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Update on FY2003 Energy & Water Appropriations (10-3-02)

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill provides funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Energy (DOE; other than fossil energy and energy efficiency programs), the Department of the Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Reclamation, and several independent agencies. Programs of interest to the geosciences include DOE programs for renewable energy and activities within the Office of Science, such as the Basic Energy Science program that has a geoscience division, as well as some activities in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  This bill also funds the Yucca Mountain site characterization activities at DOE. The president's fiscal year (FY) 2003 budget request would provide DOE with $19.8 billion, a 3.2% increase over FY 2002.  Funding for the DOE Office of Science, which supports fundamental research at universities and national laboratories, would receive approximately $1 billion, a 2% increase. Within that total, geoscience research within the Basic Energy Sciences program would receive $21.3 million, the same as in FY 2002. Support for the department's high-level nuclear waste disposal program would shoot up 40% to $527.1 million in order to carry out license application activities at Yucca Mountain. The DOE Environmental Management activities, which includes defense, non-defense and uranium facility programs, requested a total of $6.7 billion. The Energy and Water bill is a congressional favorite for legislative riders and home-state water development projects, especially in an election year.

Most Recent Action
On September 24th, the House Appropriations Committee filed its bill (H.R. 5431) and the accompanying report (H. Rept. 107-681) that provides details on the allocations. Now that the committee has completed action, the bill will be placed on the House calendar for floor debate. In general, the House bill does not differ greatly from the subcommittee version considered in July. The committee's press release states that H.R. 5431 would provide programs within the Energy and Water Appropriations bill with a healthy increase over both the budget request and last year's allocation -- an increase of $516 million and $857 million, respectively. Funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) would total $20.7 billion and would include $396 million for renewable energy programs and $7.5 billion for environmental management cleanup activities. Unlike the Senate bill that would deeply cut the civilian radioactive waste funding, the House version would provide $209.7 million for the non-defense allocation for activities at Yucca Mountain. In total, the Yucca Mountain project would receive $524.7 million, which is a slight decrease from the budget request. DOE Science would be funded at $3.27 billion, which is about $8 million less than the request and $38 million more than last year's allocation. Additional information on the House bill is available below.

As of the beginning of the August recess, both the House and the Senate committees have taken action on the Energy and Water appropriations bill, but only the Senate committee has filed a report (S. Rept. 107-220) to accompany S. 2784. Senate funding for the Department of Energy, including defense and associated programs, would total $20.96 billion, an increase of slightly more than 2% above the budget request. The committee recommends $815 million for energy supply activities, which include the renewable and nuclear energy programs, that would be a 17.5% increase above the request and 22.3% above last year's funding level. Total funding for DOE Office of Science would come to $3.3 billion, a slight increase above the request and nearly 3% more than last year. Within the Office of Science, the Office of Basic Energy Science would receive a 2.5% increase above the request to total $531 million. In stark contrast to the House's funding decision for Yucca Mountain, the Senate would provide a total of $336 million -- $56 million (a 73% cut from the request) for the non-defense account and $280 million (an 11% cut) for the defense nuclear waste account. Additional information on the Senate report is available below and general information is available from the committee's press release. (8/1/02)


 Hearing Summaries   House Action   Senate Action    Conference Action 

House Action
The House Appropriations Committee filed its explanatory report (H. Rept. 107-681) and bill (H.R. 5431) at the end of September. Overall, the bill provides good news for programs within the Department of Energy (DOE). Funding for DOE would total $20.7 billion, which is a slight decrease from the request but 3.6% more than last year's allocation. Energy Supply activities, which include renewable energy resources and nuclear energy, would receive $633.9 million, a decrease of nearly 9% from the budget request and down close to 5% from last year. Within the energy supply account, the renewable energy resources would receive the same allocation as last year: $396 million. Geothermal activities would receive the requested $26.5 million, which is a decrease of 8.6% from last year, and hydropower would be funded at $6.5 million, a 13.3% decrease from the request but a 22% increase from last year's allocation.

DOE's Environmental Management (EM) program includes both defense and non-defense environmental cleanup as well as activities related to uranium facilities. In total, the budget request was $6.7 billion for these programs. The House bill would provide a total of $7.5 billion, which is an 11% increase from the budget request. Defense related EM would total $6.9 billion and will include $1.1 billion for the EM reform account. According to the House report, funds for the reform account will not be released until a report on a site performance management plan is submitted to Congress. Non-defense EM activities, which include the uranium facilities maintenance and remediation account that would be funded at the requested $382.2 million, would $213.3 million, an increase of more than 28% from the budget request.

Activities at the DOE Office of Science would receive a slight increase from last year to total $3.3 billion, which is just under the president's budget request for these activities. Report language noted the committee's concern about "the growing imbalance in the Federal investment in research in the physical sciences versus the life sciences." The committee did not make any specific recommendations, instead stating that it "hopes that the Department submits a fiscal year 2004 budget request that will support a robust physical sciences research program in the Office of Science." Basic Energy Science (BES) within the Office of Science would receive the requested $1 billion, which is a slight increase from last year's allocation. Within BES, the "chemical science, geosciences and energy biosciences" account that combined the former "engineering and geosciences" account with the "energy biosciences" account would also receive the requested $220 million.

The biggest difference between the House and Senate bills will likely be the Nuclear Waste Disposal provisions. Neither chamber provided Yucca Mountain with the full $275.8 million in non-defense spending requested by the president. Defense activities at Yucca Mountain received funding at the full request, $315 million. The House would provide a total of $524.7 million in both defense and non-defense funding for the Yucca Mountain project. Funding for the non-defense activities would come to $209.7 million, a 24% decrease from the request but a level that is more than double last year's allocation. Not only did the House not fund the full non-defense request but also it rejected an additional $66.1 million requested in an amended budget request for DOE.

Also funded through the Energy and Water Appropriations bill is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation at the Department of the Interior. Funding for the Army Corps of Engineers would come to $4.6 billion. The Bureau of Reclamation would receive $807.5 million, an increase or 11% more than the request and 6% more than last year's funding level.

Senate Action
On July 24th, the Senate Appropriations Committee filed its report (S. Rept. 107-220) to accompany S. 2784, the FY 2003 Energy and Water appropriations bill. The committee's press release briefly comments on funding for Homeland Security within the bill. Total funding for the Department of Energy (DOE), including both defense and non-defense programs, would total $20.96 billion, an increase of 2.1% more than the budget request. This funding level would include $815.3 million for energy supply activities and $3.3 billion for general science and research activities. The funding for the general Energy Supply account is an increase of 17.5% above the request and 22.3% above last year's allocation. Falling under this account are the renewable energy resources program, up 10% from the request to total $448 million, and the nuclear energy resources program, up 29.7% to total $324 million. The Energy and Water appropriations bill is often a favorite for congressional earmarks to which the agency has often had mixed response. The Senate report contained some pointed language regarding the DOE's practice of delaying earmark projects, noting: "These activities are not optional and are to be given the same priority as the rest of the fiscal year spending program." Solar energy programs would receive a total of $95 million; wind power programs would receive $50 million; geothermal activities would total $37 million, which includes funding for the GeoPowering the West project; and hydropower programs would receive $7.5 million.

DOE's Environmental Management non-defense activities would receive a total of $176 million, a 6% increase above the request but a 25% decrease from last year's funding level. Funding for the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada is provided through two accounts: one defense and one non-defense. The report notes that, combined, these account would provide the repository project with $336 million, which is a 36% decrease from the requested level and a 10% cut from last year's allocation. On the non-defense side, the committee would recommend a whopping 73% cut for the Nuclear Waste Disposal Fund (paid for by a surcharge on power generated by nuclear plants) to provide only $56 million for the program that had requested more than doubling last year's $95 million allocation. The defense account would receive $280 million, which is the same amount provided last year but 10% less than the requested level. Within the defense account, the report notes, that $2.5 million is directed to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for "continuing and expanding its efforts in ground water characterization and research into the transport and fate of radionuclides in the vicinity of the proposed Yucca Mountain repository."

The committee included a lengthy section in the Office of Science section of the report on the trends of federal funding for physical science research and the decreasing number of American students pursuing these fields: "Shrinking investments in the physical sciences and engineering pose serious risks to DOE's ability to perform its mission. It also threatens the nation's science and technology enterprise. . . . American educational institutions are failing to attract sufficient numbers of U.S. students, especially women and minorities, into undergraduate and graduate programs in the physical sciences and engineering. . . . The Committee strongly supports and encourages increased investments in the research and education initiatives of the DOE Office of Science." In total, the committee recommends $3.3 billion for activities within the Office of Science's programs, which is a 1.4% increase above the request and 3% more than last year. The Office of Basic Energy Science (BES) would receive a 2.5% increase above the request to total $787.5 million. The chemical science, geosciences and energy biosciences account within BES would receive a 6.4% increase above the request to total $234.1 million.

In other programs funded under the Energy and Water appropriations bill, the Army Corps of Engineers would receive $4.65 billion and the Bureau of Reclamation would receive $956.1 million.



House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water
Hearing on the DOE FY 2003 Budget Request
March 6, 2002

Bottom Line
On March 6, 2002, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development held a hearing to question Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham about the DOE fiscal year (FY) 2003 budget request.  The major sections of the administration's budget request discussed included National Security Programs ($8 billion), other Defense Activities ($472 million), Energy Programs ($863 million), Science Programs ($3.3 billion), and Environmental Quality Programs ($7.4 billion).

Hearing Summary
Abraham opened his testimony by providing an overview of the problems the agency faced last year "with energy supply shortages; natural gas and gasoline price spikes in the Midwest and California; and terrorist attacks within our borders."  He then addressed the funding proposals for the Office of Fossil Energy and the Office of Science and how they would alleviate those stated problems.  He stated that the DOE's missions post-September 11, would be three-fold: promoting measurable performance objectives and accountability, national security, and promoting DOE employee safety. He then addressed the budget for weapons activities, defense nuclear nonproliferation, and naval reactors.  Abraham spoke about increased funding for the Environmental Management (EM) program, which would shorten the timetable for individual cleanups from 70 years to 30-45 years.  Abraham expressed his enthusiasm over the new Freedom Car initiative and the hydrogen fuel cell technologies.  He also added his commitment to expanding nuclear energy coupled with the assurance of long-term safety.

Chairman Sonny Callahan (R-AL) brought up a question regarding the acceleration of the Environmental Management program, costing $800 million.  He was unsure that the increases in funding would be beneficial overall, and suggested that the program's support in the past had not been used to its maximum capacity.  He also requested a partial breakdown of sites where the cleanup programs existed, and asked where the waste would be taken.  Abraham responded by saying that $400 of the $800 million would go toward the Hanford site in Washington state.  The overhead for the Hanford site in previous years cost two thirds of the program appropriations, while only one third was spent on remediation of the problem.  Thus, more funding for the project in 2003 would translate into millions of dollars saved in future years.  The increase would not only contribute to accelerated cleanup of plutonium at the site, but also clean up the Columbia River, and enhance the capabilities of the local wastewater treatment facility.  Under Secretary of Energy, Science, and Environment Robert Card contributed to this discussion by stating that part of the plutonium waste would be taken to a MOX facility, and method and location of disposal of the remaining plutonium was still being discussed.  Abraham also addressed the question regarding cleanup efficiency by saying that the rates of clean-up for low- and high- risk sites are the same, but high-risk sites ought to be cleaned up faster, which requires more funding in the short term.

Chairman Callahan expressed concern about the amount of coal that is used to produce energy in America, which he said consisted of approximately 50% of energy production in America.  Coal burning from a power plant is the primary contribution to pollution in his district.  He expressed interest in Thermal Integrated Power Systems to alleviate the problem.  Abraham did not respond to this comment.

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) expressed his support for Environmental Management acceleration, and also wanted the $800 million to be earmarked by the local staff working on the cleanup rather than by DOE administrators in Washington, DC.  He addressed the question of when these cleanup sites are acceptable and whether the site can be reused for development.  He supported a multi-agency agreement (between DOE, EPA, and the like) to determine this level.  Wamp was enthusiastic about the new Freedom Car program proposed for DOE, which would decrease reliance on petroleum through the development of the hydrogen-fueled car.  He asserted that the auto industry in Tennessee would be appreciative of these efforts, and believed that it is a misconception that the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) program is unpopular in the auto industry.

Yucca Mountain was briefly discussed, and Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ) asked whether waste at existing nuclear plants could be recycled in some fashion.  Abraham replied that some transmutation would be possible, but after nuclear reactors are engaged in that process, there would still be waste that would need to be stored.

Pastor addressed the decrease in concentration on Solar Power in the budget, but was misinformed on the amount of budget decrease ($1 million).  Abraham still responded to the concern, saying that additional funding for photovoltaic technologies would not be the best use of DOE's money because solar energy is ready to emerge into the private sector; however, there is a need for more gridding to accept solar energy, and the majority of funds would be placed towards grid development.

-MB and HRG

Sources: House Appropriations Committee, E&E Publications, Senate Appropriations Committee, Department of Energy, White House, the Washington Post, and the Library of Congress.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Margaret A. Baker, AGI Government Affairs, and AAPG/AGI Intern Heather R. Golding.

Posted March 13, 2002: Last Updated October 3, 2002


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