Week Ahead: Energy Spending Bill to Board House’s ‘Minibus’

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By Chuck McCutcheon

An Energy Department appropriations bill that would boost spending in several areas beyond President Donald Trump’s budget request is part of a package of legislation that the House is expected to take up during the week of July 24.

House Republicans, eager to notch legislative accomplishments before the upcoming August recess, are expected to bring up a $789 billion “minibus” ( H.R. 3219) containing the defense, energy and water, legislative branch, and military construction-Veterans Affairs spending bills for fiscal year 2018.

The House Appropriations Committee on July 12 approved a $37.56 billion energy and water appropriations bill to fund the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers, and other related independent agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The bill would eliminate the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, which was also slated to be cut in Trump’s budget with just $20 million to wind down remaining projects.

The committee-approved bill was more than $200 million, or around 0.6 percent, below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and more than $3.4 billion, or about 9.7 percent, above Trump’s budget request, according to the Appropriations Committee.

House appropriators added funding at levels above the administration’s request in such areas as electricity delivery and energy reliability; fossil energy research and development; science research; and nuclear energy research.

Both small, start-up firms and large companies as well as national labs and universities have received grants from the ARPA-E energy innovation program, which was created by President George W. Bush in 2007.

The current Senate version of the energy and water spending bill would provide $330 million for ARPA-E. Bloomberg BNA will cover the House bill.

In Other News

Bernhardt nomination: The Senate is expected to vote as early as Monday on the nomination of David Bernhardt to be deputy secretary of the Interior Department. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 14-9 in June to advance Bernhardt’s nomination. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member, opposed Bernhardt out of concern for what she called the risk—or at least the appearance—of his conflicts of interest because of work he conducted as an attorney for energy, water, and mining companies. Bloomberg BNA will cover.

Russia sanctions: The House may vote during the week on a new Russia sanctions bill in response to cyber-hacking and Russian aggression in Ukraine. The Senate version of the bill ( S. 722) would restrict U.S. investment in energy projects that share Russian investment, and the House is aiming to relax those restrictions. Critics say the sanctions would hamper U.S. industry and stifle energy shipments to European countries. Bloomberg BNA will follow.

Clean energy technologies: The Senate Environment and Public Works’ Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will hold a Tuesday hearing on developing and deploying advanced clean energy technologies. Bloomberg BNA will monitor.

Coal and carbon: The House Natural Resources Committee’s Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will hold a Thursday hearing on three bills, including a measure ( H.R. 1778) aiming to ensure that no future coal moratorium on federal lands can take effect without a joint resolution of approval from Congress and another bill ( H.R. 3117) that would bar the executive branch from considering the social cost of carbon, which seeks to add up in monetary terms the quantifiable costs and benefits of emitting carbon dioxide. Stephen Lee will track.

Electricity markets: The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee continues looking at electricity issues with a Wednesday hearing on the operation and effectiveness of wholesale energy markets. Witnesses scheduled to testify include Keith Casey, vice president for market and infrastructure development for the California Independent System Operator Corporation, and Richard Doying, executive vice president of Operations for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc. Bloomberg BNA will monitor.

Future markets workshop: The Energy Department and Siebel Energy Institute will hold a Wednesday workshop on how power markets must transform when energy flexibility becomes increasingly valuable relative to energy production. Energy flexibility is managing demand and generation according to such factors as climate conditions, user needs, and grid requirements. Rebecca Kern will cover.

Energy supply: The U.S. Energy Association—a group of public and private energy-related organizations, corporations, and government agencies—will hold its 10th annual Energy Supply Forum on Thursday. Scheduled speakers include Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Vincent DeVito, the counselor for energy policy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Rebecca Kern and Alan Kovski will cover.

Water rights: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources’ Public Lands, Forests and Mining Subcommittee will hold a Wednesday hearing on 16 bills, including one that would change the way federal agencies can negotiate with businesses that operate on federal lands. The bill, S. 1230, would disallow agencies from forcing these businesses to give up their water rights as a condition of their granting a permit. The House Natural Resources Committee approved a similar bill last month. David Schultz will follow.

Water disinfection: A panel of scientists convened by the National Toxicology Program will discuss whether water disinfection byproducts as a class of chemicals should be listed as reasonably or known human carcinogens in the federal Report on Carcinogens. The Monday meeting will be webcast. David Schultz will cover.

Chemical Safety Board: The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board will meet on Wednesday, its first meeting since House appropriators signaled that the board could continue with fully funding through fiscal 2018. Trump had proposed to scrap the agency in his budget. Sylvia Carignan will track.

Colorado Oil Commission: An update on an investigation into the fatal home explosion in Firestone, Colo., caused by a leaking natural gas pipeline will be provided during the bimonthly meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Monday and Tuesday. Tripp Baltz will cover.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chuck McCutcheon in Washington at cmccutcheon@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

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