|12:53 PM EDT||
Pete Visclosky, D-IN 1st
Mr. VISCLOSKY. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to express my appreciation to Chairman Frelinghuysen and his staff for their efforts to be inclusive and transparent in drafting this legislation. The chairman has ensured that the Energy and Water Subcommittee continues its tradition of bipartisanship and, within the constraints of the allocation, he has done wonderful work. While I hope that we can modify some elements of the bill, I would observe that our differences are marginal and our agreement is fundamental.
Also, I would like to join the chairman in thanking the other members of the subcommittee and also all of our staff for their exceptionally good and dedicated work.
As the chairman mentioned, the allocation for Energy and Water is more than $1 billion below fiscal year 2011. This allocation has necessitated severe cuts to crucial programs. While I appreciate the chairman's considerable efforts and recognize difficult choices must be made to address the Nation's serious financial situation, this bill starkly illustrates the shortsighted nature of the spending cap set by the House budget. The allocation for Energy and Water is simply insufficient to meet the
challenges posed by the economic downturn and to guarantee our national security.
Importantly, the chairman continues efforts to improve program and project management at all of the agencies under the bill's jurisdiction. He has honed provisions carried in the past and instituted others aimed at increased oversight. To point out one example, the bill includes a requirement that the Department of Energy complete independent cost estimates at major milestones for projects with a total cost in excess of $100 million. A recent review of the department's cleanup-related construction
projects by the Army Corps of Engineers paints a bleak picture of the management system for such projects and casts doubt on recent reforms intended to remove the department off the Government Accountability Office's list for high risk, a list that the department
has been on for the last 21 years running. I am pleased the chairman has included a number of reporting requirements and statutory limitations that will contribute to increased transparency and improved management, and I strongly support his actions.
The science account, critical to the competitiveness of our Nation, is essentially the same as in 2011, not an insignificant achievement in light of the challenge the allocation provided. The bill also provides funds for the continuation of a promising new program called ARPA-E, which can drive innovations to support our scientific competitiveness. While ARPA-E has shown some promise as a new organizational model, I am troubled that the same vigor that led to its creation has been largely absent
when it comes to addressing the systemic management and communication problems in other existing applied programs.
I support and appreciate the inclusion of emergency funding to respond to the historic flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri River basins. Communities devastated by natural disasters deserve our full support. I am, however, disappointed that the bill offsets this funding by withdrawing critical investment dollars from economic infrastructure in the United States. I would note that this is the second time this year that the committee has transferred funds between bills, the first time from
Energy and Water Development to Homeland Security, and now from Transportation to Energy and Water. We need to reconsider this practice and not strip investments in one area to pay for emergency needs in another.
I disagree with the notion that all funding for domestic emergency response should be offset immediately from domestic investment. In every year except two since 1997, the Congress has recognized the need for emergency funds to respond to the impacts of natural disasters on the Nation's water resource infrastructure. Since 2001, the Congress has provided more than $24 billion to the Corps for this purpose. While I grant that this figure is inflated by the enormous cost of reconstructing New Orleans
and the surrounding areas, perhaps New Orleans would not have flooded in 2005 had we invested in critical infrastructure in the prior years.
As we debate the long-term trajectory of taxes and spending, we cannot forgo actions necessary for the security and safety of our citizens. Yes, we must make difficult choices that will impact the future of this Nation, but we cannot allow those decisions to fall on the backs of those who have already suffered. Our country has provided billions in infrastructure funding on an emergency basis for dams, schools and roads in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet we don't have the fortitude to acknowledge that
it costs money to protect our citizens at home. We must stop disinvesting in the United States economy. In its 2009 report card on America's infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated an investment of $2.2 trillion is necessary to bring our Nation's infrastructure up to a good condition. Moving forward, we must have the strength to budget for emergencies on an annual basis. We know they happen every year, and it is time to begin to responsibly budget for them.
I appreciate the chairman increasing Corps funding by $195 million above the President's woefully inadequate request, ensuring that some ongoing projects will not be terminated.
Even with this additional funding, the bill provides $677 million less than it did in 2010.
Our ports, harbors, navigational channels and locks continue to provide the foundation for long-term economic growth. At this funding level, we are not close to addressing the dredging backlog that plagues waterborne commerce in the United States.
Currently, for the top 59 ports in the United States, the Corps is only able to maintain authorized steps within the middle of the channel 33 percent of the time. Every day, this costs companies that rely on these ports money and serves as a major impediment to expanding their workforce. This is merely one of the reasons why in 2009 the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our Nation's dams, levees and inland waterways grades of D or D minus.
Renewable energy programs in this bill are reduced. We can debate whether our dependency on imported oil and other carbon fuels is an environmental problem or an economic problem. Either way, it is clearly a national security problem. We must expand the mix of our energy supply, and we must use the energy supply we have more efficiently, and we must also transport it more effectively. We have to make an investment to do that, and I do not believe that the allocation allows for the support necessary.
I would note that the bill adds two hubs to the Department of Energy while cutting both the Science and Renewable Energy accounts that fund them, giving the Department a total of five. This organizational model has not yet been proven, and I have serious reservations about starting two new hubs in light of the cuts to the underlying accounts.
Nonproliferation accounts are reduced significantly, and while I appreciate the chairman's efforts to preserve some of the most critical activities, the bill reduces our ability to counter the most serious threat confronting our national security and that is the threat of nuclear terrorism.
The bill cuts the defense nuclear nonproliferation account by more than $460 million from the request. This comes on top of more than $360 million cut from the request that was provided in final fiscal year bill 2011. These cuts reduce our ability to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, delaying the removal of bomb-grade uranium, and limiting our capacity to detect illegal and illicit trafficking of nuclear materials.
And, finally, I am troubled that the bill includes a misguided prohibition on funds to develop, adopt, implement, administer or enforce a change or supplement to rules related to the Clean Water Act regulatory guidelines. This provision applies not only to this fiscal year but to any subsequent energy and water act. We should be taking actions that address legitimate concerns while providing some clarity and certainty to the regulatory process, not prolonging the confusion, as this provision
In closing, I am truly appreciative that we are again doing the work of [Page: H4784]
this committee, and I commend Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks for their efforts to this end. And as I said at the beginning of my remarks, Chairman Frelinghuysen has done a superb job. While marginal differences exist, our agreement on the overall bill is fundamental.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.