President, Cabinet Leaders Meet with California County Officials
Oct. 24, 2018
The Trump administration hosted local officials from California, Alaska, and Hawaii Tuesday as part of its State Leadership Conference series. The event, organized by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, provided attendees with the opportunity to interact with key members of the Trump administration on a range of pertinent issues.
Participating in the conference were more than 50 county officials from California, including CSAC First Vice President and Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass and CSAC Second Vice President and Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
The half-day event featured extended remarks by President Trump, as well as presentations by the following senior cabinet officials: Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Department of the Interior; Elaine Chao, Secretary of the Department of Transportation; Robert Wilkie, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Andrew Wheeler, Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and, Jim Hubbard, Under Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. Also addressing attendees was Bill McGinley, Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary, Kellyanne Conway, Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor, and several officials from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
For his part, President Trump touched on a number of topics during his roughly 25-minute address, including several issues of direct interest to California counties. Among other things, the president discussed California water policy, forest management practices in the state, and the ongoing fallout from the opioid crisis.
With regard to water, the President highlighted his recent signing of a memorandum titled “Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West.” Pursuant to the order, the Departments of Interior and Commerce are directed to work together to “minimize regulatory burdens” in order to increase water supplies for certain areas of the West, including farmers in the Central Valley.The memorandum is expected to streamline the approval of certain water storage projects in California, as well as accelerate the ongoing review of the long-term coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project.
On a related matter, and as part of his remarks to county officials, Interior Secretary Zinke also discussed California water policy, as well as other issues under the purview of his department. For example, Secretary Zinke discussed various public lands issues, such as the Payments-in-lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) program, as well as federal forest policies and a plan to reorganize Interior into 12 “Unified Regions” based on ecosystem and watershed boundaries rather than state lines.
Transportation Secretary Chao discussed, among other things, the Trump administration’s desire to advance an ambitious infrastructure initiative. The secretary acknowledged the challenge in finding consensus on how to fund such a proposal. Additionally, Secretary Chao highlighted the administration’s “One Federal Decision” directive, which requires federal agencies to process environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects under a single Environmental Impact Statement.
Finally, and of additional interest to California’s counties, Acting Administrator Wheeler discussed EPA’s efforts aimed at revising the Obama administration’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. According to Wheeler, and as reflected in the recently updated Office of Management and Budget Semi-Annual Regulatory Review, EPA plans to issue a proposed rule-making on a new WOTUS definition within the coming month. While multiple pending legal challenges to the 2015 version of the rule could complicate EPA’s efforts to finalize a new rule, the agency is hoping to have a new regulation in place by the fall of next year.