PIERRE, S.D. – The massive $1.1 trillion federal spending bill under debate in Washington contains key provisions that benefit the state, members of South Dakota's congressional delegation said Wednesday.
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Federal lawmakers are expected take up on Thursday the measure to fund government through Sept. 30, 2015. Included in the 1,603-page omnibus spending bill, which funds nearly every government agency and contains dozens of policy provisions, is water project financing, research funding and environmental regulation prohibitions that South Dakota lawmakers say will be a boon to the Mount Rushmore State.
Here's a look at five things to consider about South Dakota-specific initiatives in the spending plan:
A policy provision in the funding bill would delay protections for a greater sage grouse that have been on a collision course with the energy industry and western South Dakota ranchers. Republican Rep. Kristi Noem said a measure she backed prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money next year on rules to protect the ground-dwelling bird.
Republican Sen. John Thune called the prohibition an "important win" for ranchers in western South Dakota, adding that an endangered species listing would also affect land use and energy development in the state.
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Wildlife advocates have said delaying protections could have irreversible impacts across the bird's 11-state range.
JOHN 'LEADBETTER' THUNE
A Thune-backed measure in the spending bill would block the Environmental Protection Agency from banning lead in ammunition and fishing gear. A leader in the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, Thune said the bipartisan provision would stop the agency from "trying to get its tentacles into this area," dramatically increasing costs and pricing out hunting and fishing enthusiasts. Thune said state agencies already regulate ammo and tackle.
LEWIS AND CLARK
The Lewis and Clark Regional Water System will be one of six projects vying for a $31 million pot for rural water development built into the spending bill. That's on top of $2.4 million in funding for Lewis and Clark included in the plan. The system will serve more than 300,000 people in a tri-state area the size of Connecticut once it is completed, executive director Troy Larson said.
Outgoing Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson in a statement praised funding for the project as good news tucked into the bill, and Noem said the system came out of negotiations with "an even better hand."
The Sanford Underground Research Facility is currently searching for mysterious dark matter — and it maintained its federal funding level as part of the spending plan. The federal aid amounts to $12.5 million in fiscal year 2015 after the money is routed to the lab through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from the U.S. Department of Energy. Noem said she counted preserving the funding level for one of South Dakota's priorities as a significant win.
Republicans again in this bill won concessions exempting livestock producers from regulations on greenhouse gases. The plan prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from forcing cattle operations to get greenhouse gas permits under the Clean Air Act and would also block funding to require the reporting of gas emissions.
Cattle operations are already heavily regulated without the emissions controls, South Dakota Cattlemen's Association executive director Jodie Anderson said.