Subcommittees of the U.S House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate separately advanced appropriations bills that lay out funding priorities for the Department of Energy (DOE) and other energy-related measures for 2017.
The House Energy and Water Subcommittee, a panel of the Appropriations Committee, passed a $37.4 billion bill to fund the DOE as well as federal water programs. The amount is $259 million above 2016 and $168 million above the administration’s request. However, it departs from the administration’s budget in a number of ways.
The House bill restores funding the administration sought to cut from fossil fuel research and nuclear waste disposal, in addition to boosting the Army Corps of Engineers’ (COE) budget by $100 million. Fossil fuel research would get $645 million, a slight increase from 2016, while the Yucca Mountain depository project, which the administration has tried repeatedly to kill, would get $170 million.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency, meanwhile, received $248 million less funding than the administration requested.
The House bill also contains some GOP-backed measures to address California’s water crisis that have failed to pass in previous years because of opposition from environmentalists, the state government, and the state’s two Democratic senators. Other unrelated policy riders—one addressing the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule—in the bill are sure to draw controversy.
Over in the Senate, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee passed its own $37.5 billion appropriations bill that likewise boosts funding for the COE, in addition to increases for advanced nuclear energy and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. One notable cut was the entire $125 million request for the ITER fusion reactor project, which has drawn criticism for its slow pace and high costs.
Rather than funding Yucca Mountain, however, the Senate bill includes a pilot program to allow consolidated nuclear waste storage and funding for the DOE to store nuclear waste at private facilities.
The bill also includes $95 million for the DOE’s small modular reactor initiative, $32.5 million more than 2016.
The fate of both bills is uncertain. A statement on the Senate bill from Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) noted dryly that the full Senate has not passed the Energy and Water Appropriations bill as part of the regular appropriations process since 2009.
—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).