House Democrats plan to make at least part of Wednesday's debate on a $789 billion spending bill for fiscal 2018 about restoring renewable energy funding at the Department of Energy through a slew of amendments that likely will slow down a final vote on the overall spending package.
Democrats are offering at least nine amendments in a bid to raise spending levels for the Energy Department's Office of Energy and Renewable Energy, as well as individual programs to support electric vehicles and alternative fuels.
The House spending bill does not include the deep cuts to renewables that President Trump proposed in his fiscal 2018 budget request, but most House Democrats say renewable technologies should be funded at least at fiscal 2017 levels. The Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill, included in the spending package, totals $37.5 billion, which is $203 million below fiscal 2017 levels but $3.2 billion above the cuts that Trump proposed in his request.
The first amendment comes from Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., that seeks to increase funding for the renewable energy office by $177 million, while simultaneously reducing funding for fossil energy research and development by $355 million.
A second amendment from Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., adds nearly $162 million to the renewable energy office "for research and development to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies," according to a summary of the proposal.
A third amendment from Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., would seek to defund the Energy Department's nuclear weapons component, which makes up nearly half of the agency's responsibilities, and move spending to clean energy development. The proposed rider would cut $921 million from the agency's nuclear weapons activities' account and add that funding to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Another amendment offered by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., would increase money for the renewable energy account by $986 million to the fiscal 2017 level. It would reduce funds for fossil fuel energy research by $634 million while cutting funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration weapons programs by $352 million.
Another five amendments seek to restore the renewable energy office and bump up funds for the hydrogen fuel cell program and a water energy program, while restoring funding for the Advanced Manufacturing Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by $20 million. It would cut $40 million from Fossil Energy Research and Development. Another Democratic rider seeks to restore funds for clean energy "hubs" created by the Obama administration to advance those technologies.
The Republican-controlled House is unlikely to back any of the Democratic amendments as debate begins toward passage of the spending bill.
However, at least one Republican amendment seeks to boost the Energy Department's fossil energy funding to fiscal 2017 levels, which the Democrats want to direct to renewable energy. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is slated to offer the amendment, according to the list of 72 amendments posted by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Other Democratic amendments will seek to remove a GOP-backed amendment that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the contentious Waters of the U.S. rule, which expands the agency's clean water authority on private lands. The Nevada delegation also wants to include an amendment that "strikes language that would prohibit closure of the Yucca Mountain project," which is slated to be the nation's only permanent nuclear waste repository.
The Obama administration tried to kill the project, but the move was reversed by a federal appeals court. The Trump administration supports opening the Yucca Mountain site, and the fiscal 2018 spending bill includes over $100 million toward Yucca Mountain's final approval and licensing.