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FY2009 Department of Energy Appropriations (3-3-09)

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The Department of Energy (DOE) programs of interest to the geosciences include programs for renewable energy and activities within the Office of Science, such as the Basic Energy Science program which has a geoscience division. Also of interest is the Yucca Mountain site characterization activities and environmental remediation of the nuclear weapons complex.

The priorities of the Department of Energy's (DOE) energy program are to: increase domestic energy production; revolutionize our approach to energy conservation and efficiency; and promote the development of renewable and alternative energy sources. Fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas -- currently provide more than 85% of all the energy consumed in the United States, nearly two-thirds of our electricity, and virtually all of our transportation fuels. Moreover, it is likely that the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels to power an expanding economy will increase over at least the next two decades even with aggressive development and deployment of new renewable and nuclear technologies. Because our economic health depends on the continued availability of reliable and affordable fossil fuels, the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy oversees two major fossil fuel efforts: emergency stockpiles of crude oil and heating oil and research and development of future fossil energy technologies.

For analysis of hearings held by Congress on Energy appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Department of Energy Appropriations Process


FY08 Enacted
House Action
Senate Action

Department of Energy (total)


Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy




--Water power


Fossil Energy


-- Natural Gas Technologies


-- Petroleum - Oil Technology

--Clean Coal Power Initiative
--Geologic carbon sequestration
not specified
Office of Science
--Basic Energy Sciences
---Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Energy Biosciences
not specified
--Biological and Environmental Research
---Climate Change Research
Environmental Management
not specified
--Defense Environmental Clean-up

--Non-Defense Environmental Clean-up


---Uranium Enrichment D&D Funding

Civilian Radioactive Waste Management
not specified

--Nuclear Waste Disposal


--Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal


*Numbers reflect funding levels recommended by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, respectively and do not represent action taken by the full body of either chamber.

***Numbers represent the approved Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 1105) in the 111th Congress from February 25, 2009. The full House has approved the bill and now the full Senate is now considering the omnibus.

#H.R. 1105 provides no new funds for FutureGen and directs $59 million of prior year obligated funds be directed to the Clean Coal Initiative Round III. The bill leaves $73 million of unobligated balances for FutureGen "should the Administration revisit prior year FutureGen funds."

President's Request

On February 4, 2008, the President' fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) was revealed by Secretary Samuel Bodman. The President's request of $25 billion for the Department would represent an increase of $1.1 billion above the FY08 appropriation level. The overall increase of 4.7% in the Department's budget compared to FY08 enacted levels is something few agencies are seeing in this time of fiscal constraint. The additional funds are targeted toward coal technologies, nuclear energy programs and U.S. scientific competitiveness through a significant increase for the Office of Science.

According to Bodman "this budget furthers President Bush's comprehensive strategy to increase energy, economic, and national security by focusing on accelerating technological breakthroughs, expanding traditional and renewable sources of energy, and increasing investment in scientific discovery and development."

While the proposed increases generally elicited positive responses from members of Congress, lawmakers did express concern regarding the decline in funds for the popular weatherization assistance program within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Congress will most likely also, haggle with the President on nuclear energy issues, which have mixed support, and the proposed increase in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1.5 billion barrels.

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
The budget within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) was slashed by 27% in the FY09 request, losing $467 million. The renewable energy programs suffered mixed results with the geothermal program getting a boost to $30 million, an increase of 51% compared to FY08 levels while other programs lost funding.

The Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) supported the increase for geothermal: "In the case of geothermal energy, I'm pleased that the Administration listened to and worked with Congress to define a new profile for that program in the recent energy bill, and then came through with a good funding proposal in this budget request."

The hydrogen and hydropower programs with proposed levels at $146 million and $3 million represent declines of 31% and 70% respectively, compared to FY08. According to DOE, the hydrogen program is being realigned with the deferral of hydrogen production and delivery efforts and instead focuses on the barriers of hydrogen storage.

Office of Fossil Energy
The Office of Fossil Energy would get a $223 million increase above last year's level for a total of $1.1 billion. Within Fossil Energy natural gas and petroleum technology programs are terminated again. These programs have been zeroed out for the past few years, but restored by Congress.

The proposed budget funnels $632 million in FY09 into the Coal technology program, $85 million into the Clean Coal Initiative, and $156 million into FutureGen. Earlier this month, Secretary Bodman announced that the FutureGen program would be altered from a single facility in Illinois that would have been designed to demonstrate advanced coal-fire electricity generation, hydrogen production, and carbon capture and sequestration to a variety of capture and sequestration projects that will be announced in an upcoming solicitation.

The leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senators Bingaman and Domenici, both indicated in press statements that they'd like the Department to explain their reasoning for the programmatic changes in FutureGen.

Also, as part of the Department's focus on 'clean' coal technology development the Carbon Sequestration Regional Partnerships are slated to receive $149 million a boost of $30 million in FY09 for continued efforts to inject one million tons of carbon dioxide into various geologic formations.

Office of Science
The Office of Science proposed budget of $4.7 billion would include a $749 million increase above FY08 enacted levels and represents an increase for all programs. The Basic Energy Science program is proposed to receive a 24% increase above FY08 levels at $1.6 billion, the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Energy Biosciences program would receive $75 million above FY08 enacted levels for a total proposed budget of $297 million. The Biological and Environmental Research program would be given $414 million in the FY09 budget request and the Climate Change Research program would receive $155 million, representing an increase of $6 million and $18 million, respectively.

The increases across the board in the Office of Science are part of President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and some of the increases are also consistent with the bipartisan America COMPETES Act. Both have the overarching goal of keeping America the most innovative nation in the world through the strengthening of education and research in science, math and engineering.

However, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) had the following to say about the implementation of the act into the Department's request. "While I support the substantial increase for the Office of Science, I do plan on questioning the Department about how it plans to integrate the America COMPETES Act within this budget. I had hoped to see specific components of the COMPETES Act more fully funded in this budget request, but many simply are not mentioned. I certainly hope that the Department plans on carrying out the initiatives of this bipartisan law."

Office of Environmental Management
The Office of Environmental Management was established in 1989 to clean up the waste and contamination from nuclear weapons development and energy research. It includes an environmental clean-up account for defense and non-defense activities. Non-defense clean-up activities would receive a 17% increase in the proposed budget to $213 million, while defense activities would see a slight decline with total proposed level of $5.5 billion in FY09.

Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management
The primary mission of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) is to develop a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from commercial reactors and atomic energy defense activities. OCRWM receives funds from defense and non-defense waste disposal programs within DOE. The Nuclear Waste Disposal program contains funding for Yucca Mountain, Transportation, Program Management and Program Direction, while the Defense Nuclear Waste Disposal program only contains funding for Yucca Mountain.

The Nuclear Waste Disposal program would see a $60 million rise in funding compared to FY08 for a total of $247 million. The Defense Nuclear Waste program would also increase in FY09 by 48%, again to $247 million.

The $495 million budget proposal for Yucca Mountain will be challenged by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has sworn to terminate the project in the appropriations process. Last year, Reid was able to convince enough legislators to cut $104.5 million from the project, which puts DOE's June deadline for the submission of a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at risk. However, Bodman assured reporters that DOE plans on moving forward with the Yucca Mountain Project and plans submit the license application by the end of 2008; a new timeline and cost of the repository will be released this spring based on the FY 08 budget.

House Action

Omnibus Appropriations Considered by the 111th Congress
On February 25, 2009, the House quickly approved of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 1105), which would provide appropriations for most federal agencies for fiscal year 2009 (FY09). Currently most agencies are operating under a continuing resolution (CR) from the 110th Congress, which essentially sets budgets at FY08 levels. The CR expires on March 6, 2009, so Congress must either pass the omnibus or propose a new continuing resolution in order to avoid a shut down of the federal government. The quick action on the omnibus in the House means that the 111th Congress plans to pass an omnibus providing new appropriations for most federal agencies.

The House has sent the measure to the Senate, which will consider it during the first week of March. Significant changes are not expected as the House and Senate Appropriation Committees appear to have worked out differences left by the committees of the 110th Congress from 2008 before introducing H.R. 1105. The 111th Congress must work fast to compromise any remaining differences in order to get the bill to the President by March 6.

House of Representatives of 110th Congress Do Not Complete Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2009
The House was unable to complete deliberations within the appropriation subcommittees for nine appropriation bills. Instead Congress approved a continuing resolution to keep much of the federal government running at fiscal year 2008 funding levels. See the summary of the continuing resolution below for more details.

The Energy and Water Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee is chaired by Representative Visclosky (D-IN). Other members include Representatives Edwards (D-TX), Pastor (D-AZ), Berry (B-AR), Fattah (D-PA), Israel (D-NY), Ryan (D-OH), Serrano (D-NY), Olver (D-MA), Obey (D-WI), Hobson (R-OH), Wamp (R-TN), Emerson (R-MO), Doolittle (R-CA), Simpson (R-ID), Granger (R-TX), and Lewis (R-CA).

Senate Action

Senate of the 110th Congress Does Not Complete Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2009
The Senate was unable to complete deliberations within the appropriation subcommittees for nine appropriation bills. Instead Congress approved a continuing resolution to keep much of the federal government running at fiscal year 2008 funding levels. See the summary of the continuing resolution below for more details.

The Energy and Water Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is chaired by Senator Dorgan (D-ND). Other members include Senators Byrd (D-WV), Murray (D-WA), Feinstein (D-CA), Johnson (D-SD), Landrieu (D-LA), Inouye (D-HI), Reed (D-RI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Domenici (R-NM), Cochran (R-MS), McConnell (R-KY), Bennett (R-UT), Craig (R-ID), Bond (R-MO), Hutchison (R-TX), and Allard (R-CO).

Conference Committee Action


Science Agencies Left Deflated as Congress Passes Continuing Resolution

On September 27th by a vote of 78-12, the Senate passed a continuing resolution, funding the majority of the government at fiscal year (FY) 2008 levels until March 6, 2009.  Senate action followed after the House passed the measure (H.R. 2638) on September 24th by a vote of 231-198. The continuing resolution package contains three FY 2009 spending bills – Defense funded at $488 billion, Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs funded at $73 billion and Homeland Security funded at $40 billion - plus $23 billion in disaster relief funding.  The spending package also includes funding of $2.5 billion for the Pell Grant program, $75 billion for a domestic automakers and battery makers new technology loan program, and $5.1 billion for the low-income heating assistance program.

The continuation of FY 2008 spending levels for federal agencies which support the geosciences, means a significant decrease in real dollars for research relative to rising costs. There will be increasing competition for decreasing research funds, delays for some programs, deferments of new initiatives, uncertainties in budget planning, uncertainties in workforce levels (with potential layoffs) and fewer resources for education and training. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-Office of Science), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were slated to receive healthy increases to their bottom-line research budgets in FY 2009 thanks to the passage of the America COMPETES Act in 2007. COMPETES authorizes a doubling of these budgets over 7 to 10 years. Unfortunately the lack of follow through in the appropriations process and the snowballing economic crisis of the past month make these increases untenable.

Additionally, the CR eliminates increases of tens of millions of dollars each for NSF, DOE-Office of Science and NASA that was provided in an emergency supplemental act approved in July. The flat budgets and the loss of the small emergency supplemental increases leaves federal science agencies extremely deflated, with small percentage cuts to their research portfolios and the need to re-organize their spending priorities. There is also a possibility of an across-the-board rescission to federal programs, if Congress needs to find funds to offset any emergency spending.

President Bush has indicated that he will sign the stopgap measure, funding the government past the end of his administration.  It is unclear how the next Congress will address spending for the remainder of FY 2009. While the next Congress and the next administration have the option to consider a different budget for FY 2009, the recent economic storm leaves any prediction on future appropriations very murky.

More details about the research budgets of specific science agencies in the CR is available from AAAS.

Appropriations Hearings

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water hearing on the Energy Department's Budget Request and Justification for FY2009
April 2, 2008

Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Under Secretary for Science, Department of Energy (DOE)
Alexander Karsner, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE
David G. Frantz, Director, Loan Guarantee Program Office, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, DOE

Members Present
Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)
Ranking Member Peter Domenici (R-NM)
Senator Larry Craig (R-ID)
Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO)
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water held a hearing to examine the President’s fiscal year 2009 budget request for the Office of Science, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and the Loan Guarantee Program Office at DOE.

Senators Dorgan (D-ND) and Domenici (R-NM) emphasized that the programs under the purview of the witnesses represented the “A-Z” or “entire pipeline” of energy technology development and deployment needed to meet our energy challenges and that breakthroughs in energy technology are necessary to accomplish the goals set out in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

Dr. Raymond Orbach, Under Secretary for Science was the first witness to testify focusing on the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget request for the Office of Science.  The request for the Office of Science is $4.7 billion an increase of $749 million compared to FY 2008 enacted levels.  The broad base increases in the budget for the Office of Science are in support of the President’s American Competitive Initiative and Congress’s America COMPETES Act, which according to Orbach “recognize the pivotal role of the Office of Science in securing the advantages that basic research as well as science, math, and engineering education can bring to the Nation.”

Dr. Orbach highlighted some of the planned FY 2009 initiatives, including the establishment of Energy Frontier Research Centers, which will focus on advancing energy technologies including research in “solar energy utilization; geosciences related to the long-term storage of nuclear waste and carbon dioxide; advanced nuclear energy systems; solid state lighting; and superconductivity.”

Mr. Alex Karsner testified regarding the EERE FY 2009 budget request of $1.255 billion, which is $19 million more than the FY 2008 budget request, but $467 million less than FY 2008 enacted levels. Karsner stated “EERE’s budget request supports priority R&D and the achievement of stated goals.”  It is estimated that the rapid and broad base deployment of EERE technologies into the market could save consumers $600 billion by 2030 and $4 trillion cumulatively by 2050.  Additionally, advancement of EERE technologies could prevent 6 gigatons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere by 2030 and 50 gigatons by 2050.

The final witness, Mr. Frantz, discussed the loan guarantee program, which provides funds for demonstration and pilot projects that advance final stage energy projects to commercial viability.

The majority of questions asked by the Senators were directed at Karsner and the decline in the EERE budget. In response to questions about the programs under EERE, Karsner expressed his excitement for the geothermal program and the opportunity that exists to galvanize the area of research. Senator Dorgan (D-ND) voiced his concerns about the declining hydrogen technology budget, which is $50 million less than what was spent three years ago and the reduction in investments in solar energy.  Senators Murray (D-WA) and Craig (R-ID) questioned Karsner and Orbach about the research programs being undertaken in the national labs located in their states, namely hydropower and biofuel programs in Washington and advanced vehicle research in Idaho.

Frantz also received a fair number of questions as senators expressed their frustration at the pace of program, which was authorized in 2005, but will only begin to grant loans this year.

The written testimony of the witnesses can viewed at


Sources: Department of Energy; Environment and Energy Daily; Greenwire; U.S. House of Representatives; United States Senate; Hearing testimony.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Staff

Last Update February 27, 2009.

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