On April 19, the House Appropriations Committee passed the energy and water spending bill with a few controversial riders. Last week, a clean measure passed unanimously through the Senate Appropriations Committee (S.2804). The bills fund the Department of Energy and water programs at $37.5 billion for FY 2017, $259 million above FY 2016 funding levels, and $168 million above the President’s budget request. In both bills, non-defense spending is flat, with increases to DOE's nuclear defense spending and nuclear energy work of $1.163 billion. In the House, fossil energy also receives a boost of $13 million over FY 2016 levels and $45 million above the President’s FY 2017 budgetary request; the funding for fossil R&D remains flat in the Senate. In the House bill, the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is cut by $300 million over FY 2016 spending levels. EERE includes the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), the Sustainable Transportation office and the Vehicle Technologies office.
Energy R&D – Renewable Energy, Bioenergy and Vehicle Technologies Take a Big Hit in House Bill
The House and Senate bills fund DOE energy programs at $11.08 billion, a $56 million increase above FY 2016 levels and $1.3 billion below the President’s FY 2017 budget request. In the Senate bill, the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) remains flat, at $2.1 billion. The House bill decreases the EERE budget to $1.8 billion, a decrease of $300 million. The President’s request for FY 2017 for EERE is $2.9 billion, a 40 percent increase over FY 2016 spending levels, for continued investments in an array of clean transportation, energy and manufacturing initiatives. The DOE’s EERE program is also the main U.S. vehicle for Mission Innovation, a 20-country pact to double clean energy research and development in the next five years. Mission Innovation is also a key aspect of the Paris climate agreement, signed by 171 world leaders on April 22.
In the House bill, several programs of note are cut. DOE's Sustainable Transportation office receives $533 million, $102 million less than FY 2016 and $319 million less than the President's FY 2017 request. The House bill also cuts DOE's Vehicle Technologies office to $268 million, $42 million below the budget request. Additionally, the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) receives $168 million, $56.5 million below FY 2016 and $110 million below the President's FY 2017 budget request.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), would receive $306 million from House appropriators, and $296 million from the Senate. The President’s FY 2017 request is $350 million. ARPA-E is a funder of cutting-edge energy technologies.
Funding for the science office, which oversees research at the ten DOE National Laboratories would be boosted by $50 million relative to FY 2016 funding levels, to $5.4 billion in both the Senate and House bills.
Nuclear energy and nuclear security received a big boost, with Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), noting that the House bill “includes strong funding for nuclear energy, providing research and development to ensure a safe, efficient, reliable nuclear fleet, and laying the foundation for the next generation of nuclear reactors.” Nuclear security, which includes nuclear weapons activities, nuclear naval reactors and defense nuclear nonproliferation, would see a boost to $12.9 billion in both bills. FY 2016 spending for nuclear security was $12.5 billion. Nuclear energy R&D would be increased to $1.058 billion in the Senate, and to $1.011 in the House. In FY 2016, nuclear energy R&D spending was $986 million.
The House bill sets the fossil energy R&D budget at $645 million, $13 million above the FY 2016 level of $632 million. The Senate keeps the fossil energy R&D budget flat at $632 million. The President’s request for FY 2017 is $600 million. The Senate bill also rescinds $240 million of unobligated balances from the fossil energy R&D budget.
According to Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee member Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), cuts to renewable energy R&D would “allow our global competitors to grow their market share at our expense in this rapidly expanding industry, which will be so important to our economic well-being in the coming decades.”
House Riders - WOTUS
The House bill contains several controversial riders, most notably, $170 million in funding for the nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and blocking the full implementation of the EPA’s Clean Water Act jurisdiction rule, known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
The House bill also blocks the application of the Clean Water Act in “certain agricultural areas, including farm ponds and irrigation ditches,” which is a key issue in the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit. In Des Moines, the water utility argues that high costs of denitrification, borne by ratepayers, is due primarily to excess nitrogen from farms in the three drainage districts.
The Des Moines Water Works utility would like to see agricultural water run-off regulated as point-source pollutants under the Clean Water Act, which would make it possible to regulate the water discharged from farm’s irrigation ditches.
Next Tuesday, the full Senate will consider the bill and Senate leadership has agreed to keep riders out of the bill. Amendments will be considered next week by the full Senate, including an amendment from Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to direct $95 million to wind energy. Additionally, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) along with a bipartisan coalition is expected to offer an amendment recognizing that climate change is real.
Additionally, some expect to see a Yucca Mountain amendment on the Senate floor, with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) commenting that, “I look forward to an open amendment process in the U.S. Senate and to working with the House to remove obstacles to nuclear power.”
For more information see:
Senate Energy and Water Bill, Senate Appropriations
House Energy and Water Bill, House Appropriations
Fiscal 2017 Budget & Appropriations, E&E News