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Courtney Votes to Save Plum Island, Promote Eastern Connecticut Priorities in House Appropriations Package

July 31, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) and the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 7617, a legislative package that includes six separate appropriations bills: Defense; Commerce, Justice and Science; Energy and Water Development; Financial Services and General Government; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. The package includes measures to assist small businesses and ensure the integrity of Federal elections, invest in communities and infrastructure, and more. H.R. 7616 also contains several measures that support eastern Connecticut priorities, including Courtney’s bipartisan amendment to restrict the sale of Plum Island, NY.

“Today’s passage of the House’s second appropriations bill was a big step forward for some priorities that are important to eastern Connecticut, and to the nation,” said Rep. Courtney. “The House has continued to produce results, even during a global pandemic, and the funding bill we passed today is another example. We worked hard, and across the aisle to ensure that the bill included our bipartisan amendment to restrict the selling-off of Plum Island to the highest bidder, which is an issue we continue to see tremendous support for in our region. Residents and conservationists on both sides of the Long Island Sound have worked to protect this ecological treasure for years, and our amendment will help make time for them to capture the island’s full potential.

“I’ve been glad to work across the aisle to help produce some of this bill’s most important provisions, like support for programs our farmers depend on, continued research into the crumbling foundations crisis, support for our U.S. Navy and for eastern Connecticut’s manufacturing sector. There’s still work left ahead to get some of these priorities across the finish line once and for all this year, and I’ll keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get it done.”

Specifically, Rep. Courtney and Rep. Zeldin’s amendment would prohibit the General Services Administration (GSA) from using any of its funding to market, process, or complete a sale of Plum Island, NY. Rep. Courtney has worked with the Connecticut and New York Congressional delegations for more than ten years to preserve Plum Island as a natural sanctuary.

In 2008, the federal government announced plans to close the research facility on Plum Island and relocate to Manhattan, Kansas. Current law states that Plum Island must be sold publicly to help finance the new research facility. For several years, Members from both sides of Long Island Sound have been working in a bipartisan manner to delay and, ultimately, repeal the mandated sale of this ecologically significant island. Most recently, in 2019, Rep. Courtney and his colleagues from the Connecticut and New York delegations successfully advanced legislation that passed the House to prohibit the sale of Plum Island in 2020. Click here to read more.

Highlights of H.R. 7616 include provisions to:

  • Protect Plum Island—The bill includes Rep. Courtney’s bipartisan amendment to prohibit the GSA from using any of its funding to market, process, or complete a sale of Plum Island, NY
  • Support the Ocean Exploration Trust—The final appropriations bill rejects the Administration’s proposed decrease in funding to the Ocean Exploration Trust, and instead provides more than $42 Million for the program, with a focus o mapping and characterizing the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zones and Extended Continental Shelf
  • Support the National Sea Grant Program—The bill provides $71 million for the National Sea Grant College Program, an increase of $4 million from FY2020, and rejects the President's proposal to eliminate this program. Sea Grant supports coastal and Great Lake communities through research, extension, and education
  • Research Crumbling Foundations—The bill provides $2 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct research into the effects of pyrrhotite on concrete aggregate. Courtney requested this funding, and it represents a $500,000 increase from the funding he secured for similar NIST research in FY2020
  • Support the U.S. Navy—H.R. 7616 includes full funding to construct two Virginia-class submarines in 2021, and advanced procurement for additional submarines in 2022 and 2023. The $4.6 billion outlined for the VA-class submarine program fully supports Rep. Courtney’s bipartisan effort to restore the missing second submarine in the FY2021 NDAA
  • Support the Next-Generation Columbia-Class Submarine—The bill authorizes $2.8 billion for the Columbia-class submarine program, including $1.1 billion in advanced procurement to support construction starting this year
  • Strengthen Election Security—The final bill provides $500 million for election security grants to the states to improve security of elections for federal office. In addition, $19.1 million is included for the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) operating expenses, an increase of $3.9 million above the FY2020 enacted level, and $6 million more than the President’s request
  • Protect Health Care Workers—The bill includes a provision requested by Rep. Courtney that acknowledges the need for an enforceable health care workplace violence prevention standard, and requesting a report from OSHA on progress towards the standard within 90 days

For more information on H.R. 7617, click here.