Press Releases

Simpson Touts Vital Idaho Priorities Included in Cromnibus

INL, PILT, Sage-Grouse, White Potatoes included in WIC, A-10, Limitation of Clean Water Act rules

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Washington, December 10, 2014 | comments

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today applauded the release of H.R. 83, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations bill that included many important provisions for Idaho and Western States. 

“This bill represents an important step for Congress toward fulfilling its constitutional responsibility to fund government operations through the regular process,” said Simpson.  “When we fail to pass annual appropriations bills, we fail to look critically at how agencies spend taxpayer dollars, and lose opportunities to make government work better.  We can point to dozens of examples in this bill that support conservative priorities and represent good government that would not have been supported had we continued to fund the government through a Continuing Resolution.”

Simpson is Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment had a key role in deciding funding levels for Department of Energy and Department of Interior programs, including the following highlights:  

Energy and Water Development

“I am pleased to report that the Energy and Water portion of the omnibus rejects cuts to nuclear research sought by the Obama Administration and increases funding for many of the vital programs at INL,” said Chairman Mike Simpson. “We’ve worked very hard with the Lab and the people of Eastern Idaho to promote INL, and the funding in this bill will advance the critical contributions that INL makes toward a broad energy security policy in the United States.  This bill will have a lasting impact on enhancing the current capabilities of INL and building new, unique capabilities that are essential to the world class researchers at our national laboratory.”

  • DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy is funded at $914 million, an increase of $24.3 million over the FY14 funding level. Nuclear energy research and development programs that receive funding within the $914 million allocation include several of the following:

    • The Idaho Operations and Infrastructure account, which covers infrastructure maintenance and improvements at Idaho National Laboratory, is funded at $200.6 million – a $20 million increase over last year.

    • The National Science User Facility program is funded at $36.5 million – an increase of $18 million above the President’s request.  Increases under this program are directed to fully complete the installation of post-irradiation examination equipment at INL’s Irradiated Materials Characterization Laboratory (IMCL).

    • Small Modular Reactor Licensing Support Programs are funded at $55 million.   This funding is slated for NuScale Power’s Small Modular Reactor which is proposed for construction in Idaho.

    • The Light Water Reactor Sustainability program, which is managed by INL and promotes the continued safe operation of America’s existing nuclear reactors, is funded at $35 million, an increase of $5 million over FY14 and the budget request.

    • The Reactor Concepts Research, Development, and Demonstration account is funded at $133 million – an increase of $20 million above fiscal year 2014 and $32.5 million above the President’s request. Within the overall $133 million level for this account, $33 million is allocated to fuel qualification for the High Temperature Gas Reactor, $11 million above the budget request.

    • The Advanced Fuels program within Fuel Cycle Research and Development is funded at $60.1 million, the same as last year and $17 million above the President’s budget request, and Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition research and development is funded at $49 million, $19 million above FY14.

  • Within the Office of Naval Reactors, the bill includes $68 million for the operation of the Advanced Test Reactor, an increase of $1.5 million above FY14.

  • Within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the bill includes $5 million to continue development of an Electric Grid Test Bed program to enhance existing full-scale electric grid testing capabilities like those at Idaho National Laboratory.

  • The bill also provides $380 million for cleanup activities associated with the Idaho Cleanup Project and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project co-located on the Idaho desert with Idaho National Laboratory. This represents an increase of $13 million above the President’s request to fully support workplan alignments needed for Idaho’s transuranic waste program as a result of the closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. 

  • Includes an additional $2 million for the National Spent Fuel Program, putting the unique expertise of INL to work in order to provide solutions for managing the Department of Energy’s inventories of spent nuclear fuel.

  • Prohibits the U.S. Corps of Engineers from requiring Clean Water Act section 404 permits for certain agricultural activities, such as construction and maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches.

  • Directs the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army to withdraw the interpretive rule, “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army Interpretive Rule Regarding the Applicability of the Clean Water Act 4 Section 404(f)(1)(A).” Section 404 of the Clean Water Act exempts certain agricultural activities, such as soil and water conservation practices, from regulation. The interpretive rule would have limited that exemption significantly. 

Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee

“I’m pleased with a number of public lands provisions in this bill that will have a direct and positive impact on Idaho,” said Simpson.  “PILT funding is crucial to Idaho counties, and adequate funding for wildfire suppression is essential, so I’m very glad that this bill fully funds both of those priorities.  In addition, the language delaying the sage-grouse ESA listing decision is extremely important to our state.  Stakeholders in Idaho have worked hard to create a management plan that will prevent the listing of sage-grouse as an endangered species.  Yet even stakeholders who have been at the table since the beginning of this process are concerned that the court-imposed listing deadline has resulted in less collaboration and rushed decisions.  They need more time to do the proper work that will warrant a decision not to list the species.  By delaying the listing decision, we can provide the BLM with time to do the job right.”

  • Full funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates counties for the losses in property tax as a result of a high percentage of federal land.  Idaho counties received $28,579,192 in PILT funding for FY14.

  • Language prohibiting funding for writing a rule to list the greater sage-grouse as an endangered species, providing stakeholders additional time to craft management plans that would work to prevent a listing.

  • Full funding for wildfire suppression operations at the 10-year average, as well as $65 million for the Forest Service to acquire needed airtankers to fight wildfires, allowing the agency to phase out antiquated aircraft.

  • Extends language making litigation costs more transparent and extending requirements that litigants exhaust administrative review before litigating grazing issues in Federal court.

  • Restores $1 million to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves; and

  • Prevents agencies from limiting recreational shooting and hunting on federal lands.

Defense

“I’m very pleased that my colleagues have shown wide recognition and support for the importance of keeping the A-10,” said Simpson.  “The A-10’s past combat performance is lauded by both the service members that operate them and those who rely on them for close air support on the battlefield.  While I certainly acknowledge that the Air Force must make difficult decisions in this time of reduced budgets, the A-10’s low operating costs and unique capabilities merit our continued support until an appropriate replacement can be identified.”

  • Denies the administration’s request to retire any A-10 close-air support aircraft, and provides $337.1 million to keep A-10s flying in FY15. 

  • Prohibits funds from being used to transfer or divest AH-64 Apache helicopters from the Army National Guard to active Army in FY15.

Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee

“Fresh potatoes have been excluded from the WIC program despite their widely known nutritional value,” said Simpson. “This bill corrects the exclusion of fresh potatoes and allows WIC participants to make wholesome food choices for their young families.”

  • Includes a provision lifting a ban on white potatoes from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.  This language, drafted by Congressman Simpson, ensures that fresh white potatoes and all varieties of fresh vegetables are eligible for purchase through the WIC program. 

The House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 83 on Thursday, December 11.  Links to the bill text and reports can be found here: http://rules.house.gov/bill/113/hr-83


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