of the folks on the ground who have been working to solve these problems for years. the good samaritan approach that i've been broaching, and please be able to see both of our senators from state of colorado here, who join with us in that concept of being a able to address the problem and to make sure we're achieving a
5:08 pm
positive result, i appreciate that support, is one of the possible solutions as opposed to the superfund designation. the river is a significant source of revenue in southwest colorado and beyond. especially during the summer tourism season. this avoidable spill will have a significant impact, a long term impact and we're working with state, local and federal officials to gather information to assess the damages an get a full accounting what have transpired. as we contend with the damage already inflicted on small businesses in southwest colorado and the future difficulties that they will face as a direct result of the gold king mine blowout, i urge everyone to consider options that do not ultimately compound the disaster. i appreciate this hearing and appreciate the opportunity to be able to testify. mr. gardner: thank you for your testimony. i know you've got a vote that you probably will be able to make now. thanks for your time today, to be here. dismiss the first panel. thank you very much,
5:09 pm
congressman tipton. mr. tipton: thank you very much. mr. gardner: i'll now proceed with my opening remarks. on august 5, 2015, the environmental protection agency released approximately three million gallons of contaminated water into a creek from gold king mine north of silverton, colorado. the water quickly moved down stream to the river and eventually flowed into the san juan river and lake powell which is 300 miles down stream. this bill had an impact on colorado, new mexico, utah, southern i understandian tribe, mountain yute and the navajo nation. i have said that the e.p.a. should be held to the same standard as e.p.a. would hold a private company for the spill. this means investigations must be conducted, people must be held accountable and tough questions must be asked. the sheriff closed public access to the river on august 6. we visited the spill site on august 9. four days after the spill. the e.p.a. still did not have an appropriate crisis response team in place.
5:10 pm
it was not until the following day, august 10, that the e.p.a. established a unified command center in durango to address the spill. the river was not reopened until august 14, nine days after the initial surge of contaminated water. water testing shows that the surface water of the river has returned to pre-event levels but many remain and have questions about sediment in the river bottom and the rocks lining the river. the sediment contains various pollutants and the e.p.a. initially installed settling ponds to address this contamination. which we hope will slow the flow of contaminates in the river. last month there were a series of oversight hear thags took place in the united states senate and the house of representative. we learned answers to some of the inquiries but more questions remain on what exactly took place in the events leading up to and immediately following this bill and how to get our communities back on track, including liability compensation from the e.p.a. it's my hope that the e.p.a.'s office of inspector general's report will provide more
5:11 pm
clarity and transparency on the spill and i also look forward to the release of the department of interior's aelse isment of the gold king mine spill. for colorado and down stream communities, there are still serious concerns that exist that the e.p.a. must address. e.p.a. recently announced that by october 14, the agency will open a temporary water treatment system which will replace the settling ponds that were first constructed by the e.p.a. in august. the good news for our community is for the winter month, but further mitigation like e.p.a.'s long term mediation plan and the need for future monitoring for heightened contamination during spring runoff must still be addressed. some claim that the gold king mine spill shows the need for broad mining reform legislation which would include reforms to the mining law of 172. in reality, what we have to work on right now is the need for legislation that would allow these abandoned mines across the west to be cleaned up by good samaritan, language that has passed other committees before. there's been broad bipartisan support for passing good samaritan legislation in the past. i'm committed to working with
5:12 pm
senator bennett in the bipartisan fashion to get good legislation through the senate. that's the only way we are going to get good samaritan legislation through, is to work in a bipartisan fashion. i'm also working with the senator on the need for a water treatment plant. today's hear something extremely important because it provides us with a different view than we've had in the previous hearings. provides us with an opportunity to hear from people on the ground who are business owners, who represent businesses and communities and who represent the people of the counts affected. that's why i am disappointed that we do not have an e.p.a. representative here who could answer basic questions about the points that congressman tipton raised in his opening statement. about compensation. about how do you determine what level of compensation to provide to a hotel? whether it's a cancellation, is that related to the gold king mine spill? of a rafting trip, is it a cancellation of a hotel room, a dinner reservation? how can we really determine
5:13 pm
what costs incurred? these are questions that we still have and we would have liked to have had answered today by the appropriate representative. property damage, lost economic opportunity and, as congressman tipton mentioned, the long-term impact. how do we get answers and compensation for these very significant issues? there are going to be a number of proposals before congress and i look forward to working on them with senator bennett and, again, i think it's critically important that the only way we can address some of these issues is by bipartisan support. with that i'll turn it over to your opening statement. mr. bennett: the panel, if you'd like to come take your seat while we're opening statement, that would be great. thank you. come on up to the three panelists. mr. chairman, let me say first of all, thank you so much for holding this hearing and thank you for including me. you didn't need to do that. i appreciate it. i'm not on the committee. as you know, i'm deeply interested in getting to the
5:14 pm
bottom of this, as you are, and getting the answers that we need. so thanks for inviting me this morning. it's my pleasure to have the chance to welcome commissioner blake. the blowout at the gold king mine affected communities and businesses, as you have heard, throughout southwest colorado. there is no denying that the e.p.a. caused this and that's entirely unacceptable. we've held hearings on the e.p.a.'s actions and it's appropriate that we now consider the economic aspects of this spifment the river is the life blood and economic engine of southwest colorado. as we'll hear today, rafting companies lost business, sports fish trips were canceled, tourism suffered and farmers couldn't water their crops. the damages from the spill are still being calculated and we may not know the full extent for years to come. businesses and individuals are starting to file claims to recover their losses, as chairman gardner said, they deserve to be fully reimbursed for their damages.
5:15 pm
the e.p.a. is committed to doing so. the gold king mine spill recovery act that i've introduced with senator tom udall will ensure that the e.p.a. follows through on this promise and we'll continue to want to work with our colleagues to get that bill right. the bill requires the e.p.a. to reimburse businesses, tribes, governments and individuals for property damage, lost revenue and emergency expenses. it also calls on the e.p.a. to construct a permanent water treatment plant north of silverton to tackle this problem at its source. the four mines in the upper river basin released more than 300 million gallons of as a i had mine drainage every year. we need solutions, as the senator said, to address this pollution all across the west. that's why senator gardner and a irworking on good samaritan legislation, to encourage the cleanup of abandon mines. it is long past time for us to address this issue. i think part of the issue we've had, mr. chairman, is that people in this place are too
5:16 pm
focused on the east coast and west coast and aren't paying attention to the rocky mountain watersheds, which by the way, if you live down stream from the rocky mountain watersheds, which almost everybody in the united states does, you need to take an interest in what we're doing there. to make sure we don't have another disaster like this. i also believe that, as part of this, we should reform the 1872 mining law, to make sure that mining companies pay royalties to taxpayers just like everybody else on our public lands. like many other business owners and elected officials, our witnesses today, commissioner blake, gallagos and cora, that.tand the need to senator gardner and a i appreciated meeting with them during our visit together to durango four days after the spill. mr. cora is the co-owner of four corners river sports in durango. four corners river sports is an
5:17 pm
outdoor retail store, paddle school and commercial rafting business. it is open for business today, i'll bet. so if anybody's listening to the hearing, please go. mr. corra has built his business and raised his family in southwest colorado, like so many other entrepreneurs, and as with so many small business owners in durango, he depends on the river for his livelihood. when the water turned orange in august in the middle of peak rafting season, it hit his business hard and without warning. i look forward to learning more from all the witnesses this morning. mr. chairman, thanks again for inviting me to speak briefly and for holding this important hearing. guard gart thank you, senator bennett -- mr. gardner: thank you, senator bennett. our first within is brad blake. his family first moved to durango, colorado, in the 1930's. he's serving his first term on the county commission board and we are pleased to have him here today. next up is -- we have diane
5:18 pm
gallagos. she is a third generation silverton resident. and last but certainly not least, we have mr. andy corra. the owner of four corners river sports in durango. four corners is located on the banks of the river, which is described in your testimony at the life -- as the life blood, the heart of durango. and has been in business for over 35 years. mr. corra will be able to provide a firsthand experience on what this bill has meant for the community throughout the region. thank you to the witnesses, all a of you, for traveling so far to be here today. time away from work, from family, it's truly appreciated to shed light on questions that need to be addressed and look forward to testimony. mr. blake: thank you, senators. i appreciate the opportunity and i'd like to thank chairman vitter as well of the -- to speak at the small business committee and entrepreneurship concerning the impacts of the gold king mine spill. my name is bradford p. blake. i'm a small business owner and a county commissioner in la
5:19 pm
platta county, colorado. i appreciate the opportunity to testify about how the incident has affected businesses in southwest colorado. we're very blessed to live in an area of great natural beauty from 14,000-foot peaks to desert valleys. the rivers that run through this area are beautiful and clear. the premier is the anmuss river which starts in the mountains bove silverton and flows through colorado and 126 miles through la a plata county and the city of crangow, the southern reservation to the new mexico border and on to utah and lake powell. the mountains above silverton are rich in minerals and metals. which attracted minors to the area starting in the 1860's. mining support companies followed, along with other businesses that developed as the community flourished. some would you recognize. such as the renowned durango silverton narrow gauge railroad.
5:20 pm
others you might not. but they encompass many different types of enterprises such as tourism-related businesses, including rafting companies, bike stores, hiking and outdoor recreation outfitters, hunting and fishing guides, hotels, restaurants and other related support services. laplata county also has considerable agricultural interests including many organic farms, ranches that rely on the waters of the river to support their operations. and then there are the businesses, as would you expect to find in a thriving community. including retail and grocery stores, real estate offices, banks, and all other services that support our economy. all of these great businesses employ a few to hundreds of people and the spill has impacted all of them in some way. news of the gold king mine spread far and wide. not only nationally, but around the world. the durango area tourism office
5:21 pm
conducted a media analysis for the period of august 5 through august 24 and determined that 19 million impressions were made. impressions like this that i have from the durango harold. this was seen around the world. i had friended from all over the country call me and ask me about it. i brought you all a copy of the drankow herald today to look at this -- durango herald today to look at this. the 164 article as about the incident had a value of more than $3.4 million worth of advertising. the wrong kind of advertising. summer is the height of the tourist season and it was cut short. first by the visual impacts of the gold king and then by lingering questions about the impact of the spill on the river and our community. the businesses most severely impacted were the rafting companies, their season was be a a ruptly interrupted on august -- be a a ruptly sbur --
5:22 pm
abruptly interrupted on august 5 and 6, the day of the spill. all people were directly impacted. and had to lay off employees during the period of the river closure. one rafting company owner advised me that he estimates his losses to be $100,000. when tourism-related businesses are impacted, there is a ripple effect throughout our economy on hotels, restaurants, and retail stores. those in turn impact the collection of local sales tax and lodgers taj -- tax. but tourism businesses weren't the only ones impacted. agriculture took a hit as well. small local farmers had to reduce -- had reduced crop yields due to the lack of water, the hottest and -- at the hottest and driest time of the growing season. ditches that provide irrigation water to farms were closed for up to 10 days. in some cases leaving farmers high and dry.
5:23 pm
one rancher reported to me that he lost half of his second cutting of hay, which is $8,400 worth of hay. for a small rancher, that's a big deal. equally significant is the impact of the spill on the reputation of the organic farms that utilize the river. how can their reputations be restored when doubts about the quality of the water remain? in another example, the entire inventory of durango nursery, a local plant and tree nursery located on the banks of the river, was threatened by the inability to use the river for watering purposes. owner tom bring had to haul water at his own expense until arrangements were made for the water to be delivered until the river could be used again. but even that couldn't help bring customers in. tom estimated he lost $20,000 worth of business due to the decline in customers during the period of the gold king incident. and sales have not recovered.
5:24 pm
in fact, tom estimates that his sales for the year will be down 1.25% from his projections as a result of this bill. as news of the incident spread, calls came in to our community from around the country asking questions like, are all the fish dead? will the fumes harm my family if we walk by the river? is the river ever going to recover? it's obvious to me that our community's image has, and reputation as a natural, scenic, family, friendly outdoor mecca, has been badly damaged. as a result of this spill. clearly we do not know yet what the long term impact of the gold king spill and the publicity generated by it might be. but we anticipate that there could be lingering negative images, public health and safety concerns and a decline in future visitations, all of which will impact small businesses in laplata county. as a small business owner
5:25 pm
myself, i'm concerned about uncertainty created for our local businesses resulting from the spill and heightened awareness of acid mine drainage. it is for this reason that i ask for you to support -- for your support of the expeditious reimbursement to businesses and employees impacted by the gold king mine spill. i urge your thoughtful consideration of s. 2063, the gold king spill mine recovery act of 2015. i also advocate for a speedy and collaborative response to this ongoing and age-old problem of metal loading in the upper river. i urge congress to move expeditiously but also thoughtfully to address the larger problem of as a i had mine drainage in the river -- acid mine drainage in the watershed that affects all communities along the river. on behalf of the citizens of laplata county, colorado, i thank you for your interest, your time, and your consideration.
5:26 pm
thank you very much. mr. gardner: thank you, mr. blake. the newspaper article you referenced, without objection, will be entered into the record. mr. gallego: good morning, gentlemen. thank you for the invitation in bringing silverton to the table. my name is deanne gallego. my intention for my opening statement is to tell you who we are. silverton was a mining town. it was the pioneer spirit that brought folks out to the west with the discovery of gold, silver and other minerals in the hills, it's why we still exist. silverton was incorporated in 1874. om 1881 to 1882 otto meres built a train which changed the entire area. we still depend on that
5:27 pm
100-plus-year-old train as a a part of the heart of our summer economy. there are 699 of us, technically 701, both lisas had babies this summer. and about 520 of those actually live in the town of silverton. we get an influx of summer residents and then they go south and then we get anflux of winter residents. so the solid, hardcore number of year-round residents is around 500. but we fluctuate with, depending on the season, being a tourist town. the number one landowner in san juan county is the federal government. 85% of our land is owned by the b.l.m. or the forest service. we have 388 square miles in our county and silverton is the
5:28 pm
only municipality left standing. san juan county used to be linked and littered with many mining towns, which are now ghost towns. literally ghost towns. buildings that you can go in and see the past. but we are the heart of the san juan, mountains right off the continental divide, i'm telling you, it takes an extremely hearty soul to live there. i know. being third generation, my grandfather came after world war ii to be a minor. my father -- miner. my father and mother met at silverton high school. were homecoming king and queen. and shouldn't say the year because you'll pick up on the age, but it was in the late 1950's. and then my father started a family right away and also went into mining but then moved to the city, which i was born and raised in, denver. i would spend all my summers in silverton as a child. so now as an adult, living
5:29 pm
there full time, it is like reliving your childhood. silverton is a base camp for us. we live there so we can live in those mountains. that is something that is intangible unless you experience it, unless you stood in the bowl of that caldera, which is the volcano which created the only level land which is where my town was built. because of that, 48% of our economy is dependent on tourism. since the 1990's, when the last mine closed, we have tried to figure out, who are we and where are we going? but we also embrace and celebrate our mining heritage. it is who we are. we offer tourism through ecology. yet our ecology and our economy are extremely fragile.
5:30 pm
just like the tundra that we live below. silverton is nestled at 9,318 elevation feet, just below timberline. that is why folks come to visit us. repeat tourism is critical. and actually a very stable part of our economy. as well as second homeowners and the influx of seasonal workers that come in and out of our community to help us get through our tourism seasons. we experience a little over 400 inches of snow in a year. we've got one road in and one road out in the winter and that's highway 550 wip is one of the most dangerous highways in the united states. highway, which separates us from services, 50 miles either to the south of durango or 60 miles north, is 150 ave a large paths. it's mother nature's way of shedding snow. but that also means that we are vulnerable to being blocked in. or blocked out, quite frankly.
5:31 pm
we have the alpine loop. that country experience with hiking, jeeping, camping, o.h.v.'s, and in this back country is exactly where red bonita and gold king are seated, so when you go into our back country now, you do see the incident dent firsthand. you do see the blue tarps with the sediment and the activity that's going on. across the street from our number one employer in the winter, silverton mountain, is this remediation situation. an base camp for the e.p.a. we understand and acknowledge and know that we are now in a long term relationship with the situation, with the e.p.a.. we look forward to taking responsibility and being
5:32 pm
proactive in dealing with being at the top of the watershed and these old mines. again, if it was not for all of these meyinsse, the west may not be what the west is today. and again, we embrace our heritage and our past and we're proud of that. in this situation,s had changed the way it's looked -- and this situation has changed the way that's looked upon. talking about employers and employment. again, we are 48% of our economy is tourism. when you talk about the top employers in san juan county, we have no corporate entity. we don't have a big office building. it is silverton mountain at 40 employees. second largest employer in san juan county is one of our largest restaurants at 22
5:33 pm
employees. we have a 10-month business cycle out of a 12-year calendar year to make it. winter and summer are night and day. a lot of our town closes for the winter. and in the summer when that train comes rolling in, we open up all our doors, clean all of our windows off and we are there to welcome the influx of thousands, hundreds of thousands of tourists who come to experience us, whether it's a day, a week or four months. and we are dependent on that, thankful for that, and understand that without that we too could have the potential of being one more ghost town. i bought my grandmother's home that was moved from a ghost town in eureka in the 1940's. and my kitchen is slanted and my walls are little and the doors are tiny. but i love my house.
5:34 pm
and i love my community. that's why we're all there. that's why i'm here. o speak up for them. before the incident, we all -- we already were struggling with the housing issue which is a domino effect of, if we can't house these employees, then who's going to work in the restaurants and the shops and the hotels? we were already struggling with more jobs than people in town. but we have to also be conscientious of switching of seasons. the folks who leave in the summer, the winter people come in and replace them with housing. we don't live in a normal, typical day to day town. we still have dead fiber in the ground. we're not connected to fiber. so when we sit around and we
5:35 pm
discuss what is economic development for silverton and one of the type of individual we can bring in is someone who can bring their own business we don't have the infrastructure to support that. so, again, we go back to tourism. gentlemen, we are counting on you two to represent us and to speak up for us. i know you both have been there. we had a meeting on august 12, senator gardner, that was set up before the e.p.a. incident. and i blissfully, naively wanted to stick to those issues , to discuss the housing and the employment pool and our where do we go from here? not knowing that the train was coming down the tracks and we were tied to it. but what i do know about my community is that we still
5:36 pm
embrace that pioneer spirit. therefore we want to create a new relationship with the federal government and the e.p.a. not status quo. we want them and you to be aware of our situation. housing is an issue. to have an influx of federal workers coming in and subcontractors, we cannot allow the housing we already didn't have for the people to be displaced because of that. because who's going to be there to help these small businesses? i've had small businesses tell me that they have left over $60,000 on the table this summer alone because of lack of employees. i have a business that can only open five days a week instead of seven, which null and voids one business week a month because he literally didn't have employees. we have had cancellations, we have had real estate deals fall
5:37 pm
through, we have had banks pull out of our new community construction loans, providing loans, just because of this talk. because of what's going on. so i ask you two to remember us. we are important. just because we're the little guy and there's only 700 of us doesn't mean that we don't matter. and we're putting trust and faith in you to do so. thank you. mr. gardner: thank you. and tell the lisas congratulations. ms. gallego: i will. mr. corra: my name's andy cora. i own four corners river sports. we've been around for 35 years. and we employ up to 50 people in the high seas and we're pretty dwerts diverse.
5:38 pm
we have a retail store, a paddle school and a commercial rafting operation. you know, the day that gold king spill happened, it was a hard day in durango. the river is in many ways the heart and soul of the community. it runs straight down the center of the valley and the mighty river runs just adjacent to downtown. it's important to the people in town. the picture there mr. blake has of those three kayakers, those are friends of mine who found themselves surrounded by the orange sludge and they were the first ones who told us, hey, something's going on with the river. and word spread quickly throughout the community. and i went out on the river trail late in the afternoon, as the spill was moving toward town, and there were literally hundreds of people gathering along the trail, just in the section i was in. so the whole trail through town, i understand, was filling up with people. and i can tell you, it was like a funeral that day. people were really upset. it felt really personal. there was a lot of tears shed. it felt like a close family
5:39 pm
member had been injured or hurt. it really hurt the town. it hurt people -- it just morally hurt the people. but it woke us up. it woke us up to this long standing pollution issue that we have there. durango invests a lot of money in making it a desirable place to live and the investment pays off. we attract a lot of great businesses. we attract a lot of entrepreneurs, small business wners, creative thinkers, tell commuters, and you can see it. our economy is strong in durango. examples of these investments. we just completed a new $3 million white water park. a playground for rafters and kayakers. it's wonderful. the town's invested $20 million in the river trail. i think one of the better examples is recently there was a half-cent sales tax passed in town. it's earmarked specifically for parks and recreation.
5:40 pm
that ballot measure passed by 69.5% of the vote. so nearly 70% of the people in our town voted to tax themselves at a higher rate. i don't think that happens very often. i think that's really a testament to the spirit of our community. so 2015, for my business, was great. it was the best year that we'd had in a long time. we're used to a lot of adversity in the river business. we have drought years, we have down economies that seem to affect the tourism market first. we can plan and adjust for those things. this year we were going full speed. sales were great. the rafts were filled with tourists and boom. the river was closed. we didn't have any time to plan. any time to adjust. so my rafting company, our sister company, lost about $19,000. the paddle school was down about $8,200. standup paddle board rentals and raft rentals down about $3,800. we went up 9.% to down 23%.
5:41 pm
as mr. plake mentioned, one of the largest outfitters in town, the $100,000 that he lost, that was in the eight days of closure. so, he was down 50% for that entire month of august. and beyond those losses, it's the 150 employees who immediately lost their jobs. so that's -- those are raft guides, action video photographers, bus drivers, office personnel. they were immediately out of work. while we had the problem in the business, it's really those individuals that really concern me. i'm confident, i'm confident that with senator bennett's bill, the gold king mine spill recovery act of 2015, our local community, our state and the federal government, that a lot of those people will be made whole. my greater concern is that we address this long term problem created from our region's mining legacy. you know, mine pollution isn't
5:42 pm
new to the river. i mean, the gold king mine blowout was spectacular. there's no doubt. three million gallons of bright orange toxic sludge going into the river in a matter of hours. but i think it's important to know that that same mine was leaking two to five -- 200 to 500 gallons of the same water every minute prior to that. that there are other contributing mines that add up to six million gallons a week, so that's 330 million gallons of toxic water going into our watershed every year. so the gold king represents, what, one week's worth of that natural drainage. so that's where the outrage should be. that's where energy should be directed. this is the ticking time bomb that hangs over our heads. as a business owner, it makes me reluctant to invest in the future, if this is going to happen again. and the impacts, like we've said they go well beyond durango. from silverton, colorado, to
5:43 pm
grand canyon, arizona, people depend on this river. it's the life blood. and their head waters of this life blood deserves to be cleaned up once and for all. i think everybody agrees that the e.p.a. messed this one up. right? but we waste a lot of our energy and anger going after these e.p.a. firefighters who are tasked with the impossible job of putting out this out of control fire with a garden hoast. the spill makes clear that the piecemeal approach of the past isn't working. it's a complex problem. there's tons of mine portals. there's bulk heads that need to be put in, watt that are needs to be redirected, there's water that needs to be treated. and it's an ongoing problem. we need a comprehensive approach to cleaning this up. good samaritan legislation is proposed by the last congress, makes good sense. yes, the 143-year-old 1872 mining law needs to be reformed
5:44 pm
and brought in line with other extraction industries. the e.p.a. needs to partner with the stakeholders in silverton. they have a lot of knowledge up there. they need to conduct with those folks. and, yes, we need a water treatment plant in cement creek e fully it needs to b funded and i want to thank you senators here for proposing that. it's a really important first step. but understand that. it's only a first step. all of the above does nothing to give us money today that we need it. does nothing to plan a long-term fix for this problem. look, it's a complicated problem. there's really only one entity. do we want -- if we can reinvent the wheel and get money elsewhere, great, let's do it. but right now, today, there's really only one entity that can handle. this only one entity that has the experience, that has the technical expertise and has the
5:45 pm
potential funding sources and that's the e.p.a. i understand that it makes a lot of people nervous to invite in the e.p.a. on a big basis. i get that a lot of the senators may not want that type of fix. but right now adding the basin's fopeding mines to the e.p.a.'s superfund priorities list is really the only clear path forward. i know there's -- there's a lot of fear around that. but i go to moab, utah. it's booming. there are thousands and thousands of tourists flocking to that town. as pen, colorado. i don't think their real estate values are hurting from this. they are a superfund site. i think it can be done in a sensitive manner, in a grected manner, just at those meyinsse. if there's another funding source that can happen, great. but if i were the federal government and someone came to me with this laundry list, i would say, well, that looks great. we have an excellent program for that. it's calleded e.p.a. and superfund. , so in conclusion, durango and surrounding communities depend
5:46 pm
on the river for water, drinking, irrigation and industry and recreation. the ongoing pollution and the likely periodic major releases threatens our communities' health and livelihoods. while supporting all-of-the-above solutions, only the full effort and comprehensive approach of the e.p.a. can address these problems permanently. i appreciate your consideration to my comments and i welcome any questions. mr. gardner: thank you. we'll jump right into questions. thil we'll probably go back and forth on questions. wanted to start, mr. blake, feel free to jump in as well, can you talk about some of the experiences that you've heard from businesses in the two counties, about how they're going to handle this from, you know, the cost, calculate lost revenue, how they're moving forward? and perhaps talk about lost revenue to the county, if you've been able to make that calculation yet. blake blake i'll start out with -- mr. blake: i'll start out with
5:47 pm
lost revenue to the county. we have a lot of time just with county employees in working with the e.p.a.. i'll add that our staff, our county manager and county attorney and all the support staff did an excellent job of really leading the effort and coordinating with the e.p.a. they've done an excellent job. so there's cost there. if you want to look at taxes. logger taxes directly were affected. weerp not sure quite yet, not sure yet how much they were affected. but those are taxes that would take a hit. some people have said, well, the e.p.a. came to town and filled up all the rooms that weren't taken. but i'll remind you that they don't pay lodgers tax. lodgers tax goes directly to what we were talking about, fighting against the -- any negative images that might have occurred.
5:48 pm
the durango area tourism office does a great job of putting information out about the whole 4corners area and drawing people in. as far as businesses, i've talked to a lot of people business people from the armers that i mentioned to the real estate offices, i talked to one gal who actually had somebody just walk away from a real estate deal, as was mentioned by ms. gallegos. people are nervous about this. t really worries them. i personally had calls from friends and family around the country that said, hey, what's going on? one of my cousins was extremely upset because he remembers the days when we were kidding finishing -- fishing in that river. he said, i remember those days fishing in the river and how fun they were, how beautiful the river was. he was very upset about it. and so there are those image as, those concerns -- image as,
5:49 pm
those concerns, -- images, concerns, congressman tipton mentioned perception, it really is about perception much the river may have returned back to its normal or as close to normal as a you can get, but it's back to where it was, people don't necessarily get that information. they're still seeing the images like i mentioned earlier. that i think is what we're looking to next year, what will be the outcome of this and maybe even the following year. mr. gardner: to follow up on that. has the e.p.a. indicated that they will reimburse the county for the time, the employee time that you have had and equipment time that you've had in? mr. blake: they have. we are working with them on reimbursement and so far i think that's going along, as could be expected. as far as i know we have not received any funds yet. we've spent in excess of $200,000. just the county.
5:50 pm
that's just the county. there are a lot of businesses that were impacted, from a small amount to a larger amount. some of the businesses that were mentioned, if they've been taken a hit of $100,000 or more , that's a problem because the form 95 that the e.p.a. provides doesn't allow for recovering what you've lost. it has a limit on whalk actually recover. mr. gardner: thank you. if i can get 495 enter -- form 95 entered into the record as well. it we know whether the real estate deal that you talked about, walking away, somebody walking away from a real estate deal, a lost opportunity, will that be something that you can submit on a claim? how do you prove that? that's just a loss that will be -- mr. blake: it would be really hard to prove that they didn't walk -- i mean, real estate deals fall apart all the time. and there was more than just
5:51 pm
one. i have a personal friend who said her client walked away from the deal specifically because of that. i heard some other people mention similar stories. but hers they specifically said, hey, that's it for us. mr. gardner: mr. corra, i'm running out of time. feel free if you want to add to that as well. mr. corra: well, you know, we know what our direct costs were. it's pretty easy for us. mr. gardner: $30,000, is that right? mr. corra:. yes. that's pretty easy for us to back into. my concern really is the long term impact. like brad said, the media images were, you know, were everywhere. we couldn't have asked for that kind of coverage and we didn't ask for that kind of coverage. my concern is the people next year who are think being coming to durango. what do we do about that? i think showing a converted effort, letting people know our river is cleaned up. i was on the river the day before it closed and a the day it opened and it was looking a
5:52 pm
little messy in durango first two days. but it's looking better in town it. does. silverton's the same way. people are kind of used to the yellow stains that are on the edge. that's been going on for 100 years there. but it's things like, you know, hen i first moved to durango 35 years ago, the river was pretty dead above town. there weren't many fish in the northern part, the north valley above durango. there were some, not many. then they build a treatment plant on cement creek. it was run by one of the mining companies. it was in the mid 1990's. the river really cleaned up. then the durango section became a gold metal -- medal fishery. our status has since gone down. that operation shut down. that was run by a mining company. that shut down. the fish, it's now the bad water, the dead water's kind of moving down stream again and durango is down a notch. we're not gold medal anymore because we're not supporting quite as many fish. i think it's those kind of
5:53 pm
optics and that kind of message we need to get out. if we start to clean it out, i'm confident we're going to start to see that cleanup again. when that's a gold medal fishery again, five or 10 years from now, people will forget about this. they will remember durango, they will remember the river, they'll remember silverton as that clean river. mr. bennett: thank you. since there are no other senators here today, i can say without fear of contradiction that it is an enormous privilege to represent the most beam beautiful state in the country -- the most beautiful state in the country, colorado. you do, i know senator gardner feels the same way, the testimony reminds me how much inspiration we draw from the people we represent. you cannot come from the north or south, to silverton, and not think about the character of the people that built that community. or take the alpine loop trail, which i have done, and see railroads built at almost
5:54 pm
14,000 feet by people. and i always think, when i'm there, first of all, what the character must have been like, the collaboration must have been like, and how empty the political conversation here would sound to the people that built silverton. and you also, the other thing you did when you were traveling a lot through colorado, you never stop when you're in one of these jobs. you pick favorite places. i can tell you a favorite place for me is the hotel that's right on the banks of the river, the double tree there, in durango. because if you get a room on the back, you open up those doors and you can hear that river going by, and there's nothing quite like it. let me first say that, as mr. corra was saying, this community is open for business. there's lots to do there. through the winter and in the summer months. and people shouldn't take the wrong lesson from what we're trying to do here, because it's
5:55 pm
safe, but we want to make it safer. that's why we're all here today. so let me start with you, mr. corra. you mentioned that this woke us up. that's what you said in your testimony. i think you talked about the long-term issue of legacy mine pollution in southwest colorado, which as far as i'm concerned, that's the heart of the issue here. going forward. we need to clean up these -- the water coming out of these meyinsse to prevent future blowouts and address the underlying pollution in the river. i wonder if could you use the opportunity here to tell us a little bit how the business community in durango is thinking differently about this. what did you wake up to and what can congress help do to help tackle this problem? mr. corra: right. thank you for that. i think what we woke up to, i mean, on a personal level, you know, we woke up to maybe our river wasn't as pristine as we always had assumed. we woke up to the fact that, gee, my kids splashing around
5:56 pm
in that water is as a toddler, as i -- am i super comfortable with that? i think the reality is that walter -- water is safe. i trust the numbers that have come from the e.p.a. and they've been confirmed by local people. water is safe. but it doesn't mean that the water is pure. it doesn't mean it's as good as it should be. below the count of silverton, below cement creek, the river's essentially dead. there aren't fish and there aren't bugs in that section of river. mother nature, between durango and silverton, there's 50 miles of pretty wild water. we'll take you on that stretch someday. it's great. in that natural -- and that naturally kind of cleans it up. the metals drop out at that point. we do have a pretty clean river in town. but a lot of the business owns that are i speak with, what they're concerned about are those optics. so they're concerned that, you know, we've got this tainted impression across the country. i got the same phone calls as
5:57 pm
brad got. what i think that you can do is we can fund some real cleanup up there. it needs to be done in a sensitive manner. it needs to be done so that it doesn't impact silverton. and i think it can be. the meyinsse in cement creek aren't directly in the town. and i think if it's done properly, like in moab, utah, and other places, that the town will benefit in the long term. if the optic, is hey, we're taking proactive action to clean this up, i think that goes a long way for the businesses of silverton and certainly in durango. mr. bennett: let me jump to you on the same point. you said in your testimony that silverton was ready for a new relationship with the e.p.a. a different relationship with the e.p.a. the e.p.a.'s committed to constructing a temporary treatment plant, as you know, but has not yet committed to finding a way to construct a permanent facility which i think both of wuse like to see -- of wuse like to see. tell -- of us would like to
5:58 pm
see. tell us the way you'd like it to go going forward as we try o seek a solution to this. people need to understand this, the water being treated would not be right in silverton. it's north of the town. ms. gallego: we are the top of the watershed and we understand that. and, yes, has this been a long problem. but i don't believe that we have to go status quo. i want to make a point. i'm not a politician. i have not been to every meeting with the e.p.a. but as a general citizen, also being part of the incident crisis team, my personal concern has been lack of listening and analyzing all of these hearings that have been going on, again,
5:59 pm
my personal opinion is their testimony stands for itself. that's very concerning when you're inviting that into your backyard. i look at ledville. he says moab, i say ledville. there's a very well written book about ledville and the impact on the community of ledville. so just as many positive stories are out there, there are also the horror stories. i personally see it as a wait list, that's my concern. i agree with mr. corra that something needs to happen now and today. i travel up to the actual site on a regular basis and i see the blue tarps and i see the remediation and i see the holes nd i see the sediment. again, personal experience, the act that jena mccarthy has
6:00 pm
never stepped foot in my county. the fact that we had to fight to get the e.p.a. to come do a community meeting, the fact ituations work out blissfully are concerning to me as a citizen, a landowner and a third generation silvertonan. i guess i ask, is it immediate money? when we ask that, when the we'll gete to town back to you. i would love to trust. i would love for to know for my community that it would be instant, that it would come right away, but i don't. and hearing the real estate agents say just the talk of the stigma, deals are getting

7 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on