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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. FLEMING. Madam Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment that would stop a loan program created by the infamous 2009 stimulus bill.

As I and many others have pointed out when the bill was passed, the stimulus, which was billed as funding shovel-ready programs, actually became a vehicle to bake in higher levels of spending and new government programs. As with other government loan programs, we've all too often seen abuses in mismanagement, and this program is no exception.

The elimination of the Western Area Power Administration's green transmission borrowing authority was recommended in the report to this year's House budget; and so if you voted for the budget, I would urge you to support this amendment as well.

I also want to thank my colleagues, Mr. McClintock and Chairman Hastings, for their work in the offering and marking up of a bill last year to repeal this program.

As the budget report notes:

The $3.25 billion borrowing authority in the Western Area Power Administration's Transmission Infrastructure Program provides loans to develop new transmission systems aimed solely at integrating renewable energy.

This authority was inserted into the stimulus bill without opportunity for debate. Of most concern, the authority includes a bailout provision that would require American taxpayers to pay outstanding balances on projects that private developers failed to pay.

This bailout provision is particularly problematic because, in November 2011, the Department of Energy inspector general issued a lengthy management alert on this stimulus borrowing authority. To quote from that report:

Because of a variety of problems, the project is estimated to be 2 years behind schedule and $70 million over budget, essentially out of funds, and currently at a standstill, with no progress being made. Western had not completed a formal root-cause analysis and corrective action plan designed to ensure more effective program safeguards are in place going forward. Because Western has committed $25 million in developmental funding to a potential $3 billion project that would ultimately require an investment of $1.5 billion in Recovery Act borrowing authority, we are issuing this report as a management alert.

Madam Chairman, this IG report speaks for itself, and I urge my colleagues to support the repeal of this failed stimulus program.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Ms. KAPTUR. Madam Chair, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman from Ohio is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. KAPTUR. I rise in strong opposition to the gentleman's amendment. I'm not quite sure why he's doing this, but, you know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $3.25 billion in borrowing authority to modernize the electricity grid.

I believe your amendment focuses on WAPA, the Western Area Power marketing authority, solely; is that correct, sir?

Mr. FLEMING. Will the gentlewoman yield?

Ms. KAPTUR. I yield to the gentleman from Louisiana.

Mr. FLEMING. That is correct.

Ms. KAPTUR. I thank you very much.

Now, I don't live out there. I'm from a part of the country that doesn't have one of these, but most of America is covered by power marketing authorities. If you really look at California, if you look at the TVA, regions of the country that have these borrowing authorities, and the way they work is that the ratepayers then pay back, over time, the costs of that investment.

We have to invest and modernize our grid. That part of the country is growing, and, frankly, they have been returning dollars at a fairly steady rate. I looked at those figures about a year ago.

And with the increase in renewables in the West, there's also a need to alter the grid and its ability to accept new forms of power. That part of the country is growing. The population is just exploding out there. And so, therefore, we're going to have a greater use of power and more of a need to put it on to the system.

So I don't see why the gentleman who comes from Louisiana--now, I know you've got a lot of oil drilling down there in the gulf and a lot of us have voted for that, but I don't really understand the purpose of the gentleman's amendment.

Mr. FLEMING. Will the gentlewoman yield?

Ms. KAPTUR. I'm happy to yield to the gentleman from Louisiana.

Mr. FLEMING. These companies, they certainly are welcome to borrow money and invest it themselves. This puts the taxpayer on the hook, and they're not delivering on these loans. They're well behind. And eventually, the taxpayers, as in so many cases from the stimulus bill, are going to be picking up the tab.

If it's so valuable and it returns investment over time, then fine; let them use their own capital.

Ms. KAPTUR. I hear what the gentleman is saying, but they actually do pay it back through usage. Just like you pay a utility bill and it goes back to the company, essentially WAPA is a company, and it borrows and then it pays back. And so these funds are going to be paid back over time.

I wish I had one in my area. I think it would really help us out a lot.

But I have to oppose the gentleman's amendment. I think it would be very counterproductive to hurt any part of our country and their power grid system, their ability to modernize their power grid system.

The gentleman has, I think, Southeast Power marketing authority. I don't know if that covers Louisiana or not. But different parts of the country have different systems that are in place, and I wouldn't want to take away the West's ability to power themselves and to do so in a very cost-effective manner.

Mr. FLEMING. Will the gentlewoman yield?

Ms. KAPTUR. I yield to the gentleman from Louisiana.

Mr. FLEMING. And again, I would just have to say, there's a dynamic to money. And yes, some of it may be paid back. But at the end of the day, if the money is not fully paid back, or paid back at the appropriate rate and the taxpayers have to make up the difference, then I would say that certainly in the private sector that wouldn't work out.

And I think that we should hold government, nongovernment, all those who handle money, and particularly taxpayer money, we need to hold them to the same standard. And they're not delivering on that return of investment.

Ms. KAPTUR. Well, I would beg to disagree. Reclaiming my time, I'm glad the gentleman stated that, but I think that you will hear strongly from them that they, in fact, are paying back, and they have a good rate of repayment.

I remember our former colleague, Norm Dicks, if I said anything against WAPA, boy, I'd be in big trouble because they do have a very good rate of repayment back. And, in fact, they have returned money consistently and paid back their original loan. So I think that they're free-floating now, and I think they have a very, very good record.

So I would oppose the gentleman's amendment very strongly in support of our colleagues in the West and their need for power and modernizing their electricity grid. And I urge my colleagues to vote against the gentleman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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