The Maryville Daily Times: 'Minibus' law funds Oak Ridge and Chickamauga projects

Posted on September 24, 2018

The Maryville Daily Times: 'Minibus' law funds Oak Ridge and Chickamauga projects

By: Staff Reporters

September 24, 2018

Call it what you will, the so-called “minibus” funding bill is now law — and it is by no means “mini.”

The Associated Press reported Friday that President Donald Trump had signed legislation to fund the Energy Department, veterans’ programs and the legislative branch, including Congress and the Capitol police.

Congress had approved the $147 billion package as part of an effort by congressional leaders to head off a government shutdown that Trump has threatened he might force over funding for his border wall.

In recent years Congress has passed a massive “omnibus” package, choosing to authorize funding for the whole government in one vote. At the urging of the president, lawmakers came up with the “minibus” bill instead — a smaller package but still huge.

This first appropriations package signed into law Friday includes the Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water Development, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch Appropriations bills.

Alexander offers praise

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., lauded the measure as one that benefits the Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

“This important legislation will help to keep our country first in science, technology, supercomputing, and will build the ports and waterways that create jobs,” Alexander said in a news release.

“This new law includes funding for significant priorities for Tennessee — I worked hard to include up to $117.7 million to continue construction of Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga, to continue record funding for the agency that funds our 17 national laboratories — including Oak Ridge National Laboratory — and to support weapons programs that are vital to our national security and the important work at Y-12,” he said.

The Maryville native said he was encouraged that Congress had provided the fourth consecutive year of record funding for the Office of Science and funding that will help keep the United States first in the world in supercomputing.

“Oak Ridge again has the fastest and now the smartest computer in the world, and that’s because of consistent federal funding,” Alexander said.

Among the new law’s priorities:

• The bill restores significant cuts made in the president’s budget request by providing an additional $2.314 billion to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, bringing the corps’ budget up to $6.999 billion — a record funding level in a regular appropriations bill.

• For the fifth consecutive year, the bill makes full use of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues for water infrastructure projects, including up to $117.7 million to continue construction of Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga.

• The U.S Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which supports basic science and energy research and is the nation’s largest supporter of research in the physical sciences, is funded at $6.585 billion, an increase of $325 million above last year, and also a new record funding level.

• The Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (ARPA-E) is funded at $366 million, record funding in a regular appropriations bill and an increase of $12.7 million above enacted. ARPA-E was created by the 2007 America COMPETES Act to invest in high-impact energy technologies, and the president’s budget request recommended termination of the program.

• The bill provides $1.659 billion for high performance computing, including $935.5 million within the Office of Science and $723 million within the National Nuclear Security Administration.

• This amount includes $676.7 million from the Office of Science and the NNSA to deliver at least one Exascale machine in 2021 to reassert U.S. leadership in this critical area.

• The bill includes a total of $15.2 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration, including $1.9 billion for the six life extension programs, which fix or replace components in weapons systems to make sure they’re safe and reliable.

• The Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex is funded at $703 million, which will continue to keep this project on time and on budget, with a completion year of 2025 at a cost no greater than $6.5 billion.

• The legislation sends a strong signal about our support for developing new technologies that will support the next generation of nuclear power plants. The bill includes $112 million for Advanced Reactors and $100 million for Small Modular Reactors.

• The bill also provides $47 million for research and development to support existing nuclear reactors, $27.6 million for the Center for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and $30 million for the Transformational Challenge Reactor.

• The bill advances efforts to clean up hazardous materials at Cold War-era sites. The bill provides $7.2 billion to support cleanup efforts, which is $578 million above the president’s budget request. Included in this amount is $646 million for cleanup at the East Tennessee Technology Park, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

• The bill also continues to fund the regional commissions, which the administration proposed to eliminate, including $165 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission and $25 million for the Delta Regional Authority.