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House Panel Approves Energy-Water Spending Bill

June 15, 2023   Energy and Environment News

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A House Appropriations subcommittee approved legislation Thursday morning with deep cuts to renewable energy and climate-related spending.


The Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development approved its bill — which funds the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation — by voice vote. Still, Democrats are vowing to use the full committee markup to change the measure.


Republican leaders said the legislation would reduce spending on unnecessary programs and reprioritize funding to areas that strengthen economic and national security.


"The bill before us delivers responsible appropriations and is supportive of a stronger national defense economy and energy sector," said full committee Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas).


"In particular," she said, "it eliminates funds from the climate change initiatives in order to responsibly maintain programs that ensure affordable and reliable energy for the American people."


The bill includes a $466 million cut, or 14 percent below 2023 levels, for DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy and almost $6 billion in clawbacks from last year's climate law and the bipartisan infrastructure law.


Democrats also took issue with the various policy riders latched onto the bill, some of them hitting Republican messaging points on diversity programs or gun control.


"If the proposed abandonment of America's energy future and debasement of our ability to build a diverse, robust and diversified energy industry weren't enough of a reason to vote against this bill, then the offensive riders that will never see the light of day should be," said Appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).


Army Corps

During Thursday's markup, Republicans touted investments in infrastructure, including funding directed toward the Army Corps, which would receive more than $9.5 billion.


But Democrats expressed concern about shifting focus away from mitigating climate impacts and building resilience, while focusing on geographic programs and projects prized by individual lawmakers.


Moreover, the bill includes a rider allowing for firearms on public lands overseen by the Army Corps, one of a number of controversial additions slipped into the measure.


And in a nod to the GOP's unrelenting determination to kill the Biden administration's waters of the United States definition, or WOTUS, the bill would also nullify the rule — even though it is effectively gutted in the aftermath of a sweeping Supreme Court decision.


Bureau of Reclamation

Facing a much grimmer outlook is the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency tasked with running point on drought issues across the seven-state Colorado River Basin.


Reclamation would be saddled with a $91 million cut for certain efforts at a bleak time for water issues in the West, to the dismay of Democrats.


Republicans said they want to shift funding to "increase water supply and support drought response instead of superfluous climate change activities and duplicative programs."


Unappeased Democrats, however, are pointing to the new title for California water projects championed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other Golden State Republicans. Democrats worry about the environmental trade-off of GOP plans.


Subcommittee ranking member Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) alluded to conservative calls for deeper spending cuts and tougher policy fights. Kaptur believes those conservatives are unduly influencing appropriators.


"Republicans, sadly, maybe some not in this room, maybe others, have forced their way into our bill," said Kaptur. "[Republicans] who are not interested in bills that can gain bipartisan support and become law."