Nuclear subsidies likely to stay in omnibus spending package
The Senate is debating the wide-ranging $500-plus billion omnibus spending package right now. Most of the points of contention are extremely important — FOIA, defense spending — but for the purposes of this site, a bit off-topic. It failed its most recent cloture vote on the question of war-funding (Republicans, of course, want more), and minority leader Mitch McConnell has basically promised it won’t pass unless the Democrats cave. So
if when that happens, I’ll let you know. I’ll also let you know if I hear (or am sent) any statements about the energy provisions, but for now, here’s a bunch of info.
There are indeed billions of dollars in allowances (though not all mandated subsidies) for nuclear energy programs. The amendment reads (PDF):
For Department of Energy expenses including the purchase, construction, and acquisition of plant and capital equipment, and other expenses necessary for nuclear energy activities in carrying out the purposes of the Department of Energy Organization Act including the acquisition or condemnation of any real proper ty or any facility or for plant or facility acquisition, construction, or expansion, and the purchase of not to exceed 20 passenger motor vehicles for replacement only, including one ambulance, $970,525,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That $233,849,000 is authorized to be appropriated for Project 99-D-143 Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, Savannah River Site, South Carolina: Provided further, That the Department of Energy adhere strictly to Department of Energy Order 413.3A for Project 99-D-143.
Whew! So, what, exactly, does DOE Order 413.3A mandate? Well, here’s what the paper says (PDF):
To provide the Department of Energy (DOE), including the National Nuclear Security Administration, with project management direction for the acquisition of capital assets with the goal of delivering projects on schedule, within budget, and fully capable of meeting mission performance, safeguards and security, and environmental, safety, and health standards.
Yup. Lots of money for nuclear energy, and it reeks of Steny Hoyer. That’s to say nothing of the smaller — but still substantial — sums that may end up dedicated to coal-to-liquid research. Also, as explained to me by a leadership aide, there will be no conference report for this package, thanks to an informal agreement by the chief appropriators in both bodies. Which means that unless an amendment striking this amendment can pass (and don’t count on it), this is going to go through. Sigh.
At the very least, Feinstein and Boxer managed to get this in:
Of the funds provided in the Environmental Programs and Management Account, not less than $3,500,000 shall be provided for activities to develop and publish a draft rule no later than 9 months after the date of enactment of this Act, and a final rule no later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, to require mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions above appropriate thresholds in all sectors of the economy of the United States.
This is actually quite significant — not the money itself, but what the money is dedicated to: A requirement that the EPA use its power under the Clean Air Act to require companies to report their greenhouse-gas emissions. Some companies do this voluntarily already, but the mandate will clarify who and what, exactly, are the real-world sources of global warming pollution, and, more importantly, provide critical data to whatever agency eventually is appointed to oversee a cap-and-trade program. It’s extremely valuable information, and may prove crucial if we’re to avoid some of the confusion that characterized the EU’s carbon trading program.
That’s a bit of good news, and is sure to rankle the easily-rankled John Dingell — who is known to be, shall we say, a bit possessive of this issue. Still, this isn’t the omnibus bill you’d want to take home to meet your environmentalist mother … or something like that. Assuming it passes, it will be sent back to the House for a final vote, and then it’s off to the White House.