Superfund, Water Infrastructure See Funding Bump in Omnibus

By Dean Scott and Rebecca Kern

The Environmental Protection Agency would see its funding frozen at the current year level of $8.06 billion—a victory considering the deep cuts proposed for it by the Trump administration—under the fiscal year 2018 omnibus measure released by appropriators late March 21.

Included in the funding total is $2.89 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan funds, which have traditionally been popular with both parties, given that they help state and local government fund water treatment and other infrastructure.

Other funding highlights include a $66 million increase to speed cleanup of Superfund sites and EPA response to releases of hazardous substances, plus $63 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program that finances water infrastructure projects.

Shutdown Threat

The EPA funding is included in a six-month, government-wide spending measure that now must clear Congress and be signed into law by the end of March 23 to avoid a funding lapse and federal government shutdown.

The House Rules Committee scheduled an “emergency meeting” late March 21 to consider the 2,232-page spending measure, paving the way for the full chamber to vote on it March 22.

President Donald Trump discussed his “support for the bill” with Republican leaders earlier in the day March 21, according to a White House statement.

Included in the bill is language to bar the EPA from regulating lead in ammunition and fishing tackle, and exempt farms from air pollution emissions reporting requirements.

Other policy limitations, or riders, direct the EPA, the U.S. Agriculture Department, and the Energy Department to treat biomass as carbon neutral, which would shield facilities that burn wood and other organic matter from greenhouse gas regulation.

Energy, Interior

The Energy Department would be appropriated $34.5 billion, an increase of nearly $4 billion over the fiscal 2017 enacted level. The bill rejects several proposed cuts by the Trump administration.

The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office would receive $2.3 billion, nearly $300 million more than 2017 and an almost four-fold increase from the 2018 budget request. The office is in charge overseeing the appliance energy efficiency program and research on solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies.

The Office of Science would get $6.26 billion, to fund the bulk of the DOE’s national laboratories. The figure is $869 million more than 2017.

The omnibus also would fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy $353 million, a $48 million increase. The program, which has bipartisan support in Congress, does cutting-edge research on high-risk energy technologies and was proposed to be cut in the White House’s 2018 and 2019 budget requests.

Furthermore, the bill calls for $727 million for the Office of Fossil Energy, a $59 million increase over fiscal 2017. The office is responsible for advanced coal, natural gas and oil technologies. The bill also would provide $1.2 billion for the Office of Nuclear Energy, a $178 million increase from FY 2017.

Additionally, the bill seeks $14.7 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration, $1.7 billion over 2017 and a record level funding for the agency in charge of the overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

“The amount of funding we provided this year demonstrates Congress’ commitment to basic energy research, building and maintaining our nation’s water infrastructure, and strengthening our national security by maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a March 21 statement.

The omnibus would give $13.1 billion to fund the Interior Department in fiscal 2018.

Included in the spending language for Interior agencies are a $79 million spending bump over 2017 enacted levels for the Bureau of Land Management, a $255 million increase for the National Park Service, and a $75 million increase for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.