On May 7, the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development approved via voice vote a $44.7 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 $1.5 billion increase over FY 2018 funding levels and $8.2 billion more than President Trump‘s FY 2019 budget request. The Energy and Water appropriations bill is important to counties because it funds federal energy and water infrastructure programs and projects that help counties build and maintain water infrastructure and secure communities that have energy waste facilities.
The subcommittee’s appropriation bill would increase funding for the Corps; overall, the Corps would receive $7.28 billion, $451 million above FY 2018 funding levels and $1.48 billion more than the president’s FY 2019 request. The increase in funding includes more than $3 billion for navigation projects and studies, which include $1.6 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and full use of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund.
The DOE would receive $35.5 billion in overall funding, an increase of $1 billion despite the Trump Administration’s proposal to significantly cut the DOE. The bill includes funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which works to develop and promote clean, affordable and secure energy. Under the bill, EERE would receive $2.1 billion, which is a $200 million decrease from FY 2018. The Trump Administration proposed to cut the program by $1.4 billion, to $696 million for FY 2019.
The bill also includes $267 million for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, $100 million more than the president’s FY 2019 request. This provision is relevant for those counties that have nuclear waste facilities within their boundaries, most of which were not designated 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.
In addition to setting funding levels, the bill also includes a rider that would repeal the Obama Administration’s 2015 “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule. The provision could potentially expedite the Trump Administration’s efforts to withdraw the 2015 rule, which is currently being challenged in federal district courts. If included in the final bill, the rider could clear a path for the Trump Administration to quickly withdraw and rewrite a new WOTUS rule.
The bill is scheduled to be considered by the Appropriations Committee and marked up by the end of June. Once it passes the committee, it will 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.