SUMMARY: Senate FY2018 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill Advances

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 20, 2017) – The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday approved the Energy and Water Development fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill that totals $38.4 billion, which is $629 million more than the fiscal year 2017 level and $4.1 billion above the President’s requested level. 

There is a $1 billion increase for defense activities, while non-defense activities see a decrease of $415 million, demonstrating the fundamental imbalance in the current approach to funding the nation’s infrastructure, scientific research and technology development priorities. 

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said:

“I want to thank Chairman Alexander for drafting a bill that reflects the best possible funding levels under the current budget constraints. While I don’t support all of the cuts in this bill, it’s my hope that both parties will be able to negotiate a budget agreement later this year to restore funding for many of those programs. I’m pleased to see the bill preserves important investments in scientific research, ARPA-E, Army Corps infrastructure projects and drought resiliency.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said:

“I want to thank Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein for their work on this bill.  I am especially glad that this includes an increase in funding for the Norther Border Regional Commission, which invests in communities along our norther border like those in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.  However, this bill remains unbalanced, pouring more than a billion dollars into defense programs while slashing $415 million from infrastructure and research programs.  This is not acceptable, and without a bipartisan budget agreement sets us on a dangerous path. Simply put, we cannot, and will not, finish the appropriations process without a bipartisan budget agreement.”

Key Points & Highlights

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The bill provides $6.2 billion to fund the Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program. The operation and maintenance budget is increased by $332.5 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level in order to meet the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 spending target for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund of $1.34 billion. The construction account is decreased by $173 million from the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Despite an overall decrease to the account, the bill provides an additional $648 million for construction of flood risk management, navigation, and environmental restoration projects.  The investigations account is decreased by $7.5 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

Bureau of Reclamation

The bill provides $1.298 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation within the Department of Interior to fund water supply projects and programs in the Western United States. The bill includes $98 million of additional funding for drought resiliency activities as authorized in the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The bill also includes a total of $94 million for Rural Water projects in the western states, which is level with fiscal year 2017.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs

The bill provides $1.937 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, $153 million below fiscal year 2017 and $1.3 billion more than the President’s request.  The bill prioritizes funding for advancing technology development for water and geothermal power generation; for increasing the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes and residential and commercial buildings; and for providing funds to lower the energy bills of low-income Americans.

Basic Scientific Research

The bill provides $5.55 billion for the Office of Science, $158 million more than fiscal year 2017.  The Department of Energy is the largest single provider of funding for basic research in the physical sciences in the country. 

Environmental Cleanup

Cleanup of Cold War nuclear sites is funded at $6.634 billion.  This program addresses a legacy of radioactive and hazardous contamination at sites across the country and the bill addresses many of the highest environmental risks posed by these sites.  Cleanup of contaminated sites in Washington, New Mexico, New York and Ohio are addressed in the bill. 

Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation

The bill funds the National Nuclear Security Administration at $13.685 billion, $655 million more than fiscal year 2017.  Efforts to extend the life of the current nuclear weapons stockpile are fully funded, as are programs targeted at working with international partners to reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism. 

Feinstein Amendment

Committee Republicans also rejected the funding amendment (LINK LINK) offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to the Energy and Water appropriations bill that would have increased non-defense spending by $1.87 billion, supporting scientific research and investing in communities.

Highlights in the Feinstein Amendment rejected by Committee Republicans included:

  • $530 million increase to bolster the Army Corps of Engineers’ that would invest in environmental infrastructure projects that can advance water quality improvements across the country, like those needed in Lake Champlain and along the Connecticut River.
  • $50 million increase in critical funding for the Weatherization Program, which is sorely needed in northern states, like Vermont, where high home heating costs result in difficult decisions for families struggling to pay the bills.
  • Increased investment in scientific research; restoration of the loan program for innovative renewable energy technologies, technologies that can lower energy bills for businesses and consumers; and support for a clean energy economy that can create millions of good jobs in rural communities across the country.

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