Committee to vote on energy research cuts, water rider

Source: Sam Mintz and Ariel Wittenberg, E&E News reporters • Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2017

House appropriators this week will mark up the fiscal 2018 energy and water spending bill, which would slash funding for renewable power programs and eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, as well as advance the Trump administration’s plans to repeal the Clean Water Rule.

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee approved the $37.5 billion legislation by voice vote last month (Greenwire, June 28). Democrats and other critics of cuts are waiting for this week to voice their concerns.

The bill would provide more money for many Department of Energy offices than the Trump administration proposed in its budget. Still, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see spending drop from $2.1 billion to $1.1 billion.

“The cuts to clean energy programs represent a very serious backtrack,” subcommittee ranking member Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said last month.

The House plan would also kill ARPA-E, a roughly $300 million program that helps fund “high-risk” projects.

“I like ARPA-E, but the reality is our Science Committee doesn’t like it, wants to put the money into basic science,” said subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), pointing to “tough decisions.”

ARPA-E has support from business leaders and senior Republican appropriators in the Senate, which could complicate House plans to get rid of it.

Other programs and offices would receive the same or only slightly less funding under the House bill. Nuclear weapons programs would go up by nearly $1 billion.


One hot-button provision to watch is language that would exempt the Trump administration’s repeal of the Clean Water Rule from the Administrative Procedure Act.

It comes as U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers seek to rescind the controversial regulation, also known as the Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS, rule, that attempts to clarify which wetlands and small waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act.

The rider says the administration “may withdraw the Waters of the United States rule without regard to any provision of statute or regulation that establishes a requirement for such withdrawal.”

Exempting the regulation from the APA could not only remove the requirement that it undergo certain public scrutiny but also make it easier for the new administration to ignore the Obama team’s justifications for its Clean Water Rule.

That could include the cost-benefit analysis and an accompanying 408-page technical report, as well as a review from EPA’s Science Advisory Board.

Simpson said the provision was included because “some people wanted some support for [withdrawing] WOTUS” (E&E Daily, June 29). And similar text could find its way into spending legislation for EPA and the Interior Department (see related story).

Kaptur slammed the rider, saying it would “further complicate an already difficult process.” Senate Democrats have also warned Republicans they will fight “poison pill” provisions in spending bills.

Schedule: The markup is Wednesday, July 12, at 10:30 a.m. in 2359 Rayburn.