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Press advisory, for immediate release, June 17, 2008

House Appropriations Subcommittee to Mark Up Energy and Water Bill

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200

Albuquerque, NM – The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development (HEWD) will issue its markup of the President’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 20009 at 5:30 pm EDT today.  The meeting will not be webcast. 

Usually, as was the case last year, the Subcommittee markup is very close to the final Appropriations Committee markup (scheduled for one week from today), which in turn is likely to be very close to the suggested appropriation eventually passed by the House as a whole. 

This legislation must then be negotiated with the corresponding Senate bill. 

Last year’s bill and report (for FY2008, the current fiscal year, expiring on September 30, 2008), which provides insight into the thinking of this committee, can be found here.  Access to the full legislative history of last year’s bill, including amendments (including the Udall amendment to restore nuclear weapons funding) is here

Congressman Udall is on the Appropriations Committee but not the HEWD.  So far he has fully supported pit production and the expansion of pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Many close observers of the appropriations process suspect that the Senate may not complete its work on the bill this year, as it did not last year.  Also, Congress may be unwilling to enter a protracted struggle with the Administration, now in its waning months, over funding levels as elections approach.  Both the House and Senate, for somewhat different reasons, are highly likely to offer markups that, overall, significantly exceed the President’s budget request for Energy and Water programs.  The White House will almost certainly threaten to veto these markups. 

For both these reasons there may not be a final energy and water appropriations bill this calendar year, in which case these programs would be funded by continuing resolution (CR), quite likely in a package (omnibus) with other unfinished appropriations bills.  This CR could be crafted in any number of ways.

Nevertheless today’s markup is a very important indicator of congressional intent as regards DOE programs and funding levels and is likely to be a starting point for negotiations next year, after a new Administration is in place.  Two of the primary actors in recent years’ energy and water appropriations battles, Rep. Hobson and Sen. Domenici, both Republicans will have retired when these negotiations begin. 

It is this subcommittee which has taken the lead in killing controversial nuclear weapons projects and programs of the Bush Administration.  It has sometimes succeeded in doing so despite unfavorable votes in Congress as a whole.  The White House has proven itself unwilling to “go to bat” for its controversial nuclear weapons programs, in part fearing adverse publicity and in part because the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has not been a strong supporter of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s)  grander initiatives – sometimes not a supporter at all. 

It sometimes takes a few days for details of this markup to trickle out; traditionally, the details are offered first to the House Appropriations Committee as a whole and the bill and report are officially made available after the full committee has acted.  Aside from entries in the Congressional Record, the Subcommittee may issue a press release today with highlights. 

Some of the key issues in play include:

  • Overall Weapons Activities (WA) funding levels.  Last year the HEWD cut requested WA funding by 10%, a substantial amount of which was from programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  Most of these proposed LANL cuts, by total amount, were in plutonium pit production and related construction.  The Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project, the largest capital project in the history of LANL, was zeroed, as was the closely-allied Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Security Upgrade Project (NMSSUP).

  • The CMRR and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 facility.  The CMRR is the most important capital project in the weapons complex for realization of an aggressive nuclear posture involving manufacture of new kinds of nuclear warheads and bombs based on plutonium pits.  The House has tried to kill or dramatically scale back this project for 5 years running.  The Senate Armed Services Committee has cut CMRR funds authorized by 50%.

  • Programmatic or funding constraints on pit production.  Both the House and Senate Armed Services have cut the funds authorized for pit production, by 10% and 25% respectively, citing poor mission justification.  Since these actions further information regarding the absence of pit production requirements has become available.

  • Clean-up funding levels and requirements for dismantlement of old buildings.  At active NNSA sites such as LANL, cleanup competes with WA programs.  (Of course, how much cleanup actually takes place, regardless of funding, is another question.)

  • The Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) and related funding requests.  It is almost certain the HEWD will zero the RRW program per se, but the committee may allow funding research into “advanced surety,” allowing a certain degree of continuity in new warhead efforts.

  • Third-party financing of construction projects.

  • The extent to which the HEWD will respond to the energy crisis.  One form this might take is moving some funds from WA into renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts and low-income home weatherization.

  • The extent to which the HEWD will respond to the need for flood control (and flood survival, e.g. survival of water supplies), and whether these needs will begin to noticeably nick DOE programs like WA.

  • Whether or not HEWD uses energy and water development funds to broaden the missions of the nuclear weapons laboratories, e.g. in nonproliferation accounts.

  • Whether Congress has any interest in moving the Kansas City Plant (KCP) to Albuquerque, a move proposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, and other parties.  After a careful review of all available information and studies we believe there is no merit in this proposal from either the disarmament or nuclear maintenance perspectives.

***ENDS**


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