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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to Chairman Frelinghuysen for his efforts to be inclusive and transparent in drafting this legislation. The process has been collegial, and the chairman has ensured that the Energy and Water Subcommittee continues its tradition of bipartisanship and cooperation. I would like to join the chairman in thanking the other members of the subcommittee and also all of their staffs for their exceptionally good and dedicated work. Finally, this bill could not have been written without the dedication, hard work, and sound judgment of our committee staff. The chairman has kindly enumerated them by name.

Given the constrained allocation that the subcommittee was dealt, I believe that Chairman Frelinghuysen has crafted a good bill. While I hope that we can modify some elements of the bill going forward, I would observe that our differences are marginal.

As the chairman mentioned in his remarks, the allocation for the Energy and Water bill is $31.2 billion, which is $964 million below the administration's budget request and $88 billion above last year's level. As a result, the bill makes dramatic reductions to vital energy programs to stay within the allocation.

While I recognize that difficult choices must be made to address the Nation's serious financial situation, and I believe that Chairman Frelinghuysen has made a considerable effort to craft a balanced bill, this legislation is severely hampered by the shortsighted nature of the spending cap set by the House-approved budget resolution. The allocation for Energy and Water is simply insufficient to meet the challenges posed by our energy crisis, the need to maintain our water infrastructure, and our national security requirements.

That being said, I would like to point out some of the very positive aspects of the bill. I am grateful that additional funds for core Nonproliferation activities and Vehicle Technologies were included. These are very smart investments. The first is vital to our national security as securing, removing, and curbing the spread of nuclear materials is one of the great international challenges our country faces. I would argue the increased funding for Vehicle Technology is also a smart national security investment. Specifically, the program researches the development of lightweight materials, high-powered batteries, and hybrid electric drive motors. As the cars and trucks of our citizens and the ships, planes, and tanks of our military rely heavily on petroleum fuels, technology breakthroughs and fuel efficiency are crucial to reducing our dependency on carbon fuels and crucial to improving our national security since so much of our current fuel mix is imported from unfriendly nations.

Additionally, I truly appreciate the chairman's commitment to American manufacturing. This was a theme of many of our subcommittee hearings this year and he has included strong language in this regard. I believe we need to pull out all the stops to support domestic manufacturing, which remains one of the most important drivers of our economy.

Further, I see very little merit to using Federal dollars to foster breakthroughs for products that are not ultimately manufactured domestically. The bill upholds and continues many of the efforts to improve program and projects management at all of the agencies under its jurisdiction. I strongly support the committee in this effort and all the provisions, old and new, aimed at increased oversight and improved project management at the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy. I am grievously disappointed that the bill has to carry these commonsense provisions year after year after year, and I hope that the agencies begin to incorporate these policies into their management structure.

That being said, with the recent Inspector General report detailing egregious overpayments to lab employees by DOE, including an example of one worker receiving a taxpayer-funded per diem for more than a decade, I am not optimistic that the message is yet engrained in Energy's culture. Where were the auditors? Where was the Inspector General for the last decade?

The bill includes continued funding for the Office of Health, Safety and Security and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. These Agencies play important roles in oversight of DOE and NNSA projects. Their independent assessment and enforcement are crucial to worker health and safety at these facilities.

With regard to the Army Corps of Engineers, I am pleased that the bill provides $83 million above the President's woefully inadequate request, ensuring that some ongoing projects will not be terminated. However, the bill provides $188 million less than current-year funding. We must invest in our infrastructure by making preventive and proactive investments. Just last year, this bill carried more than $2 billion in emergency funding to respond to natural disasters. I believe this again proves that it makes more fiscal sense to prevent a disaster than to respond to one.

Specific to the applied energy programs at the Department of Energy, the bill provides appropriate funding for fossil and nuclear energy, which continue to provide the bulk of our energy needs. However, I am disappointed that renewable energy programs in this bill are reduced by over $400 million from 2012 and nearly $900 million from the President's request. This disinvestment is a serious setback to our energy future. We know energy can achieve cost competitiveness, but at this time a continued and sustained research and development program is necessary and appropriate.

Lastly, I would like to express my support for the chairman's inclusion of funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal project and for including the provision to prohibit the use of funding to abandon the project. I agree with him and the other subcommittee members that the administration's actions to close the project run counter to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

In closing, I am pleased that we are considering this bill under an open rule and that the Appropriations Committee continues to function amidst the turmoil that has stagnated so many other legislative efforts. Much of this credit is due to Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks. I commend them for their efforts in this regard. I would also like to reiterate my sentiments at the beginning of my statement that Chairman Frelinghuysen has done an excellent job, and I support the bill we are considering today.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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