Scenic photo of Dismals Canyon

CQ Roll Call | Energy-Water Spending Bill Backed by Full Panel

June 26, 2013
In The News

Energy-Water Spending Bill Backed by Full Panel
By Tait Militana | CQ Roll Call | June 26, 2013

 

 

House appropriators on Wednesday advanced legislation that would halve spending on renewable energy while ramping up a few nuclear weapons programs.

The House Appropriations Committee approved, 28-21, a draft Energy-Water bill that would provide $30.4 billion for the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers, civilian and defense nuclear programs, and related agencies. That spending level would be $6.3 billion less than the fiscal 2013 enacted level, including money spent on Superstorm Sandy relief, and $4.3 billion less than corresponding legislation in the Senate.

Calling it an “austere budget year,” Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said the bill “makes strategic reductions to lower-priority programs that don’t address the most immediate security or economic needs of this nation.”

But Democrats blasted language that would fund renewable-power programs under the Energy Department at $983 million, which the committee said is about $911 million, or 48 percent, below fiscal 2013 levels. Noting that the push to cut spending on bioenergy, fuel cells, solar, wind and geothermal power development came a day after the president outlined a plan on climate change, Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, “We can make these investments now or spend untold billions to recover from disasters.”

The House legislation also would limit spending on the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a program that funds so-called high-risk, high-reward energy research, to $50 million — about 81 percent below fiscal 2013 — while providing $450 million for the development of coal, natural gas and oil energy technologies.

“Renewable and other energy research activities, which are cut in the bill, should not have to rely so heavily on taxpayer funding,” Rogers said.

The panel turned back two amendments that would restore funding for renewable energy and ARPA-E at the levels requested by the Obama administration, with Republicans saying the proposals did not include offsets.

Energy-Water Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, said the bill instead prioritizes “money in inherent federal responsibilities, such as maintaining our nuclear stockpiles.”

Competing legislation in the Senate would increase spending on efficiency and renewable-energy programs to $2.3 billion, $470 million more than fiscal 2013, and would provide $329 million more than the House bill for ARPA-E.

Nuclear

Under the House legislation, the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons security program would receive $11.3 billion, which is $235 million less than the fiscal 2013 enacted levels and about $450 million less than the Senate bill, although some weapons activity and nuclear reactor programs would receive funding boosts above fiscal 2013 levels.

Citing President Barack Obama’s recent announcement that he will seek reductions in nuclear stockpiles, Frelinghuysen said, “No funding will be made available to implement it until Congress is confident that it will fully support our national defense and it is prudent.”

He said the bill would cut spending on nuclear non-proliferation efforts to $2.1 billion, or $334 million below fiscal 2013 levels. That level is slightly less than the Senate’s $2.2 billion.

Water

Debate on Wednesday also touched on interpretations of the Clean Water Act (PL 95-217).James P. Moran, D-Va., offered two amendments that would strike language prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineers from revising regulations on the discharge of fill material and the federal definition of water under its jurisdiction.

Republicans said the measure as written would prevent agency overreach on environmental issues that should fall to Congress.

The panel rejected both proposals despite protests from Moran that the current language authorizes in an appropriations bill and “ensures that the confusion continues.”

The measure would provide $4.9 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is $104 million less than enacted for fiscal 2013 and $50 million more than the president’s request.

Before advancing the measure, the panel adopted a handful of miscellaneous amendments. One from Alabama Republican Robert B. Aderholt would direct the Bureau of Reclamation to permit projects that meet international corrosion standards, and one from Tom Graves, R-Ga., would allow firearms on Army Corps of Engineers land.