Appropriations Committee Passes Legislation Setting Priorities on Energy, Waterways, National Security

Alexander says bipartisan legislation complies with Budget Control Act spending caps, is one of first two appropriations bills ready for Senate consideration

Posted on May 21, 2015

“The Appropriations Committee’s vote puts us one step closer to doubling basic energy research, strengthening and rebuilding our waterways and ports, removing major obstacles to the use of nuclear power, maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile and cleaning up hazardous materials left over at Cold War facilities.” – Lamar Alexander 

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development, said approval of the Energy and Water appropriations legislation by the full Appropriations Committee is an example of setting priorities and “getting the Senate working again.” The legislation was approved 26-4 and is one of the first two appropriations bills that are ready for consideration by the full U.S. Senate.

“Governing is about setting priorities, and this legislation does just that by complying with the spending caps in the Budget Control Act while supporting energy, waterways and national security,” Alexander said. “The Appropriations Committee’s vote puts us one step closer to doubling basic energy research, strengthening and rebuilding our waterways and ports, removing major obstacles to the use of nuclear power, maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile and cleaning up hazardous materials left over at Cold War facilities. This legislation is also proof that we are getting the Senate working again – I thank Senator Feinstein for her cooperation on this legislation, and look forward to its consideration on the Senate floor.”

Alexander said the bill includes crucial oversight: “Every year, Sen. Feinstein and I have proposed eliminating at least one low-priority program to reduce waste and conduct proper oversight. This year we are eliminating funding for the U.S. contribution to ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France. This saves $150 million this year.”

The legislation had previously been approved by the subcommittee Alexander chairs, and is now ready for consideration by the full U.S. Senate.  The bill includes the following priorities:

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be able to restart construction in fiscal year 2016 of Chickamauga Lock, which is funded by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and the federal government. In this legislation, $29 million will be available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because of Chickamauga Lock’s high position on the priority list of essential American waterways to be rebuilt, an amount that is sufficient to restart construction of Chickamauga Lock.
  • The U.S 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 includes a pilot program to allow consolidated nuclear waste storage, supported by Alexander and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, over the past three years. It 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.
  • $62.5 million is provided to continue to move forward with 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 providing $100.5 million below the president’s budget request for wind programs.

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