House panel passes $37.4 billion energy, water funding bill

House panel passes $37.4 billion energy, water funding bill
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A panel of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a $37.4 billion bill to fund the Department of Energy and federal water programs for fiscal 2017.

At a short meeting, lawmakers on the panel spoke briefly about the legislation, but reserved any amendment proposals for the committee consideration or for the House floor.

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Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonHouse passes Paycheck Fairness Act Press: Democrats dare to think big Dem chairwoman seeks watchdog probe of Park Service’s shutdown operations MORE (R-Idaho) characterized the bill as a responsible proposal that prioritizes defense and nuclear weapons priorities and fossil fuel research and development while reining in President Obama’s clean energy agenda.

“This bill rejects the budget request’s proposal to reduce investment in the energy sources that we rely on today,” Simpson, chairman of the subcommittee that wrote the bill, said at the meeting.

“Within energy programs, the recommendation rebalances the portfolio to provide a true all-of-the-above strategy,” he said. “This bill includes strong funding for nuclear energy, providing research and development to ensure a safe, efficient, reliable nuclear fleet, and laying the foundation for the next generation of nuclear reactors.”

The bill puts more money into fossil fuel energy and less into renewables, which Simpson said is “to ensure the nation is utilizing its abundant fossil energy resources as efficiently and safely as possible.”

It also would increase the budget for the Army Corps of Engineers by about $100 million and provide $170 million toward building the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.

Democrats object to some of the GOP's proposed funding cuts and to additional policy riders, including one that would stop the administration’s rule defining Clean Water Act jurisdiction for pollution purposes.

Rep. Marcy KapturMarcia (Marcy) Carolyn KapturOn The Money: Trump to meet China's vice premier during trade talks | Appeals court says Deutsche Bank doesn't have Trump's tax returns | House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey to retire DeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey to retire MORE (Ohio), top Democrat on the subpanel, said the bill has positive elements but can be improved.

“To be sure, this bill could be even stronger,” she said. “Programs could be more fully funded. And the bill also includes some unnecessary and controversial policy riders that have been carried in the past, and six new California water provisions. The riders further complicate an already difficult process, and I strongly object to their inclusion.”

Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump officials say aid to Puerto Rico was knowingly stalled after Hurricane Maria McConnell tees up government funding votes amid stalemate Dem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement MORE (D-N.Y.) was more forceful in her objections.

“We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand on climate change. And yet, the energy efficiency and renewable energy account would be funded at $1.825 billion, $248 million below the president’s request,” she said of the prioritization of fossil fuels.

“The inclusion of misguided, dangerous policy riders is disappointing at best,” Lowey continued. “An annual appropriations bill is not the place to amend or significantly change the Clean Water Act or restrict gun laws. These efforts year after year imperil the appropriations process. Including these harmful riders in the underlying bill is a direct affront to the regular order we all want.”

The subcommittee passed the bill by voice vote, moving it to the full committee for its consideration.