House Energy & Water Bill: Floor Amendment Roundup

Several amendments attempted to cut or raise funding for science and technology offices as the House passed its Department of Energy funding bill.

Late Thursday, July 10, the House of Representatives passed its FY 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (H.R. 4923), which provides funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) and other agencies. The bill passed by a 253-170 vote; the bill text and associated report can be found here. According to current AAAS estimates (see R&D table), the bill provides $11.8 billion for Department of Energy (DOE) R&D, 3.2 percent or $366 million above FY 2014 levels but 4.9 percent or $611 million below the request. It would also leave DOE R&D at its highest point in over 20 years, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Several amendments were offered in attempts to adjust DOE program spending. Some were accepted, many were rejected, but the general contours of the ultimate bill remain largely unchanged from the Appropriations Committee-approved version, which kept Office of Science funding flat, boosted select science and technology accounts within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and adopted a mixed approach to DOE's technology offices, boosting some and cutting others. On the latter front, many of these cuts echoed those seen in prior years from the House, with Fossil Energy R&D receiving boosts at the expense of efficiency and renewable energy. Notable departures from the committee bill, however, include sizable cut levied on the Office of Nuclear Energy and a $20 million boost for ARPA-E. A recap of these and other amendments follows.

Office of Science (funding table). Two amendments were offered by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), only one successful. The approved amendment shifts $300,000 to the National Undergraduate Fellowship Program, which had been zeroed out in the Administration's budget. The other amendment, which was withdrawn, would have boosted the Science allocation by $40.2 million, to match the President's request. Thus, the Science budget would remain flat from FY 2014 before inflation under the House bill.

Another amendment by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) prohibits funding for DOE’s Climate Model Development and Validation program, within the Biological and Environmental Research program.

Energy Programs (funding table). Successful amendments include:

  • A $73 million cut from the Office of Nuclear Energy from Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA), to shift funding to the Corps of Engineers for port maintenance;
  • A $7 million cut to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) from Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) in favor of the Bureau of Reclamation;
  • A $9 million boost for EERE's Water Power program, taken from departmental administration funds, by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), which together with the Noem amendment leaves the EERE budget $2 million above the committee's recommendation, but $111 million or 5.8 percent below FY 2014 levels and $526 million below the request; and
  • A $20 million boost for ARPA-E from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), which leaves ARPA-E's budget 7.1 percent above FY 2014 levels.

There were many more unsuccessful amendments. Multiple attempts were made to boost EERE with Fossil Energy funding, and vice versa, and Rep. Jerry McNerney's amendment to boost Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability funding by $20 million was also rejected by House legislators. Two attempts were made to zero out EERE funding outright, one from Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), and one from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA). The McClintock amendment also would have eliminated funding for Fossil Energy R&D and Nuclear Energy.

No amendments were adopted that would have changed NNSA funding levels (see table) from the committee bill.

Lastly, several amendments were approved to restrict the Administration's climate- and emission-related policies. For instance, one by Rep. Jim Lankford (R-OK) prohibits DOE funding for any rulemaking related to the social cost of carbon. Another by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) prohibits DOE from funding climate change activities associated with the National Climate Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, and is similar to other measures that have been added to other appropriations bills. Other amendments block DOE loan funding for the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project, and prevent DOE from enforcing energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. See this report from E&E Publishing for more on these additional measures.

The White House has also issued a threat to veto the bill in its current form. The Senate version would likely experience a more favorable reception, but that bill was pulled from its full Senate Appropriations Committee markup last month, and it’s still not clear when Senate appropriators intend to return to it.