Brenda Hoffman / Public Citizen – 2004-11-24 09:17:17
Extra Nuclear Power Subsidies Quietly Passed
Brenda Hoffman / Public Citizen
The FY05 Omnibus Appropriations conference report (HR 4818), passed out of conference committee Saturday, includes — as part of the Energy and Water Development section — $50 million for the Nuclear Power 2010 program — five times what the Bush administration requested.
This money is the pool from which funds are drawn to support 50 percent of the cost of the three Early Site Permit applications in Virginia, Illinois, and Mississippi, as well as the three consortia that have announced their intention to apply for a combined Construction and Operating License.
One [nuclear power] consortium, NuStart Energy Development, has requested $400 million in [taxpayer-funded] support over the next few years. A second, led by Dominion, has asked for $250 million.
“This is yet another example of the Bush administration subsidizing a mature industry that should sink or swim on its own merits after 50 years of market failures,” said Michele Boyd, legislative director of Public Citizen’s energy program. “The money would be better spent developing truly clean and renewable forms of energy generation.”
Nuclear power will not alleviate our major energy problems of the day: high oil prices and a reliance on oil imports from politically unstable regions. Only 1.4 percent of our electricity is generated from oil, so greater reliance on nuclear power will have essentially no impact on demand for oil.
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White House Flexes Muscle in Final Spending Talks
Joseph J. Schatz / Congressional Quarterly
WASHINGTON (Nov. 18, 2004) — After 10 months of budget and appropriations delays, President Bush appears close to a victory in his efforts to require congressional appropriators to quickly assemble a huge spending package while staying within tight budget limits.
The White House has pressed broad mandates — basically, to keep the measure lean and clean — but in most cases did not dictate precise spending language to appropriators. And GOP leaders and appropriators have worked in tandem over the past two weeks to complete what has so far been a smooth process, largely devoid of add-ons. In particular, Senate appropriators, who had pressed for $8.1 billion in additional spending before the election, relented on the extra funding under pressure to quickly revive the stalled process.
Along the way, congressional appropriators have made clear that if they have to live within the budgetary constraints they often rail against, the White House must also make concessions. Late Thursday night appropriators and White House officials continued to disagree on lawmakers’ plans to scale back the administration’s spending requests on a few priorities, such as the Millennium Challenge Accounts, a foreign assistance program for developing nations that meet certain standards for governance.
In addition, the administration late Thursday night had still not persuaded lawmakers to drop language limiting White House outsourcing plans.
But appropriators and leadership aides still were optimistic as they worked late into the night about completing a huge fiscal 2005 omnibus spending package that will likely include all nine of the unfinished spending bills and total about $388 billion in discretionary spending. House GOP leaders held out hope that they would be able to bring the bill to the floor sometime Friday, though a weekend session is increasingly likely. Senate action would follow a House vote.
Earlier in the week, it appeared likely that the energy and water development spending bill (HR 4614) would not be part of the omnibus. With Senate subcommittee Chairman Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., unwilling to strike a deal Nov. 17, appropriators were ready to delay further negotiations on the contentious measure until early next year. Domenici had not produced even a draft bill this year, faced with a dispute over funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and a tight budget allocation that could affect, among other programs, funding for nuclear laboratories in New Mexico.
But on Nov. 17, Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, stepped in and ordered energy and water appropriators to produce a bill for inclusion in the omnibus, GOP aides said. The bill includes popular water projects that members do not want delayed.
The final details of the energy and water portion of the omnibus had not been agreed to late Thursday evening. But House subcommittee Chairman David L. Hobson, R-Ohio, said that that night the Yucca Mountain program would be funded at $577 million — the same amount as last year. Hobson said the money would not come from a nuclear waste trust fund. Army Corps of Engineers water projects would be funded at roughly $4.7 billion.
While pleased that the bill appeared ready for completion, Hobson said he was frustrated that in the haste to assemble it some members would not be able to secure sought-after Corps water projects. “I know there are going to be people disappointed because the process doesn’t allow me to do justice to everyone,” Hobson said.
Above all, Bush demanded that lawmakers not breach the fiscal 2005 discretionary spending ceiling of $821.9 billion. That meant that Senate appropriators, who before the election added $8.1 billion to the remaining spending bills through a series of budgetary gimmicks, would have to relent. “The president’s senior advisers would recommend he veto any bill that exceeds the agreed-upon spending limits or remains within the limits only through the use of unacceptable budgetary devices that mask the true level of discretionary spending,” Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten said in a Nov. 17 letter to appropriators.
Appropriators nonetheless managed to finance about $4 billion in extra spending for popular programs with an across-the-board cut of between 0.75 percent and 1 percent to non-security programs, though they may use a budgetary maneuver involving public housing authorities.
The White House also made veto threats on a number of legislative riders, including language to lift the Cuba travel ban, block White House overtime regulations and limit administration outsourcing efforts. As of late Thursday, appropriators appeared ready to drop most of the riders, although the outsourcing language remained a subject of contention.
Moreover, appropriators and leaders have cooperated in keeping the omnibus largely free of other legislative riders, GOP aides said. Speculation remained, however, about the possibility of including language to change country-of-origin food labeling regulations — an idea promoted by some senior House Republicans but opposed by the Senate GOP leadership. And final negotiations could lead to last-minute additions — including some sought by leadership.
Appropriators plan to include a 3.5 percent pay raise for civilian government workers, which is opposed by the White House, according to a GOP appropriations aide.
Lawmakers appeared to be prepared to slash the president’s request for the Millennium Challenge Accounts program by $1 billion, for a total of about $1.5 billion. They were planning to provide $300 million less than the White House request for NASA funding, although the administration was resisting those efforts Thursday night.
However, some Republicans insisted the White House was not particularly intrusive in the final negotiations. “Nobody bothered me,” Hobson said.
In several portions of the omnibus, appropriators have restrained spending more than in recent years. They are expected to provide an increase over fiscal 2004 levels for special education programs, but they will not likely meet the president’s request level of $11.07 billion, according to one House GOP aide. Senate appropriators, with the help of a series of budgetary gimmicks, had proposed $161 million more the White House.
Conferees are expected to freeze medical research under the National Science Foundation, cut EPA grants by $300 million and reduce AmeriCorps spending.
Conferees have agreed to provide $5.8 billion for the Commerce Department, just above the House proposal and $1 billion less than the Senate proposal, a House GOP appropriations aide said. The Justice Department would receive $20.6 billion and the State Department $8.9 billion.
Transportation-Treasury negotiators have agreed to fund Amtrak at the Senate-proposed funding level of $1.2 billion, $300 million more than in the House bill. In addition, they will provide $507 billion for Postal Service biohazard detection efforts, and remove the “emergency” designation proposed by Stevens for all but $7 million of that funding.
On the Interior Department section of the omnibus, Stevens was expected to delete a House amendment that would halt road building in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
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