White House Threatens Veto of $34B House Energy Spending Bill

The White House on Wednesday threatened to veto a proposed $34 billion House bill setting FY 2015 spending for the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers, saying it “significantly underfunds” investments to develop clean energy technologies. 

The 2015 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 4923) slashes the funding level for the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to $1.8 billion, which is nearly $546 million below the Obama administration’s FY 2015 budget request, the White House said.  “This reduced funding level will stifle Federal investment in innovative clean energy research and development (R&D) at a time of significant global competition and progress.”

A $45 million cut from the FY 2015 Budget request for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would also impact investments and delay improvements in technologies, it said. The administration, however, lauded the House’s measures to back offshore wind technology demonstrations.

But on the nuclear front, the White House objected to funding provided to the DOE and Nuclear Regulatory Commission to further the now-stalled Yucca Mountain permanent waste repository, adding that it is “disappointed with the Committee’s rejection of the practical solutions proposed in the Administration’s nuclear waste strategy.” The FY 2015 Budget recognized “important and workable elements for a successful waste program, such as consent-based siting, interim storage of waste, and program funding reforms that are essential to the success of a Nuclear Waste Program,” it said.

The White House also “strongly” objected to a $162 million reduction in funding for the Naval Reactors program, compared to the FY 2015 Budget request. That program had already seen a $151 million slash in the FY 2014 enacted bill. The reduction “would continue to put the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet at risk and would jeopardize the program’s ability to train nuclear-qualified sailors,” it said.

The legislation also “excessively restricts nonproliferation contracts with Russia and prevents the development of lower-cost technologies for disposal of excess plutonium,” the White House said. And, at the same time, it includes “objectionable environmental riders that would prevent the use of funds to address known deficiencies and regulatory uncertainties related to Clean Water Act regulations that protect important aquatic resources while supporting economic development.”

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)