Mr. BROUN of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.
The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Page 76, line 2, insert after the dollar amount the following: ``(reduced by $20,860,800)''.
Page 158, line 25, insert after the dollar amount the following: ``(increased by $20,860,800)''.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Chairman, first I would like to begin by commending our Appropriations Committee for the extraordinary job that they have done to claw back this money and to reduce spending below the levels that we had last year or the levels in the CR.
They have, indeed, done an exemplary job. But I think during these extraordinary and unprecedented times, we have to do more. And this Diesel Emissions Reduction program is one of those areas of funding that we can look at and say, indeed, this is duplicative, and because of that, we can eliminate this $30 million and move that funding into the spending reduction account.
Now, DERA, the program under discussion, is a grant program administered by EPA. It seeks to reduce diesel emissions--that's a worthy goal--by providing funds for technologies to retrofit existing vehicles and infrastructure not subject to updated diesel air standards. This is something that at one point in time, yes, it was important and had a tremendous impact on some of our communities, and they have done grants all across this country.
Now I want to point out that President Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget recommends completely eliminating funding for the DERA grants, and there is a reason that it has done that.
One of the reasons that they have done that is because since 2007, new diesel engines have to comply with a much higher emissions standard, therefore, it is decreasing the need for retrofits. There's also other funding available for such retrofits through the Department of Transportation Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. They have about $45 million for diesel retrofits annually, and through the EPA's Supplemental Environmental Project enforcement agreements, where there's
$7.1 million for that.
There are other programs with similar grants, the EPA's Smart Growth Program, the EPA's Performance Partnership Grants, the Clean Fuels Formula Grants. Indeed, the administration has not increased Federal funding for this program above the $60 million level in place since fiscal year 2009, when it received an additional $300 million in the Stimulus Act.
This is a program that we can say, indeed, has been a helpful program, but it is duplicative, it has outlived its usefulness because there are emissions standards on diesel vehicles that have been in place since 2007. There is less need for these grants.
Indeed, one of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, as we were debating the CR, had recommended that we use this program, an offset with this program, and eliminate the funding for this program. Mr. Moran had offered, at that point in time, that we do that, and one the reasons he gave was because the President had eliminated it in order to encourage the truck industry to increase its own diesel R&D. I agree with that.
This is a program that we would save $30 million. I know that it is duplicative. We need to save every penny we can possibly save of the taxpayers' money. This is a step that we should take. I appreciate the support of the amendment.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Ms. RICHARDSON. I rise in strong opposition to the amendment that's brought forward to us today. If you look at the history, actually, of the DERA program, it's one of the rare programs in this House that has enjoyed bipartisan support from day one. When you consider the inception of the program and the continued amendments that have been passed on this floor, it has garnered support. And let's talk about why.
There is evidence to show that for every $1 of investment that's made into this particular program, $13 is received back, $13 in economic benefits, in terms of jobs and in terms of health savings. Why?
DERA is the diesel emission program. I would say, is there anyone here who honestly believes that the American public that is driving on the highways every single day and sees the spewing of smog and soot coming out of trucks thinks that we no longer need this program?
There are thousands and thousands of trucks on our highways, and if this program weren't needed, I would suggest, then why are we receiving thousands and thousands of applications every single day? When the trucks have been [Page: H5637]
replaced and we have reduced the emissions, then there will be the time to reevaluate this program. But that time is not now. We are finally making progress.
And let's talk about the benefits of the diesel emission program. Yes, one, it helps us to reduce the old trucks that are on the highways. But what does it also do?
By having diesel emission, it allows us to also save in terms of fuel that's being used. And we all know our dependency currently on foreign oil, so when we consider the ability to be able to reduce the amount of oil that we have to purchase, that individuals are purchasing, that truckers are purchasing, it reduces that cost of our dependence on oil. It reduces the cost of what the end users receive when they're getting the various products.
Now, let's talk about safety. When we look at the old trucks, if we can incentivize truckers to be able to upgrade their equipment, which would include filters, protection with diesel emissions, oftentimes there are other benefits that they're gaining with those vehicles, and so we're also saving lives.
I would say any suggestion of this amendment is shortsighted and ill-advised. This is a good working program, and the maker of the amendment agrees to that, and it garners bipartisan support.
I would suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, and strongly urge that my colleagues would all join us in opposition to this amendment. Let's keep this program that is working in this country, and let's address the desperate diesel emission that's impacting asthma and many health issues in our country.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. MORAN. I rise to oppose the gentlelady's amendment. I think it's instructive to point out, I offered an amendment to strike funding for this program during H.R. 1, back in February, so that we could add funds to the North American Wetlands Conservation Program.
Now my colleague from Tennessee, let me just check the record here, voted ``no,'' so I'm a little confused that now, a few months later, 5 months later, she has changed her mind. It seems to me, my amendment from February would have been preferable to the Members who have anglers and hunters in their district, which I suspect the gentlelady from Tennessee does. They rely upon healthy wetlands, which have been very much endangered by what was an elimination of the North American Wetlands Conservation
Program in this bill.
This amendment simply throws away the needed funding. And I know the chairman of the subcommittee understands how needed those dollars are. So it does seem to me that our amendment to have restored money for wetlands made more sense.
But, not only did I lose that vote, Mrs. Blackburn voted against eliminating this diesel program. So we did not eliminate that money largely because of the compelling argument that was made by Ms. Richardson at the time. In the meantime, she has continued to lobby for this program. I found some of her arguments convincing. So we're not trying to take the money out that the chairman added. We can understand why it was added to the bill. So we would agree with the chairman. Let's
leave it in the bill, even though it had been zeroed out by the President.
So I think Ms. Richardson not only won that vote back in February, but I think she should win this vote as well. The money should be kept in the program--$30 million does seem to be doing some good things. And so I would oppose the gentlelady from Tennessee's amendment to eliminate the program, and not even to use the $30 million for any other constructive purpose.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. SIMPSON. I rise in opposition to the amendment.
When I first looked at the President's proposal to eliminate funding for the diesel emissions reductions grant, I knew that there was a budget gimmick that we would have to backfill when we did this budget. This was an issue I addressed with the EPA administrator when she came before the subcommittee to justify her budget.
The diesel emissions reduction program, or DERA, is a proven program with known, quantifiable health benefits. The DERA program provides grants to States to retrofit old diesel engines in order to reduce pollution.
These grants produce $13 of economic benefit per Federal dollar. And the technology supported by DERA reduced black carbon emissions by 90 percent.
When I asked the administrator why she would propose to eliminate funding for a program with proven technology that works in order to fund new, nice-to-have voluntary initiatives that we have no idea what they do, she responded that it was a tough budget choice. Well, it was the wrong choice.
I think the committee supports this program, it has in the past. As I said, it's a proven program that has proven results, and that's why we backfilled the request--even though the President didn't request any funding for this--to put $30 million in. It is $20 million below what was funded at the current level. So it did have a reduction just like every other program, but we did keep it alive at $30 million.
I yield to the gentlelady from Tennessee.