APPROPRIATIONS:

$33.3B energy and water bill heads to House floor

The House will take up the $33.3 billion fiscal 2010 energy and water spending bill this week as Democratic leaders in that chamber push to complete all appropriations measures before the August break.

The bill funds the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and several independent agencies.

It supports increases in renewable energy, efficiency and science funding but also breaks with the Obama administration in some key areas. For instance, the bill does not go along with a DOE plan to end research into hydrogen vehicles and instead provides $40 million for the effort, and also greatly pares back a $280 million plan to create eight multidisciplinary "energy innovation hubs."

The Rules Committee meets tomorrow afternoon, which means the bill would likely be on the floor the next day. Democrats are expected to allow debate on only a limited number of amendments. Lawmakers have submitted roughly 100 amendments to the Rules Committee, which will greatly pare down the list tomorrow.

Examples of amendments include Rep. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) ongoing effort to slash various earmarks; Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Joe Barton's (R-Texas) proposal to reverse the decision to abandon the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump; and several amendments to cut funding for the overall bill or specific programs.

Two California Democrats -- Reps. Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza -- want to boost spending for the California Bay-Delta restoration program by $10 million by cutting funding for the Bureau of Reclamation commissioner's office by the same amount.

A bipartisan amendment backed by six members including Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) would provide an additional $45 million for various DOE hydrogen initiatives.

The energy and water bill is also moving ahead in the Senate. The full Appropriations Committee approved its version last week (E&E Daily, July 10).

Negotiating an eventual House-Senate agreement would feature Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who oversees the energy and water spending panel, working with Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.). Pastor is at the helm of the House Energy and Water Development Subcommittee because Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) has temporarily stepped aside during an investigation of his office's ties to a now-defunct defense lobbying firm.

Dorgan said last week that he knows Pastor and his fond of him, but added "I haven't worked with him much at all." But Dorgan nonetheless predicted a smooth process. "I've known Ed for some years and look forward to working with him in conference," Dorgan said last week. "I don't think we'll have difficulty."

Energy spending

Overall, the bill provides $26.9 billion for DOE, which according to the House Appropriations Committee is $86 million above current spending.

It provides $2.25 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, which is $321 million above current year spending but $68.6 million below the White House request.

The bill provides $4.94 billion for DOE's Office of Science. That funding level is slightly higher than the White House request and more than $170 million above fiscal 2009 spending.

For nuclear energy research, the bill provides $812 million, which is more than $50 million above the request and $20 million above current spending, according to the committee.

House appropriators followed the president's request for funding fossil energy research at about $260 million below current spending. That $618 million budget is geared toward research and development for carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects and alternative fuel technologies.

However, the recent economic stimulus law also provides $3.4 billion for CCS programs and indeed steered billions in other funding toward DOE renewable energy, efficiency and other programs.

Water programs

The bill boosts spending for water projects overall, increasing funding for the Army Corps of Engineers but cutting money for the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Army Corps would win $5.5 billion under the measure, a $139 million increase over fiscal 2009 levels that largely would fund improvements to existing projects.

The proposal is $416 million above the Obama administration's request and about $100 million higher than the number approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

The corps' operations and maintenance budget would see the biggest increase, climbing $309 million from current levels to $2.5 billion in fiscal 2010. The cash infusion is aimed at tackling "the over $1 billion backlog of operations and maintenance needs of navigation infrastructure critical to the U.S. economy," according to the bill summary.

Money for construction would dip $19 million to $2.1 billion, and the investigations budget, which funds studies related to corps projects, would see a $26 million cut to $142 million in fiscal 2010.

Flood-damage reduction projects in the Mississippi River Valley would see the largest budget cut under the measure, losing $133 million from fiscal 2009 levels.

The spending bill would cut the budget for Reclamation by $38 million, slicing $10 million from the $920 million provided this year for the agency's water account. The account finances water development, management and restoration in the 17 Western states.

The California Bay-Delta restoration project, which aims to improve water quality and reliability in the San Joaquin River Delta, would see a $9 million cut, and the Central Valley project restoration fund would lose $21 million.

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