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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BEN RAY LUJÁN of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I rise to amend H.R. 2609, the Energy and Water appropriations bill, for the purpose of addressing several issues in New Mexico.

More specifically, my amendment would increase the construction account by $15 million to ensure local governments, like the city of Rio Rancho, the county of Benalillo and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, get reimbursed for the work that they have done in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps of Engineers works with local governments in New Mexico to construct levees, implement flood control measures, and other important infrastructure for the safety of the public.

More specifically, the city of Rio Rancho entered into a reimbursement contract with the Army Corps of Engineers and has not been paid back for several years due to the lack of appropriations. The same goes for the county of Benalillo and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and others across the country.

This delay in reimbursement has led to interruptions in financing for other city projects and also has the potential to hurt the credit ratings of these entities if they do not recover these funds via reimbursement, as stated in their contracts.

By increasing the dollar amount in this account, which includes a number of programs and accounts that are critical to local governments--like engineering, construction, technical assistance, flood control, and environmental infrastructure--we can get these entities reimbursed and get these liabilities off the books of the Army Corps of Engineers to get the projects going.

Mr. Chairman, local governments have been left holding an IOU from the Federal Government for doing work based on good-faith written agreements with the Army Corps of Engineers. Mr. Chairman, I understand that there may be opposition from the Republican majority, but I'm hoping I can persuade the chairman to support me in this effort. Section 593 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1999 is under which the city of Rio Rancho and these other local governments entered into agreements with the Army Corps of Engineers. If the Republican majority disagrees with the authority, they should repeal it; but let's make these local governments whole.

When city and local governments enter into reimbursement contracts, they expect to be reimbursed. They have annual budgets with the expectation they will get paid back. Congress should live up to these obligations in the authority given to the agency by Congress. I understand the constraints that the subcommittee dealt with with the allocations given to them, but we need to make sure that we're working to make these local governments whole. Again, going forward, if this is an authority that the Republican majority feels we should do away with, we should do away with it. But let's make these local governments whole.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. BEN RAY LUJÁN of New Mexico. Madam Chair, I rise to engage in a colloquy with the chairman and ranking member on the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Laboratory Directed Research and Development, LDRD, program at the National Nuclear Security Administration's national laboratories has, over the past two decades, made it possible for these labs to develop capabilities that have been critical to meeting the future mission needs via high-risk, high-payoff R&D. For example, at Los Alamos National Laboratory in my district, LDRD has supported a key technology that is now being applied toward the detection of nuclear and radiological threats and is a winner of this year's R&D 100 awards.

LDRD is also very important to recruiting and retaining top scientists and engineers. At Los Alamos, LDRD supports about one-half of the post-docs who have gone on to become the lab's permanent employees and is one of the key and leading sources of new lab employees.

The funding for the program is derived through a certain percentage of each lab's operating budget. Currently, that percentage is limited to not more than 8 percent. The bill we are considering today would lower that to be not more than 4.5 percent. I am very concerned that such a low level could harm the national labs' ability to meet future mission needs and ask the chairman and ranking member to work with us in making sure that the levels allowed for LDRD do not adversely impact the national security capabilities of the labs.

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