Recently in Washington
Last week, the House passed H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, by a vote of 229 to 199. The bill provides additional time for states and localities to implement new ozone standards and facilitate more efficient implementation of those standards. On Wednesday, the House passed H.R. 2883, the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, by a vote of 254 to 175. The bill establishes a uniform and transparent process to authorize the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of international border-crossing facilities for the import and export of oil and natural gas and the transmission of electricity. The House also passed H.R. 2910, the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, by a vote of 248 to 179. The bill reinforces the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) role as the lead agency for siting interstate natural gas pipelines by directing FERC to identify and invite all agencies considering an aspect of an application to establish a schedule for concurrent reviews, and to impose deadlines for final decisions.
On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 2825, the DHS Authorization Act of 2017, as amended, by a vote of 386 to 41. The bill authorizes the activities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and provides necessary oversight and guidance to the Department to ensure that it is effectively carrying out its mission of securing the homeland. The House also passed H.R. 218, the King Cove Road Land Exchange Act, by a vote of 248 to 179. The bill authorizes a land exchange between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Alaska to construct a one-lane, non-commercial gravel road connecting the isolated City of King Cove to a modern, all-weather airport with access to emergency medical services and hospitals. Congressman Simpson supported all five bills.
Simpson Stands Up for Critical Idaho Provisions
House Appropriations Committee advances Interior funding bill
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson supported passage of the fiscal year 2018 House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which contains many important provisions to Idaho. Congressman Simpson has continually advocated for essential funding for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and wildfire suppression and prevention, which are included in this year’s bill.
“The Interior Appropriations bill is arguably the most important piece of legislation for the western United States,” said Congressman Simpson. “I am pleased this bill addresses the federal government’s responsibility to public lands counties by funding PILT. This is how many counties pay for essential services such as roads and schools. Until we find a much needed long term solution to PILT, I will continue to ensure these payments are fully funded and arrive on time.”
The Interior bill also includes a number of priorities championed by Simpson that benefit Idaho, including:
· Full funding for wildfire suppression at the ten-year average of $3.4 billion for the Department of Interior and the Forest Service;
· Increased funding for hazardous fuels management which is vital to preventing catastrophic wildfires;
· Language that authorizes the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Secretary of the Army to withdraw the Waters of the United States rule;
· Language which prevents listing of sage grouse as an endangered species;
· Language that directs the Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue two final rules removing recovered wolves in Wyoming and in the Western Great Lakes from the endangered species list;
· Language making litigation costs more transparent and extending requirements that litigants exhaust administrative review before litigating grazing issues in Federal court;
· Funding for the Rural Water Technical Assistance program to help small communities provide safe and affordable drinking water;
· Language that prohibits a ban on issuing new closures of public lands to hunting and recreational shooting, except in the case of public safety;
· Language that directs the Bureau of Land Management to work with the State of Idaho regarding aquifer recharge;
· Language that expresses concern with the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service court decision and encourages the Administration to work with Congress to find a solution. Congressman Simpson introduced legislation to reverse the court decision which has threatened 80 vegetative management projects and hundreds of millions of board feet.
“Whether it is authorizing the EPA to roll back disastrous rules from the former Administration or adequately funding programs to combat wildfires, this bill addresses issues that impacts Idahoans on a daily basis. I look forward to advancing the bill on the House floor.”
The legislation was adopted by the committee by a vote of 30-21.
MONDAY, JULY 24TH
On Monday, the House will meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) S. 114 - A bill to authorize appropriations for the Veterans Choice Program, and for other purposes, as amended (Sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller / Veterans Affairs Committee)
2) H.R. 3218 - Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Veterans Affairs Committee)
3) H.R. 282 - Military Residency Choice Act (Sponsored by Rep. Elise Stefanik / Veterans Affairs Committee)
4) H.R. 1058 - VA Provider Equity Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Brad Wenstrup / Veterans Affairs Committee)
5) H.R. 1690 - Department of Veterans Affairs Bonus Transparency Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Claudia Tenney / Veterans Affairs Committee)
6) H.R. 2006 - VA Procurement Efficiency and Transparency Act (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman / Veterans Affairs Committee)
7) H.R. 2772 - SEA Act (Sponsored by Rep. Scott Taylor / Veterans Affairs Committee)
8) H.R. 2781 - Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act (Sponsored by Rep. Neal Dunn / Veterans Affairs Committee)
9) H.R. 2749 - Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jack Bergman / Veterans Affairs Committee)
10) H.R. 3262 - Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Ann Kuster / Veterans Affairs Committee)
11) H.R. 95 - Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley / Veterans Affairs Committee)
12) H.R. 1848 - Veterans Affairs Medical Scribe Pilot Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Veterans Affairs Committee)
13) H.R. 2333 - Small Business Investment Opportunity Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight / Small Business Committee)
14) H.R. 2056 - Microloan Modernization Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Murphy / Small Business Committee)
15) H.R. 2364 - Investing in Main Street Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu / Small Business Committee)
16) H.R. 3180 - Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Devin Nunes / Permanent Select Intelligence Committee)
17) H.R. 3298 - Wounded Officers Recovery Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton / House Administration Committee)
TUESDAY, JULY 25TH
On Tuesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 3178 - Medicare Part B Improvement Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady / Ways and Means Committee / Energy and Commerce Committee)
2) H.R. 2182 - Plum Island Preservation Act (Sponsored by Rep. Lee Zeldin / Homeland Security Committee)
3) H.R. ____ - Russia, Iran, and North Korea Sanctions Act (Foreign Affairs Committee)
H.J.Res. 111 - Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to "Arbitration Agreements". (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Keith Rothfus / Financial Services Committee)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 26TH AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK
On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 3210 - SECRET Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
2) H.R. 2370 - Escambia County Land Conveyance Act (Sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz / Natural Resources Committee)
3) H.R. 1927 - African American Civil Rights Network Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay / Natural Resources Committee)
4) H.Res. 317 - Calling for the unconditional release of United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens being held for political purposes by the Government of Iran, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen / Foreign Affairs Committee)
H.R. 3219 - Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen / Appropriations Committee)
Additional Legislative Items are Possible
In the News
INL looks good under House budget
By Bryan Clark, Post Register, July 12, 2017
The portion of the federal budget that is the main source of funding for Idaho National Laboratory cleared a major hurdle Wednesday when an appropriation bill successfully cleared the House Appropriations Committee.
The bill was drafted by the Energy and Water Subcommittee, where Rep. Mike Simpson serves as chairman.
“This is a good bill that makes some difficult choices,” Simpson said during the hearing.
Under the appropriations bill, INL will avoid steep cuts, including in programs that President Donald Trump’s proposed budget had called to slash significantly or eliminate entirely. Renewable energy programs didn’t fare well, though the main renewable energy programs at INL, focused on bioenergy feedstock, remain largely intact. INL cybersecurity programs also got a significant boost.
In an interview, Simpson said the subcommittee was given a total budget cap that was down by about $209 million, and there was a need for about $1 billion in increased spending on nuclear weapons, including stockpile modernization and reactors for the Columbia class submarine.
“That meant there were tough choices within the Department of Energy,” Simpson said.
INL emerged from those tough choices largely unscathed.
The overall nuclear energy budget would be cut by about $48 million, bringing it to a total of $969 million. That’s $266 million more total funding than Trump proposed.
“I think that nuclear energy is a part of our future,” Simpson said, adding that he felt the Trump administration’s proposal to cut hundreds of millions from the nuclear energy budget was a mistake. If Trump’s cuts had gone forward, they likely would have meant hundreds of job losses at INL.
Many Idaho-specific projects have been protected under the budget, including setting $60 million aside for the small modular reactor program, which Trump’s budget had zeroed out. The first commercial small modular reactor, designed by NuScale Power, is expected to be located at INL and to provide power to Idaho Falls.
The report specifies that INL’s facilities management budget, the most important source of funding for maintaining physical plant and equipment at the lab, would be set at $238 million, a $6 million increase over this year’s budget and $34 million more than Trump had proposed.
Research funding for nuclear reactor concepts will be funded to the tune of $219 million, $87 million more than this year’s budget. Nearly $83 million will go the the Advanced Test Reactor.
An INL electrical grid test system will get $9 million.
The light water reactor sustainability budget, most of which flows to INL and which Trump had proposed to cut from $40 million to $20 million, will remain at $40 million. A related budget for a project at INL dealing with a special nuclear fuel called TRISO, which Trump’s budget zeroed out, will get $30 million. Research on a new fast test reactor will get $35 million instead of the $10 million Trump proposed.
DOE cybersecurity programs, based in large part at INL, will get a $12 million boost to $250 million.
While Democrats had pointed criticisms for some portions of the budget, members of both parties heaped praise on Simpson’s leadership of the budget writing process.
Democrats were critical of a budget that increases spending on nuclear weapons by about $1 billion while cutting the rest of the Department of Energy’s budget by an equivalent amount. Many of those cuts come to renewable energy research programs, including elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and cutting the budget for energy efficiency and renewable energy by half.
There also was pushback from committee Democrats on a set of policy riders attached to the budget. Such riders include a provision to block a rule that would expand waters protected by the Clean Water Act, another that would allow guns to be carried on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and another that would block implementation of the National Ocean Policy.
Ranking member Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said the riders will make it impossible for the budget to gain support from Democrats.
Simpson said he likes both the ARPA-E and renewable programs, but there wasn’t enough money in the overall budget to fully fund them. He left the door open to action later in the budget process that could save some of those programs, particularly ARPA-E.
“The Department (of Energy) should not take action to shut down ARPA-E until Congress directs it to by law,” Simpson said during the hearing, repeating the point twice.
Funding for cleanup of radioactive waste in Idaho also fared well. The budget for cleanup at the DOE’s desert site is set at $382 million, down $17,000 from this year. Trump had proposed $32 million in cuts.
A major potential boon for the cleanup effort at DOE’s desert site is a total of $150 million to restart the process of permitting the nuclear waste disposal facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. That project had earlier been killed by an effort led by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Simpson said the fight over Yucca is far from over.
“A majority of Congress realize that we’ve got to open Yucca Mountain,” he said. “We’ve got to get a permanent repository for nuclear waste. There will certainly be resistance from Nevada.”
But he’s optimistic.
“This is a problem we’ve got to solve, and I think this is the year we’re going to get it solved,” Simpson said.
Some cleanup efforts at the site have been seriously hampered by the closure of Yucca. For example, there are no other sites in the country that can accept the large quantity of calcine waste at the site. That has meant the waste is being treated and repackaged for shipment, but without any place to accept it, the waste is merely being stored.
That endangers DOE’s ability to meet cleanup milestones set out in the 1995 Settlement Agreement, which in turn endangers INL’s ability to accept small quantities of spent nuclear fuel needed for important research programs.
There’s also good news for the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project. The budget directs DOE to present a report on the feasibility of using the treatment facility as either a national or regional transuranic waste treatment facility, giving the expensive facility a potential long-term mission. AMWTP has 528 employees.