by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Published in the Davenport Times, Newport Miner, and other Eastern Washington weeklies.
When I was growing up on my family’s farm in Kettle Falls, I would never have imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to serve in Congress. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. And my first job out of college was working for then-State Representative Bob Morton. Not long after, I was appointed to the State House, and for the next ten years, served in the Legislature and worked in my family's small business. In 2004, I was humbled when you first elected me to Congress. And since then, I've worked every day to be worthy of your trust.
These days, I have a much bigger District than the one I had in the Legislature. Back then, I represented Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry, Lincoln and parts of Okanogan and Spokane Counties. But there’s no question that the communities that make up Northeast Washington – Republic and Colville, Newport and Davenport, and many others – are still my home.
As your Congresswoman, I am focused on many issues – from the economy to health care, from energy to national security – but I am also working on a number of issues that uniquely affect Northeast Washington.
This month, I was proud to speak on the House floor in support of H.R. 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act. This bill – which passed the House overwhelmingly – is a huge win for our mining industry. Specifically, it would bring transparency to the permitting process so we can reduce permitting delays and better leverage our vast mineral resources.
Right now, it takes longer to receive a mining development permit in America than any of the other top 25 mining nations in the world. The average waiting period for a permit is 7-to-10 years. The Kettle River-Buckhorn Mine and its 400 employees in Ferry County know that all too well. The EIS schedule and the exploratory permit has been delayed for years and was recently delayed for an additional year without much explanation. That must change. The bill we passed this month is the change we need.
We also need change when it comes to our forest industry. The forest industry supports thousands of jobs in Northeast Washington, but many of those jobs are threatened by a combination of judicial activism and excessive government regulation. In 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that forest stormwater runoff produced during logging must be regulated by the Clean Water Act (CWA) – a flawed decision, especially during a bad economy. If the government enforces the Court’s ruling, it would mean that landowners would need to get a separate federal permit for every culvert and bridge under their roads. There would also be significant new monitoring requirements. An appeal of any one permit could bring logging to a halt. Thousands of small forest landowners in Northeast Washington could be forced out of business.
To prevent this from happening, I worked with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and the forest industry to introduce the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act, which would restore the federal government’s policy under CWA and protect jobs. The bill is currently before the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
On a related note, I am also working to help Eastern Washington’s Secure Rural Schools, which rely on forest industry revenue to receive federal education aid and county support. I strongly support the Federal Forest County Revenue, Schools and Jobs Act which would ensure the long-term viability of the Secure Rural Schools program by putting our people and our land back to work at a time when we need it most.
Let’s face it: When the government owns land – whether through a Wilderness designation or a monument designation – it almost completely eliminates all economic vitality in the surrounding area. With job creation and economic growth now more important than ever, it is imperative that Congress review such major decisions regarding land ownership.
That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 758, The National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act. This bill would require the President to receive approval from Congress before designating a national monument, making the designation process more democratic, collaborative and inclusive. I will continue to support it.
When I was in Colville around the Fourth of July, I was reminded that what makes Eastern Washington great isn’t the beauty of the land or the living we make off it. No, what makes this corner of America great is the people who call it home – my home. As I continue working in Congress – on issues ranging from the local to the national to the international – your wisdom and character will continue to inspire me.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers represents Eastern Washington in Congress.