On Thursday, January 16, the Senate voted 72-26 to pass the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (H.R. 3547), also known as the omnibus spending bill, to fund the government through the end of this fiscal year. On Wednesday, the House voted similarly, 359-67 on the draft introduced earlier this week by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
This bill, expected to be signed by the President by Saturday, January 18, when the government’s current continuing resolution expires, contains several key provisions for programs tracked by EESI.
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) – With an estimated $7.8 million in grant funding and $40 million in loan guarantees likely to be forthcoming for a Notice of Funding Available from USDA in 2014, the Omnibus allocates an additional $3.5 million for loan guarantees to further support the REAP program. The expansion of eligible REAP projects in the past several solicitations has included biofuel production equipment, flex-fuel pumps, and anaerobic digesters for electricity production. USDA has historically funded a high proportion of projects that apply for funding.
Defense Production Act Title III – The bill provides for the transfer of up to $45 million from the Department of Energy to confirm its commitment to the Navy biofuels program. This had been an issue of contention over the past year as Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) had previously introduced amendments on various appropriations bills in opposition to this program. This $45M is essential to the program's financial stability, and to the four companies awarded Phase I awards that aim to develop drop-in biofuels at less than $4 per gallon.
Biorefinery Assistance Program – Section 9003 of the 2008 Farm Bill, the Biorefinery Assistance Program, has a current Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) out for its remaining $76 million in carryover funding to support up to $181 million in loan guarantees for eligible commercial biorefinery developments or retrofits. However, of the six conditional commitments still in the program pipeline, some are expected to either not close or be reduced. The Omnibus appropriations bill notes a $40,694,000 rescission of unobligated funds, which is a funding reduction from one of the projects not expected to go forward.
- U.S. Forest Service - $10 million was allocated under hazardous fuels reduction to create incentives for the increased use of biomass from National Forest System lands (e.g., trees affected by pine beetle used for bioenergy).
- U.S. Agency for International Development - $123.5 million was appropriated for sustainable landscape programs, and $212.5 million was appropriated specifically for programs that protect biodiversity
- USDA Pesticide Recordkeeping Program – This program, which required federally restricted pesticides to be recorded and their use by farmers reported, has been eliminated.