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By Dean Scott
The Senate approved a fiscal 2012 spending bill Nov. 1 that allots $2 billion for carbon capture and storage projects and restores $161.5 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate service that had been barred by the House in June.
The spending bill (H.R. 2112) was approved by a vote of 69-30. The “minibus” spending measure would provide funding through Sept. 30, 2012, for Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, and other federal departments.
The $2 billion in carbon capture and sequestration funding was added to the measure Oct. 21 by an amendment from Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). Up to $2 billion would be set aside for construction, acquisition, or improvement of coal-fired and other fossil-fueled electricity generating plants that capture and store their carbon dioxide emissions (205 DEN A-9, 10/24/11).
The measure now goes back to the House for consideration. It is unclear whether the House will take a similar multi-department approach to funding. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) issued a statement after the Senate vote calling for progress on other fiscal 2012 spending bills.
Without such cooperation, Inouye said, “We will be forced to resort to an omnibus or yearlong Continuing Resolution down the road,” a fallback approach Congress has used repeatedly in recent years to fund federal programs.
The Senate bill would reverse a ban on funding the proposed NOAA climate service that the House included in its version of the spending bill in June. The $161.5 million for the climate service was restored in the Senate measure under a substitute amendment (S. Amdt. 738) offered by Inouye (202 DEN A-12, 10/19/11).
The Obama administration supported the funding restoration in an Oct. 17 statement of administration policy on the Senate bill, arguing that it would “improve the performance of roughly $340 million in related programs that are currently spread across” several NOAA programs.
A total of $200 million in watershed protection funding was also included in the minibus bill, including $61 million in additional funding provided under an amendment by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The amendment, approved Oct. 20, would help address a backlog of state applications for funds to protect property from damage by floods, fires, drought, and other natural disasters, according to Gillibrand aides.
The minibus spending measure also included $1 million for an Economic Development Administration pilot program that would offer “on-bill financing” of energy efficiency improvements.
The funding, included in an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that passed the Senate Oct. 19, would allow utilities to lend customers money for energy efficiency improvements that could be repaid by customers on their utility bills (199 DEN A-13, 10/14/11).
Text of the funding bill and summaries are available at http://tinyurl.com/6c8wqzp .
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