Thursday, June 16, 2011

Appropriations Committee Passes Water and Energy Spending Bill on to Full House

On Wednesday (June 15) the full House Appropriations Committee approved a Fiscal Year 2102, $30.6 billion energy and water spending bill for the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Interior water programs.  The measure, expected to be considered (and passed) by the full House in July, includes over $1 billion to fund flood response activities and to restore flood protection structures (such as levees) related to this spring's Mississippi and Missouri River flooding.  The bill also contains a controversial rider restricting Army Corps of Engineers' implementation of a new Administration Clean Water Act guidance; a provision several Committee Democrats (and numerous environmental and conservation organizations) sought to have removed.

The Committee approved the measure by a vote of 26-20, largely along party lines, following three-and-a-half-hours of discussion and amendment consideration.  Only Republican Rep. Jeff Flake (AZ-6) joined with 19 Democrats in voting against the measure.  The bill would cut $5.9 billion from the President's 2012 budget proposal and would cut around $1 billion from the Fiscal Year 2011 spending levels for the agencies.  Under the bill's provisions the Department of Energy would receive $24.7 billion, the Army Corps $4.8 billion, and Department of Interior (Bureau of Reclamation) $934 million.  The Army Corps funding level is actually slightly more than the $4.63 billion requested by the President in his 2012 budget proposal; not an unexpected outcome, given a Congressional history of adding spending for particular flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects.

Among the amendments considered was one offered Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA-8), which would have removed from the bill a provision that blocks funding for the new Obama administration policy aimed at better-defining Clean Water Act protections over wetlands and streams.  On April 27 the Obama administration released a national clean water framework, entitled "Clean Water: Foundation of Healthy Communities and a Healthy Environment."  The Framework release was accompanied by the release of draft guidance from the US EPA and Army Corps of Engineers that updates Federal guidance regarding where the Clean Water Act applies nationwide (see a complete article on the framework and guidance here).  Section 109 of the spending bill seeks to prevent the Corps of Engineers from completing and implementing that guidance.  Rep. Moran's amendment failed to pass (on a vote of 21-27).  The Section 109 rider remains in the bill despite the urging of 15 major national outdoors and conservation groups that the provision be dropped (see the groups' June 13 letter to appropriators here - PDF file).

The bill would also cut  $32.7 million from the Administration's 2012, $162 million request for Everglades restoration, providing $130 million for the initiative (expected overall to cost $12.5 billion over 10 years).

To view the Appropriations Committee (majority office) media release and summary of the bill, see here.  The full text of legislation (as considered by the Committee prior to its June 15 vote) can be viewed here (as a PDF file).  And the Committee report accompanying the legislation can be seen here (also as a PDF file).  The Committee-passed version of the legislation will be posted on this Library of Congress appropriations' status web site shortly.

No comments:

Post a Comment