On June 28, the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development approved via voice vote a $37.56 billion appropriations measure that would fund the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), nuclear weapons oversight and other federal energy and water programs. This represents a $209 million cut from FY 2017 funding levels, but $3.65 billion more than President Trump sought in his FY 2018 budget request. The Energy and Water appropriations bill is important to counties because it funds federal energy and water infrastructure programs and projects that ultimately help counties.
Though the subcommittee’s measure would make significant cuts to several programs, most notably to federal renewable energy and efficiency initiatives, most of these cuts are less severe than those included in the president’s FY 2018 budget request. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), for instance, would see its budget reduced by nearly half, from $2.1 billion to $1.1 billion. But, under the president's budget, EERE would have received only $636 million for FY 2018. EERE works to develop and promote clean, affordable and secure energy.
While the president's FY 2018 would have zeroed out the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the subcommittee bill provides $228 million, level funding compared to FY 2017. WAP funds are provided to the states, which pass funds on to local governments such as counties that oversee the program. NACo supports the WAP, which helps low-income families increase their homes’ energy efficiency while reducing energy bills.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would also see increased funding in the subcommittee’s appropriations bill. Overall, the Corps would receive roughly $6.2 billion, $120 million above FY 2017 funding levels and $1.2 billion more than the president’s FY 2018 request.
The bill also includes $150 million for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, which President Trump and U.S. DOE Secretary Rick Perry have made a priority, $30 million more than is included in the president’s request. This provision is relevant for those counties that have nuclear waste facilities within their boundaries, most of which were not designed to house spent nuclear fuel indefinitely. NACo supports construction of a suitable permanent nuclear waste repository, as well as the use of a central interim storage facility until such a site can be completed.
With the subcommittee advancing the legislation, it will now move to the full House Appropriations Committee for a markup and another vote before it can advance to the House floor for consideration. NACo will continue to track this legislation, as well as the broader appropriations process, and engage with appropriations leaders to ensure that federal spending priorities reflect the needs and interests of America’s counties.