Energy and Water Spending Bill Proceeds with Deep Cuts for Renewables, ARPA-E

The fiscal year 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill released by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee this week slashes $1.4 billion in funding to Department of Energy renewable energy and scientific research programs, including an 80% spending cut on the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program.

The bill totals $30.4 billion—$2.9 billion less than the enacted fiscal year 2013 level, and $4.1 billion less than requested by the Obama administration. The legislation on Tuesday passed by a voice vote in subcommittee and will likely be voted on by the full House Appropriations Committee next week.

The cuts were achieved by targeted reductions to "lower-priority or unnecessary programs, including many within the DOE," lawmakers on the committee said. It slashes $911 million in funding (and provides $983 million) to renewable energy programs and reduces ARPA-E’s funding by $215 million, an 81% cut compared to the enacted level for fiscal year 2013. The 2007-authorized program had been funded originally under the 2009 Stimulus Act.

However, it includes $450 million for research and development to advanced coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies, "which will help the country make greater use of our rich natural energy resources and help keep down energy costs," the committee’s GOP majority said. Also included is $656 million for nuclear energy research and $25 million to support Yucca Mountain activities "to continue the viability of the program for the future." Lawmakers noted that the bill continues congressional efforts to roll back the Obama administration’s "politically motivated" policy to scrap the permanent repository project in Nevada, which "runs contrary to the will of the Congress and the American people."

Significantly, the bill increases funding for nuclear programs—including $7.7 billion for weapons programs and $1.1 billion for nuclear reactors. It also provides $4.9 billion for national and regional infrastructure projects to help address navigation and flood control through the Army Corps of Engineers.

Committee Democrats blasted the cuts on renewables programs and ARPA-E as "deep and severe." Full committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) lamented: “Our economy will be at a disadvantage to capitalize on the benefits of 21st century discoveries, ceding breakthroughs in areas like clean energy to China.”

Chairman Hal Rogers, however, defended the cuts saying, “In these tight budget times, sacrifices must be made to safeguard programs critical to the nation’s security and well-being. This bill reflects these hard choices, prioritizing funding to maintain our nuclear weapons and ensure the safety and readiness of the nation’s nuclear stockpile, and to invest in essential infrastructure projects to enhance safety and encourage commerce. This is a good bill that guarantees these programs are maintained, while recognizing current budget constraints,” he said.

Sources: POWERnews, House Appropriations Committee

Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

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