Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson today applauded the House passage of H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, which included many important provisions for Idaho and Western States.
“This is a comprehensive and responsible package that contains many significant wins for Idaho and Western States, and will avoid a government shut down,” said Simpson. “It is the product of this past year’s worth of thoughtful deliberation and line-by-line analysis of every program in the federal budget. Funding our government through short term Continuing Resolutions is unsustainable, and, frankly, not a responsible way to govern. Through this agreement, Congress has fulfilled its duty of keeping our government open, and while no one got everything they wanted in the final package, we have paved the way back to regular order in the weeks and months to come.”
As Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Vice Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, Simpson 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
“The Energy and Water section of this bill makes critical investments into nuclear energy research and development programs and funds much needed infrastructure improvements at the Idaho National Laboratory,” said Chairman Simpson. “It will enhance the current capabilities of the nation’s lead nuclear lab and building new, unique capabilities that are essential to maintaining U.S. leadership in this field. This bill also makes significant investments in nonproliferation and grid security programs, where INL plays a leading role. INL and its world class workforce is a national gem, and I am proud that this bill recognizes that. ”
The fiscal year (FY) 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill sets funding for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy at $1.02 billion, an increase of $30 million above fiscal year 2016 and $23 million above the President’s request. Nuclear energy research and development programs that receive funding within the overall $1.02 billion allocation include:
- The Idaho Facilities Management account, which covers infrastructure maintenance and improvement at INL, is funded at $238 million – an increase of $11 million above the President’s request.
- INL’s Safeguards and Security Program is funded at $129.3 million – an increase of $3.1 million over fiscal year 2016.
- The Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies program is funded at $115.1 million – an increase of $3.5 million above fiscal year 2016 and $26 million above the request.
- Small Modular Reactor Licensing Support Programs are funded at $95 million. This funding supports 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 $40 million.
- Within the Fuel Cycle Research and Development program, the Advanced Fuels program is funded at $68 million—a $6 million increase from fiscal year 2016; and Used Nuclear Fuel Disposition research and development is funded at $85 million.
- Within the Office of Naval Reactors, the bill includes $75.1 million for the operation of the Advanced Test Reactor to accelerate planned reliability-related infrastructure upgrades, and $100 million is included for the Spent Fuel Handling Recapitalization Project.
- Within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the bill includes $9 million for the development of an Electric Grid Test Bed program to enhance existing full-scale electric grid testing capabilities like those at Idaho National Laboratory.
- Within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, $7 million is included to continue performance testing and life cycle diagnostic assessment activities that validate and verify advanced battery performance.
The bill also provides $382 million for cleanup activities associated with the Idaho Cleanup Project and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project co-located on the Idaho desert with INL. The funding level of $382 million will allow the significant cleanup activities currently underway to continue. Finally, the bill includes an additional $4 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.
Interior and Environment
“The Interior bill is possibly the most important legislative vehicle Westerners have,” said Congressman Simpson. “The fiscal year 2017 bill provides full funding to fight wildfires, funding for wildfire prevention programs, full funding for PILT, provisions that rein in the EPA, and more. I am also extremely pleased to see my legislation on Gateway West included in the bill. This important compromise is an Idaho solution that will benefit the Birds of Prey and Idaho Ratepayers.”
- Includes Congressman Simpson’s legislation that addresses the routing of the routing of the Gateway West Transmission Line, through the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area (NCA).
- Provides $4.2 billion in wildfire programs including $407 million in emergency funding. The bill fully funds the 10 year average for wildfire suppression for both Department of the Interior and the Forest Service.
- Includes 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 $29,370,334 in PILT funding for FY16.
- Provides $570 million for hazardous fuels reduction activities—a $25 million increase over FY16.
- Cuts EPA funding by $209 million below the former President’s budget request which is $81.4 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Importantly, the bill reduces EPA regulatory programs by $52 million and $300 million below the former President’s request.
- The legislation also provides the new Administration flexibility to review and rewrite the “Waters of the United States” rule, the “Clean Power Plan,” and other environmental regulations.
- Provides $1 million to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.
- Language which prevents listing of sage grouse as an endangered species.
- Directs EPA, U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), and DOE to establish clear policies regarding the carbon neutrality of biomass which is an important energy source and part of an all of the above energy strategy.
- Continues language making litigation costs more transparent and extending requirements that litigants exhaust administrative review before litigating grazing issues in Federal court.
- Provides an $81 million increase for the National Park Service to help reduce the deferred maintenance backlog.
“Whether it is resources for our farmers and ranchers or research that guarantees a safe and efficient food supply, USDA plays a vital role in Idaho,” said Congressman Simpson. “Funding in this bill supports important commodities and recognizes the needs of rural communities in Idaho that are feeding the world. It is encouraging to see continued support for the sheep station and other activities in Idaho.”
- Provides increased funding for the USDA Rural Utilities Service Circuit Rider program which helps fund rural communities to provide safe and affordable drinking water.
- Provides increased funding for National Institutes of Food and Agriculture potato research.
- Includes language urging USDA to use existing authorities to create additional risk management tools for dairy farmers.
“The A-10 continues to show its value in close air support missions in the fight against ISIS and it is imperative that they continue to remain available as a tool for our brave men and women in combat,” said Simpson. “There will be a time when they will need to be replaced. However, until an appropriate replacement can be identified, it continues to merit our support.”
- The Defense portion of the bill provides funding for the A-10 Thunderbolt II which is based at Gowen Field in Boise, the headquarters for the Idaho National Guard and is essential to the mission there. The bill also includes:
- Provides a 2.1% pay raise for over 1.3 million active-duty troops and 810,000 Guard and Reserve troops.
Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
“The Labor H bill touches the lives of every American,” said Congressman Simpson. “In Idaho, Impact Aid is important to the counties and school districts that are impacted by federal activities and I’m glad this bill honors that responsibility. I’m also extremely pleased with the funding increase for NIH. Simply put, this money saves lives and improves the health of Americans.”
- $1.3 billion—a $23 million dollar increase over FY16 for Impact Aid which benefits Idaho counties and schools.
- Provides for a $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue lifesaving research initiatives.
- Provides a $650 million increase to address the nation’s opioid addiction crisis through prevention and treatment initiatives.
The House passed H.R. 244 by a vote of 309-118, and it will be considered by the U.S. Senate later this week. Links to the bill text and reports can be found here: https://rules.house.gov/bill/115/hr-244