On June 27th, House Republicans released an unacceptable Energy and Water appropriations bill that should dispel any belief that the GOP-run Congress will somehow stop reckless spending cuts in the Trump era. Sure, the cuts they propose to important civilian energy programs aren’t as bad as what President Trump has proposed, but that is faint praise since they are still very bad. Further, where the bill does spend money, it puts it into military spending programs, and misguided and contentious nuclear waste disposal strategies. Not only that, House Republicans didn’t stop with poor decisions on spending. They also included several harmful policy riders that are designed to undermine critical environmental protections.
Overall, this bill cuts funding $209 million below last year’s levels, and, discouragingly, the programs cut the most are those which have helped promote America’s leadership in developing affordable clean energy.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its budget cut by nearly 50 percent, with a $1 billion dollar cut. The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) program, a hugely successful incubator for next generation technologies that enjoys broad bipartisan and private sector support, would be eliminated entirely. So would another important clean energy program, the Title 17 loan guarantee program, which has a strong track record of lowering the risks on deploying projects that can make cleaner and cheaper energy a reality. By removing funding from these programs, the House Republicans are putting at risk the innovation that supports 3 million clean energy jobs and our nation’s competitiveness in smart, clean and innovative energy technology solutions.
While cutting these important programs, House Republicans redistribute the funds into polluting and dangerous technologies. Their bill puts an additional $1 billion into nuclear weapons programs, spends $340 million trying to keep alive failed nuclear waste storage proposals like the over-budget MOX project (pg 8 in link) in South Carolina, and $120 million to try and restart the licensing process for the leaky Yucca Mountain repository that is being forced upon the people of Nevada.
Then there are the policy riders. Despite the fact that policy riders are complete non-starters to getting bills through the Senate, House Republicans are again attempting to push these poison pills.
This year’s bill includes the (sadly) usual suite of riders designed to undermine popular environmental protections. They target the important Clean Water Rule and associated clean water policies like protections for streams from industrial runoff. There is also a rider designed to stop restoration of the San Joaquin River, which is California's second longest. Others undermine the implementation of the National Ocean Policy, and try and restart the abandoned and unworkable Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository licensing process. The bill’s Clean Water Rule rider has been updated since last year and is now an even more reckless and cynical attempt to take away safeguards for important waters on which Americans depend for pollution filtration, outdoor recreation, flood control, and drinking water supply. The provision (Sec. 108) would authorize EPA and the Army Corps to repeal the Clean Water Rule without following basic and longstanding processes aimed at giving people a voice in their government’s actions. For instance, a repeal could ignore the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirements to provide meaningful opportunity for public comment on a proposed rule, or its provisions demanding that rules be “in accordance with law” and not arbitrary or capricious.
This bill just shows how once again House Republicans are failing the American people by putting polluter profits above the health and welfare or our planet and those of us who live on it. We, and many others, will do all we can to derail this terrible spending measure and keep clean energy and a healthy future at the forefront.
For more on Republican leadership’s assault on the environment via appropriations policy riders visit: https://www.nrdc.org/riders