The ACHP is monitoring recent bills that have been introduced or acted upon in Congress that could affect the preservation of historic properties.
Preservation-Related Programs and Funding
Interior, Environment, Financial Services and General Government, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 6147)
The House and Senate have passed their respective versions of a funding bill for the Department of the Interior and the ACHP. In both bills, the ACHP would receive $6.44 million, as requested.
Appropriations for the Department of the Interior fund the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF), which is the federal source of funding for State Historic Preservation Offices and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, as well as several preservation grant programs. Monies for the HPF come from offshore energy development revenues rather than tax-payer dollars. Grant programs funded by the HPF in FY 2018 include: African American Civil Rights Grants; Historically Black Colleges and Universities Grants; Save America’s Treasures Grants; Underrepresented Community Grants; and grants to help revitalize historic properties, particularly in rural villages and downtowns (first funded in 2018).
The House bill would fund the HPF at $101.41, $4.5 million above last year's record high level of $96.91 million. The Senate bill would provide $91.91 million, $5 million less than last year.
This appropriations bill did not pass before the FY 2018 fiscal year ended on September 30. Presently, the federal agencies addressed in this bill are being funded at FY 2018 levels under a continuing resolution through December 7.
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, an event memorialized and interpreted by the National Park Service at the Golden Spike National Historic Site. The Golden Spike 150th Anniversary Act would re-designate the National Historic Site as Golden Spike National Historical Park and would create a Transcontinental Railroad Network of federal, state, local, and private properties connected to the history of the Transcontinental Railroad. The National Park Service would provide technical assistance and develop educational outreach materials for the Network. The House passed its version of the bill on June 25. The proposed Network is modeled on the U.S. Civil Rights Network, which was created when the African American Civil Rights Network Act became law on January 8, 2018.The Senate version of the bill has been reported out of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with amendments, including creation of a program to commemorate and interpret the Transcontinental Railroad rather than a Network.
In August, the ACHP sent letters to Congress supporting the Senate and House bills.
Land and Water Conservation Fund Reauthorization
On September 14, the House Natural Resources Committee voted in support of a bill (H.R. 502) that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Authorization for the LWCF expired on September 30. The LWCF is funded from offshore drilling revenues (like the HPF), and is used to fund federal, state, and local park and recreation costs, including land acquisition and easement purchases. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources supports a bill (S.569) that not only would permanently reauthorize the LWCF, but also provides for full, dedicated and permanent funding.
This bill was passed by the House on June 5. It would create the Route 66 National Historic Trail, which would be administered by the National Park Service as part of the National Trails System. Route 66 was the first all-paved highway connecting the Midwest to California, running approximately 2,400 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. The goal of designation is to preserve the historic highway and promote revitalization of communities along its length. The Senate bill was introduced in October.
This bill would revise the Preserve America Grant Program to further emphasize the focus on job creation and economic growth. It also would authorize provision of technical assistance to applicants. The bill also would direct the National Park Service to enter into partnerships with gateway communities adjacent to units of the National Park System. The goal would be to assist gateway communities in strengthening tourism assets and economic development.
This bill would expand funding and extend authorization for the Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant Program, which provides grants for acquisition of parcels associated with Revolutionary, War of 1812, and Civil War battlefields. The bill would double the annual funding authorization to $20 million and extend the program to 2028. The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on this bill on September 6 and reported the bill out favorably on November 20.
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act amendments (H.R. 6647)
This bill would amend the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) to enhance the civil penalties for museums that fail to comply with the law’s provisions regarding the protection and repatriation of Native American human remains and cultural items. The bill also would transfer responsibility for investigations and legal enforcement of NAGPRA from the Fish and Wildlife Service to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act (S. 2907)
This bill would prevent energy leasing or development on federal land around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Chaco Culture World Heritage Site, which includes elements of a vast pre-Columbian cultural complex that dominated the southwestern United States from the mid-9th to early 13th centuries. The bill would withdraw 316,076 acres of surrounding federal land from future leasing for mineral and geothermal development. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining held a hearing on this bill on August 22.
Historic Preservation Tax Incentives
This bill would strengthen the federal historic tax credit (HTC) by eliminating the basis adjustment requirement on HTC transactions. The HTC is a 20% income tax credit available for projects that rehabilitate income-producing historic buildings – commercial and industrial buildings, hotels, apartment buildings, residential rentals, etc. – while maintaining their historic character. Since its creation in 1976, the HTC has leveraged $89.97 billion in private investment in the rehabilitation of historic properties.
Stewardship of Federal Lands and Properties
The National Park Service estimates that it currently has a backlog of about $11.6 billion of deferred maintenance. To begin to address this problem, the Senate Restore Our Parks Act would establish the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund. Fifty percent of energy development revenues due to the federal government from oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy development (not otherwise already allocated) would be deposited in the Fund each year for five years. There would be a cap of $1.3 billion per year, meaning that the maximum funding for the five years would be $6.5 billion. About 47% of the buildings, structures, roads, and bridges in the National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog are historic properties. The House version of the bill would permit a portion of the funds to be spent to address deferred maintenance of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Education.
In August, the ACHP sent letters to Congress supporting both the Senate and House bills.
A bill to allow States to assume certain federal environmental responsibilities with respect to highway projects (S. 2588)
This bill would allow States to assume federal agency responsibility for review of the impacts of transportation projects on historic properties under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. In order to qualify for such assumption, a State also would have to assume National Environmental Policy Act responsibilities under existing legislative authorization to do so. The bill would authorize the ACHP to carry out education, training, peer-exchange, and other initiatives to assist states in developing the capacity to participate in the program and promote information sharing and collaboration among states.
This bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to determine (within 180 days of the bill’s passage) what broadband deployment activities do not constitute: 1) undertakings requiring review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act; or 2) major federal actions requiring National Environmental Policy Act review.
Balancing Regulatory Reform and Streamlining with Protection of Historic Properties
Streamlining Permitting Efficiencies in Energy Development (SPEED) Act (H.R. 6088)
This bill would create a new application system to allow oil and gas companies to submit "Notifications of Permit to Drill" (NPD) to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in lieu of currently required applications to drill. NPDs could be used in certain specified locations or in locations where the company documents no significant effects to the environment, including to cultural and historic properties. BLM would have limited opportunity or grounds to object to NPDs, but BLM would be required to object if the activity is likely to affect historic properties. The objection could be withdrawn if the company consults with BLM to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
Ending Duplicative Permitting Act (H.R.6107)
This bill would abolish federal permits for oil and gas activities undertaken on non-federal land to access subsurface minerals on adjacent federal land in cases where the federal mineral ownership is less than 50% and a state permit has been issued. The bill specifies that such activities would not be subject to review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.