Appropriators approve 2012 energy bill

It contains deep cuts Obama clean energy priorities, including to solar energy, fuel efficient vehicle funding, energy efficiency research, weatherization and biomass research and development. Altogether this is $1.9 billion below Obama’s request.
42 percent below 2010

Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the bill represents the GOP commitment “to restoring restraint and responsibility to the appropriations process in a time when we cannot spend as we used to.”

Rep. John Olver, (D-Mass.) blasted the cuts to energy efficiency as “very short sided” and was especially impassioned on the 90 percent cut to weatherization.

“What is the reason for this cut? Is it only because most of the weatherization funding is to low income people?” he said.

The bill funds flood control and coastal emergencies at $27 million above current levels and at the level of the president’s request, and funds the Army Corps of Engineers at $195 million above the request, but Democrats said the investment is not sufficient.

The committee decided to adopt an amendment to provide $1 billion in emergency flood-related funding for the Mississippi River valley and it took the money from past spending on high-speed rail funding, a top priority of the Obama administration.

Democrats argued passionately to preserve the funding and offered an amendment to strip out the offset, thereby treating the funding as emergency spending. That amendment by Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Indiana) was defeated.

Republicans, led by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said that the rail funding had turned into a slush fund for other administration priorities and that it was not adequately used over the last two years.

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) got heated defending the 2009 stimulus bill and the high speed rail program. This prompted Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) to yell that the bill should have been a real infrastructure bill in which case it would have created jobs.  Rothman said it was the GOP which prevented more infrastructure stimulus.

There was more agreement on the committee when it comes to a controversial nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

The bill requires the administration to restart the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada that is opposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.) and President Obama.

Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) joined Rogers in blasting the administration for stalling the project. Rogers called it a “hole to nowhere,” noting that $15 billion has already been spent on the facility. Dicks said that refusing to continue the project is not based on sound science.

Despite this like-mindedness, the markup featured several other dramatic confrontations over specific provisions of the bill.

Flake offered an amendment that would have denied subsidies to for-profit businesses in both the clean energy and fossil fuel sectors. The amendment got some support from GOP budget cutters like Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and from Democrats who wasn’t to see payments to “big oil” curtailed, but it ultimately failed14 to 32.

As with previous 2012 appropriations bills, LaTourette successfully sponsored an amendment bucking most of his own party to preserve David-Bacon prevailing wage requirements for federal contracts. The GOP had once again tried to strip out the requirement, arguing it raises the costs of contracts.

The LaTourette amendment passed 26 to 22 with the support of Reps. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), Mario Diaz Balart (R-Fla.), and Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.)

The bill wades into a long running legal dispute about whether the Clean Water Act applies to small streams and attempts to strip out limiting language on this were defeated at the markup.

The GOP argues that allowing the federal government to regulate small bodies of water interferes with states rights and the rights of property owners, and could also lead to federal regulation of groundwater.

“If you want to get the federal government regulating groundwater, if you wanted to start a war in the West, you’ve got one,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) argued.

In the middle of the 3 ½ hour markup, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr (D-Ill.) gave an impassioned defense of earmarking that received applause from other Democrats. He said the Appropriations Committee by giving up on earmarks has given the administration too much power to decide where water projects are needed.