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Unsuccessful House Amendment to Transfer Funding from DOE Energy Program to Office of Science

Richard M. Jones
Number 81 - June 11, 2012  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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During the House of Representative’s recent consideration of the FY 2013 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, an amendment was offered by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) to reduce funding for the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program.  Half of the $30 million reduction would have been transferred to the DOE Office of Science.

This amendment failed by a vote of 130 “yes” votes to 256 “no” votes. 

Hultgren recommended that the $15 million in additional funding be targeted for the High Energy Physics Program of the Office of Science.  The chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee were opposed to the amendment; their remarks offer insight into how funding levels were developed.  Selections from the debate follow:

Rep. Hultgren:

“My amendment would transfer $15 million from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy research program to the Office of Science. It would also reduce the EERE account by an additional $15 million, which could be put towards deficit reduction. 

“The Obama administration has consistently prioritized industrial policy, under the guise of applied science, at the cost of reduced support for our Nation’s critical basic science research and our national labs.  EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office is $35 million above current fiscal year 2012 levels. EERE’s water technologies program is $25 million above the President’s budget request. EERE’s vehicle technologies program is $42 million above where it was just last year. EERE’s solar technology program receives $155 million, despite billions of dollars of recent loan guarantees to solar companies and several high-profile industry failures.

“This amendment would remove $15 million from the EERE account, which is spent on subsidizing solar power and wind energy, and move it back to the Office of Science, where I would hope report language could specifically target it for the high-energy physics program which is critical to our long-term economic success and scientific leadership.

“At this time, I yield to the gentlewoman . . . .”

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD):

“I would like to thank the gentleman from Illinois for yielding to me, and I appreciate working with him on this important amendment.  This amendment would increase funding for the Office of Science by $15 million while cutting an additional $15 million from the underlying bill.

“Mr. Chair, the field of high-energy physics is becoming increasingly competitive; and without critical deep underground research spaces, we will continue to put our historic leadership in this area at risk, while continuing to send our best and brightest overseas to conduct their research.

“But we can compete. Just this week in my State of South Dakota, the Sanford Underground Research Facility dedicated the Davis campus -- 4,850 feet underground. Later this year, this campus is scheduled to hold a dark matter detector that after only 4 days of operation stands to add more to our knowledge than all previous dark matter research experiments. We’re not talking about subsidies and giveaways for ideas that are years or decades down the road. This is cutting-edge science that’s within our grasp.  We need to make tough choices in our current budget situation, but we also need to recognize the role that U.S. research plays in our ability to compete and to innovate.

“So I urge my colleagues to support our ability to lead the world in underground science in a fiscally responsible way, and I urge support of this amendment.”

House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ):

“I rise very reluctantly to oppose the amendment. I do recognize the passion of the Members of Congress from Illinois and South Dakota who have spoken, and I may say repeatedly spoken and advocated to me over the last couple of months on behalf of the high energy physics program and national laboratories in their congressional districts and, in fact, all relevant national laboratories that play a critical role in maintaining our Nation’s scientific leadership and competitiveness. So I recognize their advocacy, I appreciate it, and I certainly will be working with them to do whatever we can to be of assistance.

“We tried our very best in our bill to help those and all of the Department’s remarkable national laboratories, but our constraints did not afford us the luxury of bringing more money to the table in many cases. Many labs wanted money, and these are remarkable labs, and they are deserving as well.

“We did what we could for high-energy physics by shifting $16 million into project engineering and design for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment.  This allows the Department to move quickly in choosing a path forward for the program.

“We also ensured that the Homestake mine, which is a remarkable mine and a remarkable structure and a national asset, has sufficient minimal funding to operate while that path forward is yet to be determined.

“If more funding were available, we certainly would have brought more resources to bear. Unfortunately, the amendment finds resources by cutting a program - and we discussed this earlier - that has already been reduced by $428 million. That’s a 24 percent reduction from fiscal year 2012 and a 40 percent reduction below 2010.

“I recognize - the committee recognizes - the importance of these programs, and I promise we’ll work with our colleagues as we move forward in the appropriations process to be supportive and helpful, but I must reluctantly oppose the amendment.”

House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Peter Visclosky (D-IN):

“I also would rise in reluctant opposition to the gentleman’s amendment. As a resident of the neighboring State, I realize all of the great scientific research that is done in the State of Illinois alone at some of our wonderful Federal facilities. There is no question that we need to invest in the science account, as evidenced by the fact it is in this bill. Again, we had a very difficult allocation. Science is cut by $72,203,000.

“But, unfortunately, I do think the gentleman’s amendment is counterproductive in that he, because of the budget rules, needs a $30 million cut from renewable research to gain a $15 million add for scientific research. Given the constraints we face, I think that’s a bad bargain and we ought to leave the $30 million right where it is and have that aptly applied.”

Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095