Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) have unveiled a $56.2 billion “economic recovery package” that includes funding for things like public transit, home weatherization, and environmental cleanup. With time running out on this Congress, they may try to attach the measure to a continuing resolution.

“We must not forget Main Street as we work to address the crisis on Wall Street,” said Reid in a statement. “Democrats believe that we must urgently pass another economic recovery package that will create hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs and prevent cuts in critical services for millions of Americans.”

 

The package includes $2 billion for public transit agencies stressed by increased ridership, to help them meet capital and operating needs. It contains $350 million to fund capital projects for Amtrak. There’s also $750 million for weatherization programs, $5.1 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and $500 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program.

The bill contains a number of provisions related to energy independence and environmental concerns. It would approve loans for the auto industry that the House passed yesterday, to help companies retool factories to create more efficient vehicles. Another $300 million would be set aside for advanced battery research, $300 million to help local governments improve energy efficiency, $500 million for national parks, $750 million for environmental cleanup, and $800 million for clean-water systems.

The bill also calls for $925 million to fund the development of a “fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers,” which would be used in “the race for the disputed energy-rich region” of the Arctic. According to the plan, a new icebreaker “will ensure that the United States has the ability to respond to the growing risks presented by increased activity in the Arctic and protects U.S. environmental, economic, homeland security and national security interests in both Polar Regions.”

 

Here’s the full text of the energy and environment portion of the proposal:

The second stimulus includes major investments in promoting energy independence and a clean environment.  The underlying amendment includes $7.5 billion to support $25 billion of loans to auto companies to manufacture advanced, more energy-efficient vehicles.  The stimulus package adds $300 million for advanced battery research, $300 million to help local governments improve energy efficiency, $750 million for environmental clean up, and $800 million for urban and rural clean water systems.

Over 22 percent of the world’s energy supply is under the Arctic ice cap. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has stated that Russia should unilaterally claim part of the Arctic, stepping up the race for the disputed energy-rich region. Russia has a fleet of 20 heavy ice breakers and is nearing completion of the first of their newest fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers in an effort to control energy exploration and maritime trade in the region.  Thanks to the Bush Administration, the United States has only one functioning heavy polar icebreaker, and it has only six years left of useful life.  $925 million is included for the Coast Guard to provide what the Navy and the Air Force call, “an essential instrument of U.S. policy” in the region.  Constructing a new Coast Guard icebreaker will ensure that the United States has the ability to respond to the growing risks presented by increased activity in the Arctic and protects U.S. environmental, economic, homeland security and national security interests in both Polar Regions.

National Park Centennial Fund.  The stimulus package establishes the Centennial Fund for fiscal years 2009-2018.  Over $500 million in public-private funding will be provided for restoration of Park Service facilities and development of new programs.  Funding thus far has provided an additional 3,000 park rangers, law enforcement rangers, and maintenance personnel service-wide.

Corps of Engineers.  The second stimulus includes $500 million, of which $200 million will provide construction jobs for rehabilitation of some of the Corps’ hydropower plants that are nearing the end of their design life.  Construction work includes rewinding generators, replacing turbines and transformers, upgrading switchyards and other electrical equipment. Maintenance work would include replacing breakers, electrical equipment and other non-routine maintenance items such as replacing surge tanks, stators, intake tubes, etc.  $100 million in funding is included for dredging of channels that provide either significant movement of coal, fuel, liquefied natural gas (LNG), or oil and natural gas equipment, and to partially address the backlog of construction work at Corps of Engineers, flood control, environmental restoration and navigation projects nationwide.  And an additional $200 million for the Corps will be used to fund work that can be immediately awarded to provide jobs in the construction industry across the country.

Advanced Battery Technology.  $300 million is included for Advanced Battery technology to help resolve problems in developing long-term, cost-effective storage systems, the biggest hurdle to bringing plug-in hybrid or pure plug-in vehicles to the marketplace.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Project Grants.  The stimulus includes $300 million for competitively awarded grants to local, county, State, and tribal governments for innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy demonstration projects.

Bureau of Reclamation Energy Stimulus Work.  $50 million provides immediate jobs for the rehabilitation of some Bureau of Reclamation hydropower plants that are nearing the end of their design life. Additionally, a Canal Safety Program would be initiated by Bureau of Reclamation to determine the safety and stability of the hundreds of miles of canals that convey water across the western U.S.  Many of these canals are approaching 100-years of age and are nearing the end of their design life. This program would help to determine the next steps that should be undertaken to address these aging canals.

The bill includes $600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides funding to States for low-cost loans to make local sewer projects affordable.

EPA estimates that $202 billion will be needed to keep pace with aging sewer infrastructure needs over the next 20 years, which would require an average commitment of $10 billion per year.   The President’s FY 2009 request of $555 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund funds just 5 percent of that annual need.

It is estimated by the State and local water pollution agencies’ association that this $600 million investment would create at least 24,000 jobs and generate an additional $1.1 billion in economic benefits for communities.

Rural Utilities & Community Facilities. The stimulus includes $792 million in loans and grants for essential rural community facilities, including hospitals, health clinics, health and safety vehicles and equipment, public buildings, and child and elder care facilities.  The bill also provides $26 million for distance learning and telemedicine infrastructure grants to improve access to these services in remote rural communities.  A substantial and longstanding backlog exists of approved applications for clean water and waste disposal projects in rural communities.  The recent Farm Bill provided some funding for this purpose, but the backlog remains. This bill includes $200 million in budget authority that will support over $500 million in loans and grants for needed water and waste disposal facilities in remote rural areas.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The second stimulus also includes $13.1 million to permit prompt implementation of new authorities enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill (P.L. 110-246) and to enhance enforcement, market surveillance, and oversight of the futures markets in response to significant public concern about record energy and agricultural commodity prices, including escalating costs at the gas pump and the impact on American consumers and our national economy.

Department of Energy. The stimulus includes $750 million for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Cleanup program of former nuclear weapons production plants, which will restore at least 200 cleanup jobs around the nation that were going to be lost due to the Administration’s budget cuts in FY 2008 and 2009.