Over three days starting April 29, the House of Representatives considered several R&D-relevant amendments to the FY 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, rejecting all but a handful. Specifically, the Department of Energy (DOE) hydropower program, within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), picked up an additional $9 million, and EERE's vehicle technology program gained an extra $2 million. In the Office of Science, the Biological and Environmental Research Program was blocked from pursuing a new proposed climate modeling initiative. And National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) R&D activities also gained an extra $6 million (almost a rounding error for these large programs). Details on these and other amendments are listed below.
Following these changes, AAAS currently estimates Department of Energy (DOE) R&D at $11.9 billion in the House bill, just a sub-inflation 0.9 percent increase from FY 2015 and a 4.9 percent or $609 million reduction from the President's request. As previously written, the major partisan divergences break down by energy technology area.
The bill ultimately passed the morning of Friday, May 1 by a 240-177 vote along party lines. The current funding totals and R&D estimates in the House-approved bill are shown at right. A recap of select amendments follows.
- The two successful amendments for efficiency and renewables were offered by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Steve Cohen (D-TN). Bonamici's amendment, boosting the EERE Water Power program by $9 million, reflects a regional interest in electricity from hydropower. The Cohen amendment, for $2 million, was targeted at the proposed SuperTruck II initiative, which seeks technology-driven efficiency gains in heavy freight hauling. Both raided DOE's administrative accounts to offset the spending increases, and were adopted by voice votes.
- These amendments were accompanied by the usual proposals to shift funding among and between the assorted energy technology offices. The most extreme of these was offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), which would have zeroed out funding for all R&D related to efficiency, renewables, fossil energy, and nuclear energy, amounting to savings approaching $3 billion. The amendment, an annual exercise from Rep. McClintock, was defeated by a 110-311 vote.
- Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) offered voice-vote-approved amendments to increase select NNSA R&D accounts, dealing with nonproliferation R&D and low-enriched uranium fuel for naval reactors, respectively.
- The House approved an amendment (vote) by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) to block the Climate Model Development and Validation program. The program was first proposed by the Office of Science (SC) last year, but did not receive funding then. SC's climate research activities for FY 2016 were deeply cut by the House Appropriations Committee.
- Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) offered and withdrew in the face of opposition an amendment to boost Office of Science funding by $240 million, which would have allowed the House to match the President's request.
- An amendment from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) to boost the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $20 million lost relatively narrowly.
- Other amendments blocked funds from the Massachusetts Cape Wind and ceiling fan efficiency
Energy R&D funding decisions for FY 2016 now move to the Senate.