White House Outlines ‘Serious Concerns' With Senate Energy, Water Funding Bill

By Ari Natter

June 2 — The Obama administration has “a number of serious concerns” about the Senate Appropriation Committee's $35.4 billion fiscal year 2016 energy and water bill, Shaun Donovan, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a June 2 letter.

Specifically, the letter, addressed to Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), said the legislation would underfund investments in clean energy and electricity grid modernization and includes “highly problematic ideological riders.”

Among the policy provisions opposed by the administration is language that would “irresponsibly undermine Federal agencies' ability to protect Federal investments from flood risk” and a measure that would exclude Energy Department labs from information technology reforms designed to reduce duplicative IT systems, increase cybersecurity and take other steps, the letter said.

The bill, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee May 21, also would ban the Energy Department from using social cost of carbon estimates in rulemakings and includes a rider that would bar the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from redefining mining “fill material,” a move supported by organizations representing mining companies such as Peabody Energy Corp. and Alpha Natural Resources Inc.

Administration Questions Other Parts 

The letter also said the administration took issue with the bill's proposed funding level for the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at $1.95 billion, $790 million less than the administration's fiscal year 2016 budget request, though a slight increase from the current funding level of $1.9 billion.

“As the Senate takes up the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies bill, we look forward to working with you to address these concerns,” the letter said.

Overall, the legislation would appropriate $29.4 billion for the Energy Department, $5.5 billion for the corps and $1.1 billion for the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation.

Floor time has yet to be scheduled.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ari Natter in Washington at anatter@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com