Friday, July 15, 2011

House Approves Major Cuts & Changes In Energy & Water Programs

Jul 15: The U.S. House approved H.R. 2354, the fiscal year 2012 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill by a vote of 219-196. The voting included 209 Republicans and 10 Democrats voting for the measure; and, 175 Democrats and 21 Republicans voting against. The legislation provides the annual funding for the various agencies and programs under the Department of Energy, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and various regional water and power authorities.

    The legislation totals $30.6 billion -- a cut of $5.9 billion below the President's request and $1 billion below last year -- which brings the total cost of the bill to nearly the 2006 funding level. In addition, the bill provides over $1 billion dollars in emergency funding for the Corps of Engineers to address recent Mississippi River and Missouri River flood disasters. The funding will be used for flood fighting activities and restoration of flood prevention and navigation systems.

    House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) applauded the House for passing the bill saying, "This bill is proof that we can make common-sense spending reductions without damaging or impairing the programs that help keep our country safe and our citizens at work. While providing vital funding for programs that preserve our public safety, quality of life, economic competitiveness, energy independence and national defense, this bill abides by the promise that we would cut spending where we can to get our budgets back into balance and keep us on track toward economic recovery."

    Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) also welcomed the approval and said, "The House should be proud of this bill, which protects our national security and American competitiveness and innovation and sharpens oversight of the Department of Energy and the agencies under our jurisdiction. And recognizing the fiscal crisis facing our country, the bill restores funding to levels not seen since 2006, making it a model of restraint. I also commend the House Leadership for returning to regular order. This week's open and free-wheeling debate reflects well on this House."    

    Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Energy & Water Subcommittee Ranking Member (Pete Visclosky (R-IN) said in part, prior to final passage, "The Subcommittee's allocation is $30,600,000,000, a decrease of $5,901,082,000 from the Administration's budget request and $1,043,303,000 below the 2011 level. This allocation has necessitated severe cuts to crucial programs. While we truly appreciate the Chairman's considerable efforts and recognize that difficult choices must be made to address the nation's serious financial situation, this bill starkly illustrates the shortsighted nature of the spending cap set by the House budget. The allocation for Energy and Water is simply insufficient to meet the challenges posed by the economic downturn and to guarantee our national security. The cut-at-any-cost ideology has severely hindered our Committee's ability to produce bills that adhere to principles of good governance. This bill contains inadequate funding levels for energy efficiency initiatives, the Army Corps and environmental cleanup, to name a few. These decisions sacrifice long-term investment needs for short-term gain. . ."  

    Some of the major provisions related to energy matters included in the bill are: 

  • Department of Energy (DOE) - The funding for DOE within the legislation totals $24.7 billion – $850 million below last year's level and $5.9 billion below the President's request.
  • Nuclear Security The bill provides a total of $10.6 billion for DOE's nuclear security programs, including Weapons Activities, Nuclear Nonproliferation, and Naval Reactors. Counting additional funds reallocated to this account from unused prior year funds, funding for nuclear security will increase by $147 million over last year.
  • Yucca Mountain The bill rejects the Administration's wasteful, partisan attempts to shutter the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository program and provides $35 million to support Yucca Mountain activities, including $10 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue their review of the license application. The bill also includes provisions to forbid the use of funds to close down the program.
  • Science Research The bill includes $4.8 billion for science research, a slight reduction of $43 million below last year's level.
  • Energy Programs The bill provides funding to help create U.S. jobs and promote the nation's energy independence, including $1.3 billion – $491 million below last year's level – for programs to help lower the cost of renewable energy technologies and to develop new technology. The bill also includes $734 million for nuclear energy research, development, and demonstration activities to further the next generation of safe, secure, and economically beneficial nuclear power options while ensuring the safety and resiliency of our nuclear power plants. In addition, the legislation provides $477 million – $32 million above last year's level – for research and development to advanced coal, natural gas, and other fossil energy power generation technologies that produce more than 70% of the nation's current electricity. Finally, the bill includes $100 million to support the activities of the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy, and $160 million to support loan guarantees for innovative projects.
  • Environmental Management Included in the legislation is $5.6 billion for environmental management activities – a reduction of $101 million below last year. This includes $4.9 billion for Defense Environmental Cleanup to remediate safely sites contaminated by previous nuclear weapons production.
    Some of the amendments approved on the House Floor included:
  • An amendment cuts $4.9 million from the Army Corps Operation and Maintenance for response to climate change at Corps projects, and transfers the funds to the Spending Reduction Account.
  • An amendment cuts $6 million from Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and transfers the funds to the Spending Reduction Account.
  • An amendment cuts $200,000 from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and transfers the funds to the Spending Reduction Account.
  • An amendment provides $2.2 million for Fossil Energy Research and Development for State oil and gas commissions.
  • An amendment cuts Departmental Administration by $21 million and Office of the Administrator by $20 million, and adds the funds to Non-Defense Environmental Cleanup.
  • An amendment cuts $79.6 million from Departmental Administration, and adds the funds to the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E).
  • An amendment cuts $2.5 million from Departmental Administration, and transfers the funds to the Spending Reduction Account.
  • An amendment cuts $35 million from Departmental Administration, and transfers the funds to Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.
  • An amendment cuts $10 million from Departmental Administration to increase funding for the Yucca Mountain license application.
  • An amendment prohibits funds to implement rules, regulations, or an executive order that would require federal contractors to disclose political contributions.
  • An amendment cuts $10 million from Departmental Administration, and adds the funding to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
  • An amendment prohibits funding to pay the salaries of Energy Department employees to carry out the weatherization assistance increases created by the economic stimulus law.
  • An amendment prohibits funding for the International Program within the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account while preserving funding for U.S-Israel energy cooperation.
  • An amendment prohibits the implementation or enforcement of higher efficiency light bulb standards. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
  • An amendment prohibits funding for DoE International Programs in China. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

    Access a Republican release and summary of amendments (click here). Access the Democratic Ranking Member views (click here). Access links to bill summaries, releases and amendments (click here). Access the Democrats website on the bill (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.2354 (click here). Access the roll call vote (click here). [*Energy, *Water]