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Biggert Presses House Leaders on Science Funding: Sends Letter of Support for Energy R&D Funds in Emergency Supplemental

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) today once again called on House leaders to include funding for critical energy-related science in the upcoming supplemental appropriations package. In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-08), GOP Leader Boehner (R-OH-08), Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI-07), and Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41), Biggert, along with 11 other members of the House, requested additional resources for the Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program within the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science. BES funds innovative energy research at national laboratories like Argonne in Illinois, as well as one-of-a-kind user facilities like the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne where thousands of scientists come to conduct experiments.

"At a time of record high gas prices, we shouldn't be short-changing research crucial to finding real, long-term energy solutions," said Biggert, a senior member of the House Science and Technology Committee. "U.S. competiveness is suffering due to R&D cuts in the fiscal year 2008 omnibus appropriations. And while I'm extremely grateful the Senate included some funding for science in its version of the supplemental, there was nothing for the Basic Energy Sciences program. It would be foolish not to include funding for advanced energy research at places like Argonne in the final bill."

The full text of the letter and a list of cosigners follows:

June 13, 2008

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Republican Leader Boehner, Chairman Obey, and Ranking Member Lewis:

As part of its fiscal year 2008 supplemental appropriations bill, the Senate included $100 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. While we support the inclusion of this funding in any final supplemental package, we strongly urge you to promote U.S. competitiveness by providing an additional $50 million for the user facilities and other critical energy-related research supported by the Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program within the DOE Office of Science.

As part of the fiscal year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill, Congress failed - for a second year in a row - to significantly increase funding for BES, providing almost $228 million less than requested and only $70 million more than appropriated in fiscal year 2007. Congress provided only a slight increase in fiscal year 2007, and an even smaller increase in fiscal year 2006, underfunding BES for three consecutive years.

As a result, the DOE has reached the limit of its ability to convert funding for the maintenance of BES capital equipment to funding for BES operations and personnel. With enactment of the fiscal year 2008 omnibus, the DOE had little choice but to reduce by up to 20 percent the run-time and availability of a number of unique, world-class BES user facilities in California, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and Tennessee. Of the approximately 8,000 scientists from U.S. universities, companies, and government agencies like the National Institutes of Health that rely on these scientific user facilities, 600 will no longer be able to conduct their experiments at these facilities because of the reduced run-times, impacting America's ability to innovate and compete. Many of these scientists and engineers will be forced to conduct their research at facilities hosted by our competitors in Europe and Asia.

In addition, at a time when the high price of energy and of gasoline in particular is wrecking havoc on the family budget and our nation's economy, inadequate funding for Basic Energy Sciences in the omnibus forced the DOE to cancel a number of BES research projects related to energy storage, solar power, and nuclear energy. As a matter of fact, DOE had to rescind some 200 energy research grant awards - out of 700 grant applications - as a result of the fiscal year 2008 omnibus. Our nation cannot afford to forgo funding this kind of research, which provides the basic building blocks for advanced technologies that will fundamentally transform how we produce and use energy.

The adverse impact of the fiscal year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill only will be exacerbated if the DOE and BES are forced to operate under a Continuing Resolution well into fiscal year 2009, which by all reports is highly likely. As a consequence, the operation of BES user facilities will have to be curtailed by another 10 percent, impacting up to 300 additional users and leading to the termination of approximately 80 technicians, computer and mechanical engineers, and other user support staff critical to the operation and maintenance of these one-of-a-kind facilities.

For these reasons, we strongly urge you to provide an additional $50 million in the final version of the fiscal year 2008 supplemental for the DOE Office of Science and the critical facilities and research supported by its Basic Energy Sciences program. We believe some of the funding the Senate included in its version of the bill for "science" does not support research and development vital to American innovation and competitiveness, nor does it prevent the loss of some of the nation's best and brightest scientists, engineers, and their support staff, and therefore does not qualify as an emergency. If there is concern about where to get an additional $50 million or how additional spending might impact the overall cost of the supplemental, we would recommend that you scrutinize this non-emergency, "science" funding for possible reallocation to the critical needs of the DOE Office of Science.

Thank you for your consideration. Please let us know if there is any way we can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Judy Biggert (R-IL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Bob Inglis (R-SC), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Robert Wittman (R-VA), Zach Wamp (R-TN), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Bill Foster (D-IL), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), and Rush Holt (D-NJ).


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