Source: The Chattanoogan | October 6, 2015
The U.S. Senate will take a first step this week toward considering a bipartisan energy and water appropriations bill, and Senator Lamar Alexander is urging Senate Democrats to allow the bill to be considered by the full Senate.
“This legislation appropriates record-level funding for basic research, and increases funding for deepening our ports and improving our inland waterways. This bill would put us one step closer to doubling basic energy research, removing major obstacles to nuclear power, cleaning up hazardous materials at Cold War facilities, and solving critical problems facing our country,” Alexander said. “And I hope Democrats remember why we’re here – to debate and amend legislation and set our nation’s spending priorities – and allow the Senate to debate this bill that would grow our economy, create jobs, and strengthen our national security.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the Senate would consider the bill next, and the first vote, expected to occur tomorrow, will determine whether debate can begin on the bill. Some Senate Democrats have signaled they will block the Senate from debating the legislation.
Senator Alexander, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, drafted the bill which appropriates $35.4 billion for vital infrastructure and defense projects nationwide, such as restarting construction on the Chickamauga Lock and funding nuclear infrastructure at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Alexander worked with Senator Dianne Feinstein, of California, the senior Democrat on the subcommittee, to draft the legislation.
He said the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill is among the most bipartisan of the 12 funding bills, having been approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 26 to 4. Funding in the bill totals $35.4 billion, which is $1.2 billion above the FY2015 enacted level and $668 million below President Obama’s budget request. The bill provides funding for the following programs and projects:
- The bill includes sufficient funding to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to restart construction of Chickamauga Lock in fiscal year 2016. $29 million would be available to the Army Corps of Engineers because of Chickamauga Lock’s high position on the priority list of essential American waterways to be rebuilt.
- The Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which supports basic energy research and is the nation’s largest supporter of research in the physical sciences, is funded at $5.144 billion, the highest level of funding it has ever received in the bill.
- Advanced computing, which supports the new Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is funded at $620.9 million. Once again, the world’s fastest next-generation supercomputer will be at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Alexander said. A total of $1.24 billion is provided for advanced computing, including both the Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration.
- Exascale computing, which Alexander said is essential to our national security and competitiveness in science and technology, is funded at $222 million.
- The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is funded at $291 million. ARPA-E was created by the America COMPETES Act to invest in high-impact energy technologies.
- The legislation authorizes and funds a pilot program to allow consolidated storage of nuclear waste, and also includes language that allows the Department of Energy to store nuclear waste at private facilities, such as those proposed in Texas and New Mexico.
- Nuclear infrastructure at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including hot cells and isotope production facilities, is funded in the bill. Many of the isotopes produced at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are not available anywhere else in the world, and are necessary to support medical treatments, oil and gas exploration, and deep-space satellites, among other priorities.
- The Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex is funded at $430 million, which will continue to keep this project on time and on budget.
- The bill provides $62.5 million to continue the development of Small Modular Reactors, which Alexander said will give utilities and the military the ability to generate clean energy in new ways.
- The bill includes funding for a new mercury treatment facility in Oak Ridge, and for cleanup of nuclear facilities that are no longer in service.
- The bill cuts funding for several wasteful programs at the Department of Energy, including eliminating $150 million for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France and reduces funding for wind programs by more than $100 million compared to the president’s budget request.
The Senate is expected to hold a cloture vote on a motion to proceed on the appropriations bill Thursday.