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FY 2006 Department of Commerce Appropriations (11-9-05)

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The primary interest for the geoscience community in the Department of Commerce appropriations is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Formed by President Nixon on October 3, 1970 as a part of the Commerce Department, NOAA was established to, in Nixon's words, serve a national need "...for better protection of life and property from natural hazards...for a better understanding of the total environment...[and] for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources..." Of particular interest to geoscientists is NOAA research conducted through the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), which is the driving force behind NOAA environmental products and services that protect life and property and promote sustainable economic growth.

Founded in 1901, NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Administration. NIST's mission is to develop and promote measurement, standards, and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and improve the quality of life. NIST carries out its mission in four cooperative programs including the NIST Laboratories, the Baldrige National Quality Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the the Advanced Technology Program.

For analysis of hearings held by the House and the Senate on NOAA and NIST appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Department of Commerce Appropriations Process

Account

FY05 Enacted
($million)

House Action
($million)

Senate Action
($million)

Department of Commerce (total)

6,657

9,521

5,826
7,200
6,600

NOAA (total)

3,928

3,584

3,382
4,476
3,946

National Weather Service

775
839
856
863
837

National Ocean Service

663
416
394
729
500

Oceanic & Atmospheric Research

409
372
336
481
374

-- Climate Research

177
177
179
184
158

Education Programs

6.5
--
29
36
34

NIST (total)

699
532
549
845
762

Nat'l Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program

--
0
0
0
0

President's Request for FY 2006

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The total of $3.6 billion was requested for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the president's proposed fiscal year (FY) 2006 budget, an 8.5 % decrease relative to last year's funding. The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) received the largest portion of the proposed budget at $964 million, a 6.2 % increase compared to FY05 appropriations, followed by the National Weather Service ($839 million, 7.2 % increase), National Marine Fisheries Service ($728 million, 11.6 % decrease), the National Ocean Service ($415 million, a 38 % decrease) and the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research ($372 million, a 10 % decrease).

Within NESDIS, the proposed 6.2% increase is for the following: development of the Geostationary Satellite, GOES-R, scheduled for launch in 2012; the next generation polar-orbiting environmental satellite system (NPOESS) being developed jointly by NOAA and the Department of Defense; and to place Landsat sensors in NPOESS to compliment the Landsat program operated jointly by USGS and NASA. Within the USGS budget, the Landsat program would gain about $12 million to ensure continued operations. The Environmental Satellite Observing System would be reduced by $1 million, while the Data Centers & Information Services would be trimmed by almost $21 million, a 28% decrease.

Within the National Weather Service, some of the proposed increases are for improving the U.S. Tsunami Warning Network. President Bush requested $24 million over 2 fiscal years ($14.5 million in FY05 and $9.5 million in FY06) to add 32 detection buoys (7 for the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Basin and Gulf of Mexico and 25 for the Pacific Ocean), procure 38 new sea level monitoring/tide gauge stations, provide comprehensive warning coverage, and to upgrade 20 seismometers. In addition, $8.21 million FY05 supplemental funds and $5.4 million in FY06 proposed funds would go to the USGS for facilities and operations to provide more robust detection and notification of earthquakes that could trigger tsunamis.Overall the president proposes $37.6 million to upgrade tsunami warning systems over 2 years.

Within the National Ocean Service, the largest decreases were proposed for the Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment (curtailed by almost $117 million, a 48% decrease) and for the Ocean and Coastal Management (reduced by about $26 million or 17%).

Weather and Air Quality Research within Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would be reduced by about $13 million, Ocean,Coastal and Great Lakes Research by $28 million and Information, Technology, R&D and Science Education by almost $2 million, while Climate Research would remain funded at about FY2005 levels. The Climate Research proposed budget would be divided such that Laboratories and Joint Institutes receive about $48 million, Climate and Global Change receive about $57 million, Climate Observations and Services receive about $69 million and Arctic Research receives about $3 million. Support for Other Partnership Programs (also known as earmarks) would be eliminated, terminating the $5.7 million enacted in FY2005. NOAA-wide support for climate research for FY2006 is proposed at a level of $240 million, with additional support of $2 million in the National Marine Fisheries Service, $21.6 million in the National Weather Service, $32 million in NESDIS and $6.5 million for Procurement, Acquisition and Construction.

NOAA budget documents are available online at http://www.publicaffairs.noaa.gov/budget2006/.

National Institute of Standards and Technology

In 2004 President Bush signed the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) reauthorization (P.L. 108-360). This legislation reauthorized NEHRP for another five years and authorized $176.5 million dollars in spending spread over four agencies (NIST, FEMA, USGS and NSF). As the lead agency, the law says NIST is eligible to receive up to $11 million for NEHRP in FY06. No funds were requested for this program in the President's FY06 budget.

House Action

The House passed their $57.45 billion Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations bill on June 16, 2005. The total includes $5.8 billion for the Department of Commerce, $831 million below FY 2005 levels and $3.7 billion below the President’s request. The budget request denied the enactment of a legislative proposal transferring several economic development programs to the Department of Commerce.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Under the House bill, NOAA would receive $3,382 million, which is $546 million, or 13.9%, below FY2005 levels and $202 million, or 5.6%, below the President's request.

During the floor debate on the bill, an amendment was passed to reduce NOAA's funding an additional $50 million from the cuts that had already been agreed upon by the Appropriations Committee. The amendment, which was offered by Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), transfers funding from NOAA to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states for expenses incurred in illegal alien detentions. Speaking in opposition to the Dreier amendment, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) said, "At some point we have to recognize that the future of this country is directly tied to our research effort, and our research effort is dependent upon funding that we provide here." The details of the individual program cuts that would result from the Dreier amendment are not currently available, but according to the debate on the House floor they would primarily be administrative in nature.

Excluding any possible cuts related to the Dreier amendment, the National Weather Service (NWS) would receive $856 million from the House bill. This would be an $81 million, or 10.4% increase from FY 2005 funding levels and a $17 million, or 2.0%, increase from the President's request. According to the committee report, the increase in NWS funding is meant to "bolster critical forecast and warning functions", particularly with regard to the U.S. Tsunami Warning Network.

Funding for the National Ocean Service would be set at $394 million under the House plan, an additional $21.7 million, or 5.2%, decrease from the President's request. Funding for the National Ocean Service would decrease $269 million, or 40.6%, from FY2005 levels under the House plan. No explanation was given for the additional decrease, but the House committee report did increase support for several mapping and research programs above the President's request.

Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would undergo further cuts if the House plan is enacted, with total funding set at $336 million. This amount is $73 million, or 17.8%, less than FY2005 funding and $36 million, or 10.7%, less than the President's request. The Climate Research accounts, which are of much interest to the geoscience community, would undergo a small increase of $2.4 million above both the President's request and FY2005 levels.

In addition, the committee expressed its wishes that NOAA use funding from the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research accounts "to support planning activities related to the upcoming International Polar Year."

NOAA's most expensive program, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), would get a relatively small $4 million increase above the President's request under the House plan. The NESDIS programs supported in the House bill are similar to the President's requests.

NOAA's education office is heavily dependant on long-standing congressionally earmarked programs. Under Program Support, the House committee set aside $28.9 million.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Under the House bill, NIST would receive $549 million in FY2006, which is $150 million, or 21.5%, below FY2005 levels but $17 million, or 3.2%, above the President's request. Similar to the President's request, the House bill does not include appropriated funds for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). However, the committee report does include a recommendation that NEHRP be funded through existing NIST accounts. As the committee report states, "The recommendation also continues funding for a telework project and a critical infrastructure program, at the same funding levels as in fiscal year 2005. The Committee encourages NIST to allocate funding available under this account to carry out responsibilities under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program." In FY2005, the telework project received $2.4 million and the critical infrastructure program received $6.5 million. For FY2006, NEHRP has been authorized to receive $11 million. Even if NEHRP were to receive all of the funding allocated to these two programs, the program would still be underfunded by over $2 million from authorized levels.

The full text of the bill (HR2862) and the House Report (109-118 ) Is available on the Library of Congress website: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app06.html

The Science, State, Justice and Commerce Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee is chaired by Representative Wolf (R-VA). Other members include Reps. Taylor (R-NC), Kirk (R-IL), Weldon (R-FL), Goode (R-VA), LaHood (R-IL), Culberson (R-TX), Alexander (R-LA), Mollohan (D-WV), Serrano (D-NY), Cramer (D-AL), Kennedy (D-RI) and Fattah (D-PA).

Senate Action

On September 15, 2005, the Senate passed the FY 2006 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill by a vote of 91 - 4. The $48.9 billion bill includes $4.5 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and $844.5 million for the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Overall, the bill's total is $1.7 billion over the President's request, much of which is due to large increases in NOAA's budget. Although the House bill includes funding for the Justice Department whereas the Senate bill does not, the greatest discrepancy between the Senate and House bills lies in science funding. The Senate bill provides $1 billion more for NOAA and $100 million less for NASA and NSF than the House bill.

The bill had been approved unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee over two months ago, on June 23, but during a week-long debate, uncertain conference negotiations were compounded by the addition of $4.3 billion worth of hurricane Katrina-related emergency spending that was tacked onto the bill. While these funds don't affect the total as they are not subject to budget resolution caps, conferees must still contend with the new amendments. According to reports in Congressional Quarterly, until Congress can reach agreements on this and other spending bills, a continuing resolution to fund government agencies into the next fiscal year will temporarily appropriate the lowest amount recommended by the House or Senate or enacted in FY2005.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Under the Senate bill, NOAA would receive $4,476 million in FY 2006, which is an increase of $548 million, or 13.9%, above FY 2005 levels and an increase of $892 million, or 24.9%, above the President's request. In addition, the Senate proposal is $1 billion greater than the House's proposal, which should lead to a difficult reconciliation process in as the two chambers work out the differences between their separate bills. "The Committee fails to understand why science dedicated to understanding this planet and its oceans and atmosphere is less important than science dedicated to the understanding of other planets," the Senate report states, with strong criticism for the Administration's and the House's priorities for science funding.

The Senate committee report offers support for the conclusions reached by the United States Commission on Ocean Policy, which issued recommendations in September 2004 for a coordinated national oceans policy. One recommendation of much interest for geoscientists is the creation of an Integrated Coastal & Ocean Observation System, which the Senate has proposed to fund at about $110 million in FY 2006. The committee directs NOAA to create a system that must "coordinate and consolidate data from stationary and drifting buoys, ships, satellites, tide gauges, and other platforms, develop computer models, and provide quality controlled data products on a real-time basis."

If the Senate bill is enacted, the National Weather Service will receive $863.3 million, which is an increase of over $88 million from FY 2005 and an increase of $24 million above the President's request. The committee made specific mention of tsunami preparedness, warnings, and forecasts in their report, with total tsunami-related funding for the National Weather Service set at about $11 million. With regard to tsunami modeling, the report stated the following: "The Committee recognizes the value of modeling technology capable of forecasting in real time the behavior of tsunami waves as they leave deep waters and approach the shore line, and encourages NOAA to explore the feasibility of developing such models."

The National Ocean Service (NOS) would receive $728.6 million under the Senate plan, a total that would be $65.6 million greater than FY 2005 levels and $312.9 million greater than the President's request. Additionally, the Senate plan would give NOS almost $335 million, or 85% more than the House recommended. Much of the Senate's proposed increase to NOS funding is related to the formation of the Integrated Coastal & Ocean Observation program. Negotiations in the conference committee will determine whether this program and other funding increases to the National Ocean Service are enacted.

Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Funding would be set at $480.7 million under the Senate plan. This total would be more than $70 million above FY 2005 levels and almost $110 million above the President's request. Of this increase above FY 2005 levels, just over $7 million would be added to Climate Research funding, which overall would be set at $184.2 million. In addition, $10.6 million would be appropriated to fund research supercomputing under the supervision of the Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI).

NOAA's education office is dependent on long-standing congressionally earmarked programs. Under Program Support, the Senate committee set aside $36.15 million, including $10 million for an education initiative and another $14 million for NOAA's Educational Partnership Program/Minority Serving Institutions (EPPMSI).

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Under the Senate bill, NIST would receive $844.5 million in FY2006, which is an increase of $145.3 million, or 20.8%, over FY2005 levels and an increase of $312.5 million, or 58.7%, above the President's request. Despite this increase, no direct funding has been made for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) and the committee report made no mention of other sources of funding for NEHRP.

Because the House did offer support for NEHRP in their own committee report, it is possible that further consideration of NEHRP may occur during the appropriations conference committee or that NIST will simply follow the advice of the House committee and support NEHRP with existing accounts. The large increases for NIST proposed by the Senate are primarily for facilities construction and industrial partnerships.

The full text of the bill (HR2862) and the House Report (109-88 ) Is available on the Library of Congress website: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app06.html

The United States Senate considers funding for the Department of Commerce in the Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Gregg (R-NH), other members include Sens. Stevens (R-AK), Domenici (R-NM), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Brownback (R-KS), Inouye (D-HI), Mikulski (D-MD), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI) and Murray (D-WA).

Conference Committee Action

House and Senate conferees reached an agreement on the Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations Bill (HR 2862) on November 4, 2005. The overall bill contains $51.8 billion in budget authority and appropriates $48.4 billion in discretionary funds. According to a Senate Appropriations Committee press release, the $48.4 billion is equivalent to a $600 million increase above FY 2005 appropriations and $1.5 billion above the budget request, excluding the Strengthening America’s Communities Initiative.

The final agreement resolves a difference of $1.1 billion between the House and Senate recommendations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce. Additionally, conferees had to overcome significant gaps in recommendations for the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA). In general, House and Senate conferees met half way in deciding on final funding levels. Overall, the Department of Commerce received $6.6 billion, compared with $5.8 billion in the House and $7.2 billion in the Senate.

It is likely that the conferees will impose a small rescission of 0.3% before final approval in order to keep the bill's total spending below the target funding levels that were established in the budget resolution. Later this year, Congress may also vote to cut all federal discretionary programs by 1%-5% to help offset the costs of emergency hurricane relief.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Conferees appropriated $3.9 billion for NOAA, compared with $3.4 billion in the House bill, $4.5 billion in the Senate bill, and $3.5 billion in the President's request. Barring additional across-the-board rescissions imposed by the committee or by Congress, NOAA's budget will increase by $18 million or a mere 0.4% over current levels. However, the bill does restore a $365 million cut proposed in the President's request. Conferees grappled with resolving the Senate's strong support of NOAA's National Ocean Service, Research Programs and Education Programs with the severe cuts recommended by the House. Roughly two thirds, or $666.2 million of the Senate's proposed increases were for NOAA-wide implementation of U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy recommendations.

The conference agreement provides $837 million for the National Weather Service (NWS), funding NWS operations at $745 million. Within this total, the final bill appropriates $6.1 million in FY 2006 to strengthen the U.S. Tsunami Warning Network, including $1 million for re-engineering and design of tsunami detection buoys at the National Data Buoy Center, and $500,000 for next generation buoy research. The bill also calls for an additional increase of $500,000 to hire four new hurricane forecasters at the National Hurricane Center.

For the National Ocean Service (NOS), the bill provides $500 million, a 24% cut from FY 2005 levels. The allotted funds represent a compromise between the House recommendation of $394 million and the Senate recommendation of $729 million. Support for an Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) was one key difference accounting for this funding disparity. In accordance with the US Oceans Commission, the Senate provided $109 million for Integrated Ocean Observing, with funds divided among NOAA's National Ocean Service, Weather Service, and Ocean and Atmospheric Research Program. The House bill did not mention IOOS, and provided roughly $15 million for pre-existing programs within NOS that aim to integrate observing technologies. The final bill retains the Senate's proposal to fund IOOS, but reduces the total by $20 million. For leading the program, NOS will receive $31 million, and the Research Program and Weather Service will receive an additional $10 million and $26 million, respectively.

As stated in the conference report, "The conferees are encouraged by recent efforts by regional ocean observing programs to establish a federation and seek competitive funding. The conferees expect that the creation of such a program will expedite the integration of these regional systems into a system of systems, which is fundamental to the broader concept of the Integrated Ocean Observing System.

The bill provides $373.7 million for NOAA's Research programs, roughly equal to the budget request and a sharp $35 million (9%) decrease from current levels, including a $20 million drop in Climate Research funding from $178 million in FY 2005 to $158.3 in FY 2006. Within the $98.3 million provided for Climate Observations and Services, the conference agreement includes $68.5 million for the Climate and Global Change program, a roughly $10 million increase over the President's request, and $250,000 specifically for the study of abrupt climate change. The final bill does not contain a line item exclusively for the Climate Change Research Initiative or for several smaller programs proposed under the Senate bill. Support for congressionally earmarked partnership programs will be maintained at $10 million after been eliminated in the President's request. This total includes $3 million for Arctic Research.

The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) will receive $179.3 million, close to the $180 million proposed by the Senate and a $25 million boost over the President's request. Conferees rejected the administration's plan to fly a Landsat-type instrument on a NOAA spacecraft, a key component to the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, which is a project involving NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey. "The conferees now understand that such a mission is no longer feasible for both funding and technical reasons," the report states, directing the three agencies and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to come up with a new plan within 4 months of the bill's enactment.

Under NOAA Wide Program Support, Congress restored proposed eliminations to NOAA's education programs, providing $34 million in total education funding, including $6.3 million for NOAA's general Education Initiative. Many of the other programs, such as JASON Education and Outreach, are long-standing, unauthorized congressional earmarks that depend on Congress to be revived each year after being eliminated by the Administration.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

House and Senate conferees split the difference between their recommendations for NIST, appropriating $762 million, which is $63 million above FY 2005 levels and $230 million above the President's request. Scientific and Technical Research Services, which comprise NIST's core programs, are funded at $399 million, which is $21 million above FY 2005 and $26 million below the President's request. As in previous years, National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) will receive no direct funding through NIST. Instead, conferees agreed to the House language that directs NIST to reallocate available funds from other accounts to pay for NEHRP. Namely, the funds would come from the $2.4 million a telework project and $6.5 million critical infrastructure program, both of which will be essentially flat-funded at FY 2005 levels. If NIST adheres to the House committee report drafted earlier this year, it will submit a plan for prioritizing the use of these funds by November 15, 2005.

The full text of the bill (HR 2862) and conference report (109-272) are available at http://thomas.loc.gov

Appropriations Hearings

  • March 10, 2005: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies, Hearing on the NOAA budget
  • March 2, 2005: House Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Hearing on Commerce Department appropriations
  • February 16, 2005: House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Water Resources & Environment Subcommittee, Hearing on EPA and NOAA Budgets and Priorities for FY 2006

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies
Hearing on the NOAA Budget

March 10, 2005

Witness
Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The Energy and Water Development Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee invited NOAA Administrator Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher to describe the agency's priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2006. Under the President's budget request, NOAA would receive $3.08 billion, an 8% decrease from the FY05 enacted level. Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) challenged the decrease in his opening statements, stating that due to the creation of new programs, the net decrease for current programs would actually be greater. "The Administration proposes the elimination of $650 million worth of congressional priorities," Wolf remarked.

Among such congressional programs to be eliminated would be the "Jason Program," a long-standing undersea research program. Ranking Member Alan Mollohan (D-WV) countered the notion that eliminating earmarks is basic executive branch policy, and declared, "This process of cutting earmarks and backfilling with new programs cannot continue." In his testimony, agreed that some congressionally directed spending can be helpful, but tried to defend the budget request by listing outreach and scholarship programs NOAA would maintain. Lautenbacher reported that the budget includes $1 billion in research grants that are distributed to roughly 1500 grantees annually. He also suggested members of the subcommittee should try to work with authorizers to pass the NOAA Organic Act, which would codify NOAA's structure and operational objectives, including a strengthening of NOAA's research and education activities.

Other members were concerned about NOAA's plans to ensure the effectiveness of tsunami preparedness initiatives. The FY06 budget request includes $9.5 million within the National Weather Service to continue developing equipment and outreach programs necessary to support the Tsunami warning system and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). Concerns included the preparedness or "TsunamiReady" certification of east coast communities, and the true costs of internationally-traded weather data, which the government currently offers to shipping companies, news media, and Universities for free. Lautenbacher announced a ready implementation plan for U.S. communities would be issued by May 15. He was also proud to defend the importance of keeping weather data a public good, but noted the challenges in coordinating data sharing with other countries under GEOSS.

-KCA

House Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee
Hearing on Commerce Department appropriations
March 2, 2005

Witness
Carlos Gutierrez, Secretary of Commerce

In his opening statement, Secretary Gutierrez discussed three priority areas for the Department of Commerce in Fiscal Year (FY) 2006: Provide tools to maximize U.S. business competitiveness, foster technology and innovation, and enhance environmental stewardship. Breaking it down into numbers, Commerce budget highlights include $3.7 billion to go towards a new "Strengthening American Communities" initiative, $9 billion for the Bureau of Economic Analysis, $532 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and $3.6 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which will go towards a fourth fisheries survey vessel and the National Tsunami Mitigation Program. The Administration again proposes to eliminate the Advance Technology Program (ATP), which works with the private sector on basic and applied technological research. Gutierrez said that other research and development (R&D) programs within the department "address higher priorities."

Members of the Appropriations Subcommittee that heard Gutierrez's testimony were primarily concerned with plans to address the U.S. trade deficit with China, and the department's ambitious plan to consolidate 18 community improvement programs into a single block grant program, known as Strengthening American Communities (SAC). Subcommittee members were skeptical that Congress would authorize the reorganization, and saw the plan as a way to let funding drop out for the nation's poor.

Some members also questioned Gutierrez on funding for NOAA and the implementation plan for the tsunami early warning system. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) cited the Presidential Ocean Commission's recommendation for a doubling of the sea grant. He also called for the budget to better reflect such recommendations, including a re-instatement of a NOAA education initiative, which was passed as an earmark to last year's appropriations bill. Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) voiced concern about NOAA's TsunamiReady community preparedness program, suggesting NOAA should work with Congress to sign up more communities to become involved and certified. Gutierrez agreed, saying "yes, detection is only half of the challenge."

Although the subcommittee devoted little of the hearing to issues of U.S. innovation, Chairman Wolf concluded thus: "I worry about the competitiveness of the country. The U.S. used to have [the world's] science and technology knowledge base; now the Chinese and Indians have the knowledge base." Referring to trends in U.S. investment in math and physical sciences, he added, "I'm frankly disappointed with the Administration on this issue," and pointed to NOAA as an opportunity for the subcommittee to take steps forward.

-KCA

House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Water Rresources & Environment Subcommittee
Hearing on EPA and NOAA Budgets and Priorities for FY 2006

February 16, 2005

Witnesses
The Honorable Benjamin H. Grumbles, Assistant Administator for Water, Environmental Protection Agency
The Honorable Thomas P. Dunne, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Environmental Protection Agency
Dr. Richard W. Spinrad, Assistant Administrator, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Members of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee voiced their concerns to agency officials about various cuts in the Administration's FY 2006 budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Discussion focused on EPA's Superfund program, the 33% cut in federal seed money for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF), and a number of federally-funded, regional environmental and coastal projects.

Grumbles emphasized the administration's priority of the National Water Program, which would receive 38% ($2.8 billion) of the Agency's budget, and would institute and enforce "watershed-based" and collaborative programs, such as the fully-funded Great Lakes Grant Program, to enforce the Clean Water Act. The $24 million increase to state management programs are confined to probabilistic monitoring of water quality. According to the Subcommittee's overview of the budget, probabilistic monitoring would better track changes in water quality over time but would be of little use to daily program management.

The Clean Water SRF, which gives states federal seed money with which they can lend to local infrastructure improvement projects, would see a $361 million decrease, with a plan to flat fund the program at $730 million through 2011. According to Grumbles, this funding level, along with the "four pillars of sustainable infrastructure," (better management, full-cost pricing, water conservation, and watershed-based restoration) is sufficient to reach a long-term revolving average of $3.4 billion a year, raised from a previous goal of $2 billion. But members of the subcommittee insisted funding would be insufficient to meet the immediate local water infrastructure needs and will force state and local governments to absorb the extra burden. As Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) declared, "the fund is already oversubscribed," and "further cuts will only "deprive further communities."

Solid waste clean-up was another major issue for members of the subcommittee. The budget allocates $1.28 million to the Superfund program, a $30 million increase over FY05 enacted level, all to be derived from general tax payers into the Superfund Trust Fund. Several members questioned as to whether funds were sufficient without reinstating the "polluter pay" tax, which would cost the fund $1.3 billion this year, while subcommittee chairman John Duncan (R-TN) was wary that funds were "not for on-the-ground" activities. Thomas Dunne, testifying on behalf of EPA's Solid Waste and Emergency Response division, said he opposed the polluter pay tax.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) accused the Administration of under-funding the Brownfields Program while claiming funds are sufficient. When asked by Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-IL) how Brownfields funds are spent, Dunne testified that out of the $210.1 million allocated for FY05, $120 million will go to assessment and clean-up, $60 million to state and tribal programs to help local communities develop their own programs, and the remainder to fund contracts and employees.

Among NOAA programs considered under the subcommittee's jurisdiction, the National Ocean Service would recieve $414.73 for FY06, $254.57 million less than enacted in FY05. Included in this cut is the elimination of coastal nonpoint pollution programs which had been funded at just under $3 million, according to the subcommittee website. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson raised this issue in her opening statement, but throughout the hearing, few members posed questions to Richard Spinrad, assistand director of NOAA's National Ocean Service. In his own statements, Spinrad highlighted the agency's budget priorities, such as $17.6 million for response and restoration under Superfund and the Oil Pollution Act, and funding increases for activites related to controlling Algal Blooms, Hypoxia, and invasive species.

-KCA

Sources: Department of Commerce; NOAA website and budget office; NIST website; NEHRP Coalition documents; H.R. 2862; H.Rept. 109-118; 6/16/2005 House Appropriations Committee Press Release; S.Rept. 109-92.; Hearing testimony.

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

Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Director of Government Affairs, Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program, and John Vermylen, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern.

Last Update November 9, 2005

 

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