May 31, 2017

Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Murphy Urge Appropriators To End Outdated Mandate Threatening Plum Island

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) wrote leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee seeking repeal of the misguided and outdated mandate requiring the sale of Plum Island.

“It is imperative the sale requirement be repealed for two critical reasons. First, the sale will no longer serve the purpose for which it was intended. We support the transition to the new facility, but the Kansas location has since been funded and no longer needs the revenue that would come from a sale of Plum Island. Second, Plum Island and its boundless natural treasures must remain free from developers so they can instead be preserved for future generations. By repealing the sale we can take away the threat of private development while continuing to work with our colleagues to craft an alternative, long-term path for this precious resource that allows it to remain with the federal government or a responsible entity as a park or preserve in perpetuity,” Gillibrand, Blumenthal and Murphy state in the letter.

Currently, the federal General Service Administration is required by law to sell the entire island, including the research facility and the surrounding natural habitat to the highest bidder, and is limited in transferring the island to another federal agency, such as the U.S. National Parks Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for preservation. Congress mandated the sale in order to help pay for construction of the new bio-lab in Kansas. However, legislation since then successfully included money for the lab, so the sale of the island is no longer necessary.

The environmental significance of Plum Island is remarkable. In the 2006 Long Island Sound Study, Connecticut state agencies in collaboration with New York and federal agencies as well as environmental organizations recognized the ecological and recreational importance of Plum Island as a Long Island Sound Stewardship Site.  In addition, GSA’s own Final Environmental Impact Statement concluded that any development of Plum Island could have a major impact on land use, air quality, water resources and biological resources in the area.

Full text of the letter is here and copied below:   

The Honorable John Boozman

Chairman

Subcommittee on Homeland Security

U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee

131 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Jon Tester

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Homeland Security

U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee

128 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Boozman and Ranking Member Tester:

As you develop the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, we write urging you to repeal a misguided, outdated mandate that was included in appropriations bills in previous Congresses. This mandate required DHS to sell Plum Island, a small island in Long Island Sound that has long been used for federal animal research efforts. Plum Island is also home to pristine beaches, miles of natural shoreline, and critical habitats for hundreds of types of plants and animals. The forced sale must be repealed.

For decades, Plum Island housed an animal research laboratory known as the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Several years ago, Congress authorized the creation of a new replacement facility in Kansas. In order to pay for the new facility, Congress required DHS to sell Plum Island in a public sale. It is imperative the sale requirement be repealed for two critical reasons. First, the sale will no longer serve the purpose for which it was intended. We support the transition to the new facility, but the Kansas location has since been funded and no longer needs the revenue that would come from a sale of Plum Island. Second, Plum Island and its boundless natural treasures must remain free from developers so they can instead be preserved for future generations. By repealing the sale we can take away the threat of private development while continuing to work with our colleagues to craft an alternative, long-term path for this precious resource that allows it to remain with the federal government or a responsible entity as a park or preserve in perpetuity.

This issue is germane to your subcommittee’s work and next year’s spending bill, as the sale was included in appropriations legislation in years past.  Our request can be achieved by including language that repeals Section 540 of title V of division D of the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 110-329) and section 538 of title V of division D of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74). 

We thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

Richard Blumenthal

United States Senate

 

Chris Murphy

United States Senate

 

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senate