What Congress’s spending bill includes for energy, sustainability
Congress has released a $1.7 trillion bill to fund the government for fiscal 2023.
The agreement came as Democrats sought to get a bill across the finish line while they still held both houses of Congress — giving the GOP a fair amount of leverage in the negotiations.
The mammoth funding package includes boosts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and billions in natural disaster aid, among other provisions.
Here’s some of what the bill includes on energy, sustainability and the environment:
A statement from the Senate Appropriations Committee said the package included $40.6 billion to help communities recover from “drought, hurricanes, flooding, wildfire, natural disasters and other matters.”
That includes about $4 billion for farm aid; $520 million to help Western power districts buy fuel to make up for hydropower shortfalls; $2 billion for emergency wildfire funding; and about $1.6 billion to repair the damaged water system of Jackson, Miss., and address other impacts from Hurricanes Fiona and Ian.
Another $5 billion will go to replenishing the disaster relief funds at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $2.5 billion to repair damages on public lands, including the National Park system.
Much of the remaining funding pays for repairs to federal property essential to both plan for and respond to disasters. For example, $820 million will go to the National Science Foundation for both research and repairs while more than $500 million will go to NASA.
Another $500 million will pay for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to repair and replace equipment used to track and respond to disasters like hurricanes.
The measure includes just more than $10 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency — a $576 million increase over 2022.
The allowance is nearly $2 billion less than the approximately $12 billion sought by the Biden administration.
Much of the increase will go into increasing the size of grant programs and paying for additional overhead costs like rents, leases and utilities.
In their budget statement, Senate Republicans bragged about how they had rejected the president’s “radical environmental and climate policies” and kept overall nondefense spending increases to just 5.5 percent over last year.
However, the EPA is also set to receive more than $100 billion from federal spending bills like the Inflation Reduction Act over the next few years, E&E News reported.
The appropriations bill allocates more than $46 billion to the Energy Department.
The majority of that money, about $31 billion, goes to military purposes, like the development of new nuclear weapons and cleanup of the environment around nuclear bases.
The remaining $15.8 billion goes to civilian purposes, ranging from advanced nuclear energy to rural water projects. The bill also includes $8 billion for the Energy Department’s Department of Science — $300 million more than the president requested.
In one key area, however, negotiators settled on less water and energy spending than the president had requested. They include about $3.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy — more than half a billion less than the administration had requested.
Meanwhile, nearly $900 million — $65 million more than last year — is included for research and development into new fossil fuels.
The funding bill gives the Interior Department $15.1 billion to spend, an approximately 4 percent increase over last year.
This includes an $83 million increase for the Bureau of Land Management, a $210 million increase for the National Park Service and a $128 million increase for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Another nearly $2 billion is included for the Bureau of Reclamation, which delivers water and hydropower to the West, similar to last year’s appropriations.
It also includes $5 million to plug orphaned oil and gas wells.
The bill also gives a major boost to fighting wildfires through funding at multiple departments, including Interior. Overall, the legislation gives a 14 percent boost for wildfire suppression as compared to last year.
What’s out of the bill
Democrats are not taking another shot at attaching a proposed bill from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to speed up the approval process for new energy projects to the must-pass funding bill after two prior failed attempts.
This means that Congress is unlikely to take another shot at the permitting reform issue this term, though discussions are expected to continue into next year.
Also not included was a bipartisan wildlife bill called Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would give funds to states to help endangered and threatened species recovery, as well as to prevent species from becoming threatened in the first place.
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