House passes bill to fund DOE and Army Corps, maintains steep clean energy cuts

The House last night approved a bill to fund the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers and related agencies following a second marathon day of debate.

The $30.4 billion bill remained largely unchanged as the gavel fell on the final 227-198 vote just after 10:30 p.m. Of 66 amendments that came to a vote, about a third were adopted, most of which aim to block or encourage various policy changes. Eight amendments succeeded in shifting about $114 million in spending authority within the bill, mostly in increments of less than $20 million.

Over the two days of debate, Democrats offered a handful of big-ticket amendments seeking to undo the steep cuts proposed to clean energy, science and research accounts by shifting funds away from weapons programs that were funded in excess of the Obama administration's requests. But they failed along largely party-line votes.

Debate on amendments last night featured further Republican efforts to limit the Obama administration's promotion of renewable energy sources in addition to the underlying spending reductions in the bill that cut DOE programs in those areas by more than half.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, offered an amendment to prevent any funding to DOE's wind energy programs. Those already faced a $69 million cut, to $24 million.


Whitfield said the administration was providing inappropriate support to the industry, pointing as an example to a proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service to authorize 30-year permits that would authorize incidental harm or killing of protected migratory birds and eagles by wind turbines, while prosecuting similar violations of wildlife-protection laws by oil companies.

"This administration has made it very clear to the American people that is trying to dictate the fuels used to produce electricity in America," Whitfield said from the floor. "And they have made it very clear that they are flagrantly discriminating and giving preferential treatment to the wind industry."

The amendment failed 94-329, following resistance from some Republicans, including New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee. Frelinghuysen said he "reluctantly" opposed the amendment because it would result in a dramatic reduction of economic activity in the wind industry and halt efforts to develop a viable U.S. offshore wind industry.

DOE in December announced a first round of grants as part of an initiative to distribute up to $168 million for offshore wind projects over the next several years. Among the companies receiving an initial $4 million grant was Fisherman's Energy, which is planning a six-turbine wind farm offshore from Atlantic City, N.J. (E&ENews PM, Dec. 12, 2012).

"This comes at a time when wind is renewable energy's fastest-growing sector," Frelinghuysen said on the floor last night.

Narrower efforts to limit clean energy promotion were adopted last night. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) succeeded in attaching an amendment mirroring language he attached to last year's House bill, which was never enacted. The amendment blocks DOE from implementing any new actions stemming from a 2012 memo from then-Secretary Steven Chu encouraging the nation's four power marketing administrations to upgrade transmission lines and promote renewable energy.

Gosar said he was concerned that the memo would lead to a "top-down approach" that would be difficult for the local PMAs to implement. "It is best if we stop this train wreck from moving forward before it is even implemented," he said on the floor.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) also succeeded in blocking funding for a transmission loan guarantee program in the Western Area Power Administration authorized by the 2009 stimulus law. He said the program could saddle taxpayers with costs that otherwise should be borne by private developers and that it diverted from the stimulus' goal of supporting "shovel-ready" projects. The amendment passed 230-194.

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) won passage of two amendments via voice vote. One prevents enforcement of the administration's National Ocean Policy, which Republicans have criticized as an attempt to "zone the ocean" and prevent additional oil drilling. His second amendment would block enforcement of a provision in the 2005 energy bill barring the government from purchasing fuels that produce more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude, such as coal-to-liquids.

Earlier in the day, Republicans attached amendments blocking DOE efficiency rules for light bulbs and ceiling fans (E&ENews PM, July 10).

While there weren't many amendments from Democrats that passed, Democrats were not completely without success in yesterday's debate. Rep. Steven Lynch (D-Mass.) won support for his amendment to shift $20 million from DOE's fossil energy account to bolster funding for Army Corps construction projects; it passed 217-206. Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) also successfully attached an amendment via voice vote to transfer an additional $1 million to Army Corps civil construction projects from its administrative expenses account.

On Monday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) attached an amendment boosting the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy's account by $20 million. The total of $70 million for ARPA-E still left it well below this year's level of $265 million.

Following is the list of other amendments that came to a vote last night:

  • Rep. Karen Bass' (D-Calif.) amendment intended to prohibit hydraulic fracturing in the Inglewood oil field in Southern California failed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. Jared Polis' (D-Colo.) amendment to cut $13 million from the Weapons Activities account failed, 182-243.
  • Rep. Michael Burgess' (R-Texas) amendment to cut $48 million from the Domestic Enriched Uranium Demonstration Project failed, 114-308.
  • Burgess' amendment to strip language from the bill authorizing DOE to transfer $48 million to USEC failed, 131-291.
  • Rep. Dina Titus' (D-Nev.) amendment to strip language blocking consideration of alternatives to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository failed, 87-337.
  • Rep. Mike Turner's (R-Ohio) amendment to prevent reductions of the nuclear weapons stockpile in contravention of the Arms Control and Disarmament Act passed by voice vote.
  • Rep. Ben Ray Luján's (D-N.M.) amendment to shift $15 million to the Army Corps' Civil Construction account from its Civil Expenses account failed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. Eliot Engel's (D-N.Y.) amendment to promote the use of alternative fuels in the federal vehicle fleet passed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. John Garamendi's (D-Calif.) amendment to shift $100 million from the National Nuclear Security Administration's Weapons Activities Account failed, 170-253.
  • Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer's (R-Mo.) amendment to block funding for the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study passed by voice vote.
  • Luetkemeyer's amendment to block funding for the Missouri River Bank Stabilization Navigation Project passed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. Kristi Noem's (R-S.D.) amendment to block the establishment of a fee for surplus water from Missouri River reservoirs passed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. Jackie Speier's (D-Calif.) language to cut $30 million from DOE's Fossil Energy Research and Development account failed, 174-250.
  • Rep. Alan Grayson's (D-Fla.) amendment to shift $10 million into the Army Corps' Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies from DOE's Fossil Energy Research and Development account failed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. Steve Chabot's (R-Ohio) amendment to eliminate funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, Denali Commission, Northern Border Regional Commission and Southeast Crescent Regional Commission failed, 147-273.
  • Rep. Mike Kelly's (R-Pa.) amendment to prohibit expanded uses of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund passed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. Doug LaMalfa's (R-Colo.) amendment to prevent the Army Corps from requiring permits for certain agriculture activities passed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) amendment to block the Army Corps from dumping sediment into the Missouri River to create shallow water to create habitat for the endangered pallid sturgeon passed on a voice vote.

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