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FY 2010 Department of Commerce Appropriations (6/30/09)

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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). For more background information on the Department of Commerce, NOAA, and NIST, visit the AGI Federal Agencies policy page.

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

Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Department of Commerce Appropriations Process


FY09 Enacted
House Action
Senate Action

NOAA (total)






National Weather Service






National Ocean Service






National Environmental Satellite, Data, & Information Service






Oceanic & Atmospheric Research






Education Programs






NIST (total)






National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)



not specified

not specified

not specified

*Tentative amount, awaiting confirmation from OMB

President's Request for FY 2010

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the new Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) presented the President’s fiscal year 2010 budget proposal on May 11, 2009. She began her presentation with a comment about NOAA’s principles and values, noting in particular that decisions will be based on good science. In the future NOAA intends to fulfill the President’s commitment to science, spur new jobs and industries, manage our fisheries for long-term sustainability, improve weather forecasting and disaster warnings, provide credible information about climate change and its impacts and revitalize coastal communities.

Under the President’s proposal, NOAA would receive $4,484 million, an increase of $110 million over FY09. The proposed budget would be distributed across the following broad categories of missions - $1,429 million for satellites, $912 million for fisheries, $405 million for research and climate, $503 million for oceans and coasts, $964 million for weather and $453 million for program support. The largest increases would be focused on satellites and fisheries with some increases for weather, climate research and coastal zone research and management.

Although the overall budget would have no significant cuts, all congressionally mandated programs would be reduced or eliminated. This means a reduction of $20 million for education programs, reductions for data and research centers and reductions in mapping projects for specific coastal regions. An additional $73 million cut to climate sensors is not an actual reduction but related to ARRA funds being used to accelerate the development of the Clouds and the Earth Radiant Energy System (CERES) and the Total Solar Irradiance System (TSIS) instruments. NOAA plans to complete these instruments with stimulus funds and then work with NASA to get the instruments launched on upcoming missions.

The budget numbers and comparisons do not include the one-time stimulus funding of $830 million that NOAA received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Dr. Lubchenco did note that Congress has just approved of NOAA’s spending plan for ARRA, so more details about the stimulus spending should be available soon.

Below are some details on specific programs of interest to the geosciences community. A snapshot of the budget proposal is also available in the table.

Satellite missions would see some significant increases and the objectives would be to try to get long-delayed missions readied and launched. The Geostationary Earth Satellite System (GOES-R) would receive an increase of $272 million for a total of $737 million. The Polar-orbiting Earth Satellite System (NPOESS) would receive an increase of $94 million for a total of $382 million. NOAA would also begin the Jason-3 Altimetry Mission to measure sea height with a budget of $20 million.

In addition to funds for satellites, the proposal also requests $7 million for Climate Data Records. NOAA would like the funds to “transform raw satellite data into unified and coherent long-term environmental observations and products that are critical to advance climate change understanding, prediction, mitigation and adaptation.”

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) would receive $394.2 million, which is an increase of $22 million over FY09. Climate Research would receive $209.8 million, an increase of $15 million, for the National Climate Model Portal, U.S. Climate Reference work, the National Integrated Drought Information System, Decadal Climate Predictions and Ocean Acidification monitoring. Weather and Air Quality Research would receive $63.9 million, an increase of $5.9 million, for Weather Research and Forecasting, Severe Weather Forecast Improvements and Tornado Research. The Oceans, Coastal and Great Lakes Research would receive $107.4 million, an increase of $851,000. Much of the increase would be devoted to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

The National Weather Service would receive $764.9 million and much of the increase of $18.8 million would be devoted to improving weather forecasts and warnings of severe events. In her comments, Lubchenco noted that 160 million Americans live near the coasts and that the U.S. is the most impacted of any nation in the world by severe weather. Thus NOAA requests an increase of $2.7 million for local warnings and forecasts, $6 million for aviation weather, and an additional $10 million for hurricane forecasts.

The National Ocean Services would receive $462.7 million, an increase of $22 million over FY09, for navigation services, ocean resources conservation and assessment and coastal zone management.

Within navigation services, extra funds are specifically called out for geodesy to begin an effort to complete a new national vertical datum by 2018. NOAA hopes to upgrade the gravity-based geoid model from 40 centimeters accuracy to 2 centimeters accuracy. Such an improvement would lead to more accurate elevations that would lead to improved commerce, economic efficiencies and protection against severe weather.

Within ocean resources, NOAA will enhance the Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration and set-up new National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science as well as increasing funding for ocean research and assessments.

Visit AGI’s brief summary of NOAA stimulus spending for details on the ARRA funds.

For more information about NOAA’s budget, please visit the NOAA budget office website.

National Institute of Standards and Technology
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive $846.1 million in the President’s fiscal year 2010 (FY10) budget request, an increase of $27.1 million over the enacted FY09 budget. NIST also received $580 million in one time stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). In addition $30 million of ARRA money will be transferred to NIST from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Energy for joint projects. President Obama’s support for science includes NIST, which is now on the doubling path outlined in America COMPETES.

NIST funds laboratory research and facilities that cover energy, environment, and infrastructure. For energy there would be about $29.5 million in the budget, divided between three main projects. $7 million would be put towards developing Net-Zero Energy, High-Performance Green Buildings, $5 million for developing Smart Grid systems and looking into consumer choices, and $7.5 million for solar energy research and development. NIST aims to decrease the cost of delivering solar electricity because, according to Deputy Director Dr. Patrick Gallagher, “solar is the holy grail” of renewable energy.

For environmental programs, NIST would have $7 million for accurate measurement of greenhouse gas emissions and $3 million for developing ways to conduct environmental, health, and safety measurements in nanomaterials.

For infrastructure, $4.5 million would be dedicated to helping rebuild America’s physical infrastructure through remediation tools, data on material failure, quantifying safety margins, and improving inspection techniques.

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), which is partially funded through the Building & Fire Research Lab at NIST, will receive an estimated $3.6 million in FY09 and an additional $2 million from ARRA*. The specific funding for FY10 is yet to be determined, but Gallagher indicated that NEHRP had solid funding levels in FY09 that could be sustained in upcoming years.

For more details about the NIST FY10 budget, please visit the NIST budget website.

*Based on estimates given at the NIST presidential budget presentation on May 14, 2009

House Action

The House approved of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2010 (H.R. 2847) on June 18, 2009. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive $4.6 billion, an increase of $238 million over FY 2009 and $129 million more than the President’s request. About $3.2 billion would be for operations, research and facilities and $1.4 billion would be for procurement, acquisition and construction. The House would provide $436 million for oceanic and atmospheric research, about $31 million more than the President’s request and $1,467 million for satellites, about $19 million more than the President’s request. The Ocean Resources Conservation and Assessment programs and the Ocean and Coastal Management programs would also receive small increases compared to the President’s request, though both programs would receive less than they received in FY 2009.

The House of Representatives considers funding for the National Science Foundation in the subcommitte for Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Mollohan (D-WV), other members include Representatives Kennedy (D-RI), Fattah (D-PA), Ruppersberger (D-MD), Schiff (D-CA), Honda (D-CA), Visclosky (D-IN), Serrano (D-NY), Obey (D-WI), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Culberson (R-TX), Aderholt (R-AL), and Lewis (R-CA).

Senate Action

The Senate subcommittee on science appropriations approved of funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce, however, the full Senate has not voted on this appropriations bill as of September 8, 2009.

The subcommittee's report (111-34) highlighted the delays and cost overruns for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) and noted independent reviews regard the mission as having a low probability of success. Nevertheless they provide the full funding requested by the President but state "... if NPOESS is to ultimately achieve its mission, the administration needs to disengage from its auto-pilot management style, start making responsible decisions and regain control of this unwieldy program. Within 30 days of enactment of this act, the administration is directed to provide the Committee with a new inter-agency management plan for NPOESS addressing all of the recommendations from every recent internal and external review."

The subcommittee would provide $34 million for the Integrated Ocean Observing System [IOOS] and stated "A proven ocean observation network could be the very essence of a true National Ocean Service, maximizing both external and internal resources. Yet, this program instead seems to languish in stagnant funding requests and unachievable goals." Within the $34 million, the subcommittee would provide $4.5 million for a competitively bid extramural super regional text bed along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to enable data integration to understand, predict and mitigate the consequences of extreme events and chronic conditions.

The appropriation language and committee reports are available from Thomas at:

The Senate considers funding for NOAA and NIST in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Mikulski (D-MD), other members include Senators Inouye (D-HI), Leahy (D-VT), Kohl (D-WI), Dorgan (D-ND), Feinstein (D-CA), Reed (D-RI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Shelby (R-AL), Gregg (R-NH), McConnell (R-KY), Hutchison (R-TX), Brownback (R-KS), Alexander (R-TN), Voinovich (R-OH) and Murkowski (R-AK).

Conference Committee Action

Congress passed H.R. 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 on December 13, 2009. This bill provides funding for six separate appropriations bills consolidated into the Transportation/HUD bill. It includes funding for science agencies (NSF, NASA, NOAA and NIST) and the Department of Education. President Obama signed the bill into law (Public Law 111-117) on December 16. Department of Defense appropriations were handled separately in a later bill and signed into law by the President at a later date. The conference committee provided a joint explanatory statement to explain their budgetary choices in H.R. 3288 in House Report 111-366.

The report calls for several general accounting requests from federal science agencies. NSF, NASA and the Departments of Commerce and Justice must provide the House and Senate committees on Appropriations with quarterly accounts of cumulative balances of any unobligated funds and must submit spending plans within 60 days of enactment of the bill. In addition these agencies and departments must notify Congress about any cost increases of 10 percent or more for projects with initial costs of $75 million or more.

The measure provides increases for most science programs and the legislators note that $1.3 billion is provided for climate change research and development in this bill. Within the Department of Commerce, NOAA would receive an 8.3 percent increase for a total budget of $4,737.5 million and NIST would receive a 2 percent increase for a total budget of $856.6 million in FY 2010 compared to FY 2009. The amounts for some specific programs are provided in the table at the top of this page.

The overall increase for NOAA is distributed among the various programs, however, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, & Information Service would decrease slightly under the assumption that the GOES-R satellite requires less funding. The Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) division is requested to accelerate efforts to create a National Climate Service and at the same time support a National Academy of Sciences study and a National Academy of Public Administration study of such a climate service. Within OAR, legislators note that $221 million is provided for climate research, there is a small increase for monitoring of nutrients and mercury speciation, there is support for monitoring Great Lakes ice cover, water levels and climate impacts, there is support for a report on the potential of ocean fertilization for climate change mitigation, specific support for funding the Northern Gulf Institute, support for the National Sea Grant College Program and support for separate and adequate funding for the ocean exploration program and the undersea research program.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is requested to reconsider and report to Congress on restructuring of weather service offices in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and asked to conduct a National Academy of Sciences study of the NWS modernization. The report specifically notes legislators' support for improvements in hurricane tracking and forecasts, support for the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and the National mesonet program.

The National Ocean Service (NOS) includes the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) a cooperative program with other federal agencies and other non-governmental organizations. The report states: "The conference agreement provides a total of $33,555,000 for IOOS, of which $6,555,000 is for program administration; $20,000,000 is for a competitive, regional ocean observing systems solicitation; $4,000,000 is for a competitive extramural regional test bed for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts described in the Senate report, for which NOAA shall outline this effort’s approach and timeline in its fiscal year 2010 operating plan; and $3,000,000 is for a consortium for testing and advancing new sensor technologies.". The report also notes some specific increases above the President's request for the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, and for Coastal Zone Management grants within NOS.

The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) would see a reduction in total funding based on reduced requirements for the GOES-R satellite. Legislators expressed significant concerns about the delays and cost overruns of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). The report indicates that funding levels for FY 2010 will not be adequate and NOAA is encouraged to ask for contingency funding based on innovative solutions to the current problems with NPOESS. Congress removes the 50:50 funding split requirement for NOAA and the Department of Defense in order to avoid any funding obstacles to possible solutions and directs NOAA to use NASA's cost analysis capabilities as well as the Defense's Cost Analysis Improvement Group..

The report offers significant support for educational programs within NOAA, providing a increase to $38.5 million, compared to the President's request of $20 million, to improve environmental and ocean literacy. The report notes that $3 million is provided for the GLOBE program, a joint effort between NOAA, NSF and NASA.

Appropriations Hearings

  • June 11, 2009: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee Hearing on “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s FY 2010 Budget”
  • June 3, 2009: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Hearing on “Agency Budgets and Priorities for FY2010”

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee Hearing on “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s FY 2010 Budget”
June 11, 2009

Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Committee Members Present
Maria Cantwell, Chairwoman (D-WA)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Mark Begich (D-AK)

On June 11, 2009, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee conducted a hearing on the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget proposed for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Administrator of NOAA, gave testimony on the budget request.

In her opening statement, Chairwoman of the subcommittee Maria Cantwell (D-WA) emphasized the importance of the United States’ oceans and coasts, stating that the preservation and protection of these environments is both an environmental and an economic issue. She went on to explain the impact that NOAA has on the economy. The benefits from NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observation System are estimated at $300 million per year, while NOAA’s hydrographic surveys enable safe coastal transportation, protecting the maritime industry that brought in $2 trillion and provided 8.4 million jobs in 2006. In addition, the climate services and data collected by NOAA are crucial to the one third of the United States economy that is weather dependent. “NOAA touches the lives of every American,” Cantwell declared, but she was troubled that this is not reflected in the budget request. She compared the $4.5 billion proposed budget for NOAA, a 2.5 percent increase over the FY 2009 budget, to the proposed budgets and increases for the Department of the Interior ($12.1 billion; 7 percent increase), the Environmental Protection Agency ($10.5 billion; 37 percent increase), and NASA ($18.9 billion; 5 percent increase). She acknowledged that these agencies deserve increased funding, but concluded that “the Administration needs to recognize the valuable science and stewardship that NOAA provides to our nation and double its budget.”

Lubchenco opened by highlighting four important areas where the increased budget would aid in the success of NOAA projects. First, the upkeep and development of satellites is necessary for continuity and consistency in weather forecasting. Second, the management of fisheries is fundamental for efforts to end overfishing. Third, NOAA’s climate research is important for understanding and predicting climate change, and fourth, the maintenance and technological development of weather forecasting is vital for the protection of lives and property.

Funding one of NOAA’s projects was of concern to Cantwell, since a recent report from the project’s independent review team suggested that the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) would not succeed under its current management structure. Three agencies share management of NPOESS, including the Department of Defense represented by the Air Force, Department of Commerce represented by NOAA, and NASA. In its report, the independent review team gave recommendations on improving this tri-management structure, costs, and budgeting. Lubchenco referred to these recommendations as “invaluable” and agreed that the current tri-agency structure is not working. She explained that one problem is the difference in the satellite orbit and the data quality needed for the Department of Defense and for NOAA, which is an issue that the independent review team addressed. The review team recommended that priority go to the higher quality data needed for NOAA’s climate information and weather forecasting. Lubchenco then indicated that reorganization of the management structure is being considered. When Cantwell suggested that funding this project is not a good idea because the leadership tensions have not been resolved, Lubchenco responded that delaying the project will lead to more issues with the loss in data continuity.

Cantwell also inquired if the requested FY 2010 budget met the “100%-requirement,” which is a process started in 2003 that identifies the funding needed for NOAA to meet its yearly obligations. When Lubchenco said that she had not gone through the entire budget request and calculated this, Cantwell demanded that she submit this calculation as soon as she completes it. Cantwell then discussed climate change research and the effects of climate change on the ocean ecosystem. Lubchenco provided information on NOAA’s studies of ocean acidification, which include monitoring changes in ocean acidity and laboratory research of the resulting impacts on ecosystems. She indicated that these studies also need more funding since “more changes are down the road.” Cantwell agreed that this issue is imperative because the shellfish industry of the Northwest Pacific is already being affected by ocean acidification.

Another issue noted by Cantwell is the backlog of ecological sensitivity maps that are used for oil spill response, but can also be used for spatial planning as renewable energy projects and the fishing industry start to compete for the same space. Lubchenco responded that NOAA will only map 32 percent of its goal of 10,000 square nautical miles per year with the current proposed FY 2010 budget.

Cantwell finished questioning Lubchenco by inquiring if NOAA would invest in the regional partnerships that bring together citizens, government, tribes, businesses, and scientists to work for environmentally friendly management of waterways and ocean systems. One example is the Puget Sound Partnership that has used scientific research provided by NOAA in its decisions of the region’s management. Lubchenco called this partnership a “model for places around the country,” with “very cutting edge” science. She and Cantwell discussed the benefits of these kinds of programs and the benefits of states working together in the management of their shared coastlines. They agreed that the programs are effective and NOAA should continue to work with them to advance the health of the oceans and waterways.

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) asked questions related to Alaska’s marine interests, including when the Fairweather vessel that conducts hydrographic surveys would be moved back to Alaska and if the Kasitsna Bay lab, which is the only west coast lab in NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, would have enough funds to remain open. She responded that these are very specific questions and she would get back to him. He noted his appreciation of Lubchenco’s comments on climate change and the fact that future resources will be needed for this ongoing research. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) called for an amendment to the Endangered Species Act, because the Act limited the amount of water that could be taken from the Savannah River in his drought ridden state. The Savannah River is home to the endangered shortnose sturgeon.   

Links to the testimony from the witness and a video of the hearing can be found here.


House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Hearing on “Agency Budgets and Priorities for FY2010”
June 3, 2009

Mr. Michael Shapiro
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Water, Environmental Protection Agency
Mr. Barry Breen
Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Environmental Protection Agency
Chief David White
Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Administrator Collister Johnson, Jr.
Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, U.S. Department of Transportation
Mr. John H. Dunnigan
Assistant Administrator, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Mr. John M. Thomas, III
Vice President and Controller, Financial Services, Tennessee Valley Authority

Subcommittee Members Present
Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chairwoman (D-TX)
John Boozman, Ranking Member (R-AR)
Brian Baird (D-WA)
Anh Cao (R-LA)
Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA)
Parker Griffith (D-AL)
Phil Hare (D-IL)
Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)
Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI)
Henry E. Brown, Jr. (R-SC)
Candice S. Miller (R-MI)
Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)
Steve Kagen (D-WI)
Dina Titus (D-NV)
John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN)
Tom Perriello (D-VA)

On June 3, 2009, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held the first of two hearings concerning the President’s budget proposal and agency priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2010. This hearing included testimony from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Witnesses from each of these agencies presented the committee with its assessment of how well the President’s budget would enable the agencies to meet their goals in the next year and updated the committee on the progress their agencies made in the last year on projects. In general, the witnesses supported the allocations in the President’s FY 2010 budget.

In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) stated that “change has finally come” and expressed happiness that the President’s budget would increase funding to agencies that have a crucial role in meeting the national water needs. However, she expressed disappointment that the number of Superfund sites that EPA would clean up in the upcoming fiscal year would decrease from 35 to 20. Johnson was also concerned about the elimination of funding for NOAA’s coastal non-point source pollution programs, which she called “the single largest source of impairment to the nation’s streams, lakes, and estuaries.”

In Ranking Member John Boozman’s (R-AR) opening remarks, he stated that he does “not support cutting programs that have proven economic benefits” and has “serious concern” about reinstating the taxes on petroleum, chemical feed stocks, and corporate income in FY2011 as proposed by the President’s budget, which had traditionally funded hazardous waste sites under the Superfund program. He believes we “should not be shifting the burden to innocent companies” and feels these taxes are “unfair and unwarranted.”

In Mr. Michael Shapiro’s opening remarks, he stated that the budget request for EPA’s National Water Program is $53 billion, or 53 percent of the agency’s budget and an increase of $3 billion from the FY 2009 budget. He targeted three priority areas for the Office of Water: sustainable infrastructure, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay. To promote sustainability, EPA would promote green infrastructure, fund clean water and drinking water projects, thereby preserving and creating jobs, and water and energy efficiency. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would receive $475 million and be focused on facing the challenges of toxic substances, non-point source pollution, invasive species, near-shore health, habitat and wildlife protection, and restoration.  The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) should work to reduce pollution that affects the watershed and help create the “largest and most complex Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.”

Administrator Collister J. Johnson, Jr. addressed the President’s budget with respect to the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), which proposes $32.3 million for operations and maintenance of the Seaway. The Seaway plays a “vital role” to the economy of the Midwest and saves shippers about $3.6 billion per year, a cost that otherwise would be passed onto the consumer. Every ship must now go through a checkpoint which requires seawater flushing to prevent invasive species from infiltrating the Great Lakes.

Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Candice Miller (R-MI) were particularly interested in water issues associated with the Great Lakes as discussed by Shapiro and Johnson. Ehlers asked Shapiro about how EPA plans to administer funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Shapiro explained about EPA’s existing framework of allocating resources across agencies and regional groups once they have identified priority projects. Ehlers commented that he is “pleased this is a bipartisan issue” and both sides have a “good working relationship” because the Great Lakes are so important to this nation. Miller wanted to know more about the success of the inspection system in the St. Lawrence Seaway and Johnson responded saying there has been a noticeable drop in the introduction of invasive species in the Great Lakes since 2006 when the system was implemented. Miller was impressed by the success of the system saying it is a “fantastic statement” about SLSDC and “hats off to everyone involved.”

Clean water and water conservation was an important topic on the minds of the committee members as Shapiro was asked several times about EPA’s ability to effectively protect water resources. Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) wanted to know how EPA is addressing the importance of water conservation in the context of climate change. Shapiro explained the details of WaterSense, which promotes water conservation by consumers. He stated that $2 billion allocated for this effort is sufficient and “meets our needs for now.”

Mr. Barry Breen reported that the President’s budget request of $10.5 billion for FY 2010 is a 37 percent increase over the FY 2009 budget for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER). Breen spoke about EPA’s continuing effort to cleanup Superfund sites and brownfields to protect public health and the environment. The President’s budget provides $13 billion for the Superfund program, which is about the same level as in FY 2009. In addition, the FY 2010 budget requests $174.5 million for the Brownfields program, which is an increase of $5 million from FY 2009.

Some concern was expressed by a few of the committee members that the number of Superfund cleanup sites would be decreased in the next year. Breen emphasized EPA has only lowered the projected number of completed construction projects to reflect a more accurate assessment of what they think they can accomplish in the next year. Breen reiterated that “lowering does not mean that we have done less.” Ehlers suggested that maybe there were “different kinds of remedies” EPA could try in the future to reduce cost at cleanup sites. Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) felt that $175 million “doesn’t seem to be enough” and asked Breen for his thoughts about turning brownfields into bright fields, that is, cleaned-up sites deployed with solar panels for energy. Breen responded that the budget proposal is in addition to $100 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act that the program is receiving, as well as partnerships with state programs for additional funding, so something like bright fields may be  possible. He added that the possibility of bright fields is being explored by the National Renewable Energies Laboratory and it could be possible to “turn communities of concern into communities of pride.”

Chief David White represented the Natural Resources Conservation Service and addressed the President’s FY 2010 budget, which includes $40.2 million in funding for the Watershed Rehabilitation program, which is slightly higher than the FY 2009 level. The budget does not recommend new funding for the Emergency Watershed Program, which received $490 million in 2008 supplemental funding last year, and does not include funding for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program. White noted that recently “Congress has earmarked virtually all of this program, meaning that the Natural Resources Conservation Service is unable to prioritize allocation of these funds or direct funding to projects that are cost-effective.” He added that most projects require localized efforts and they expect to continue receiving local support as needed. He expressed concern about watershed rehabilitation because the United States currently has 11,000 structures that have been constructed by NRCS over the last 50 years, and each of these structures has a life expectancy of 50 years. He stated that “everyday for the next 20 years” one structure per day will no longer be of viable use.

Mr. John H. Dunnigan testified to the successes that NOAA has seen in the past fiscal year. He focused his testimony on the lessons the agency learned in “weathering hurricanes” Gustav and Ike in 2008, their active responses to oil spills, and their efforts in responding to algal bloom events. Dunnigan asked the committee to support the President’s FY 2010 budget.

Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) told Dunnigan that he is “a big fan of NOAA” and wanted to know how the agency is addressing ocean acidification and overfishing. Dunnigan responded by saying that studying ocean acidification is a focus at NOAA as part of studying climate change and there is a “major emphasis” on understanding how the ocean will change over the long-term as a result. He also stated that $50 million is included in the budget proposal for new programs to address overfishing and there are “pieces in the President’s budget that actively support” them.

Mr. John M. Thomas, III, spoke about TVA’s commitment to “energy, the economy, and economic development.” The agency serves 9 million people and figures annual revenue of $13.6 billion into TVA’s FY 2010 budget. With the recent downturn in industry, revenue will likely be down 5 to 6 percent, or about $500 million. He estimates that cleanup from the recent coal ash storage facility that failed at the Kingston Fossil Plant 40 miles west of Knoxville, Tennessee will cost between $675 million and $975 million. Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) told Thomas that TVA should invest in programs to fund green program initiatives to “reduce the need for further nuclear capabilities.”

Overall, the agencies seemed to be content with their proposed budget allocations and believe they can accomplish their objectives for the next fiscal year. The subcommittee members were pleased that funding had been substantially increased for many of the nation’s important programs.

Testimony from the chair and panelists can be found here, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing.


Sources: Department of Commerce, NOAA website and budget office, NIST website, NEHRP Coalition documents, Hearing testimony, GAO and Thomas.

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

Prepared by Linda Rowan and Corina Cerovski-Darriau, AGI Government Affairs Staff, and Rachel Potter, 2009 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern.

Last updated June 30, 2009



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