Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Omnibus deal cuts EPA spending, ends light bulb ban

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CORRECTION: This article has been corrected to reflect proposed spending for a safety review of Yucca Mountain. The spending bill ensures funds needed to complete a safety review of the proposed nuclear waste disposal site were not rescinded from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Republicans won several energy and environment concessions in the $1.012 trillion fiscal 2014 spending bill House and Senate lawmakers unveiled late Monday, though attempts to handicap a slew of Environmental Protection Agency regulations did not make it into the final version.

The package will end funding for the federal light bulb standard and soften policies that restrict public financing for construction of coal-fired power plants abroad, among other measures.

The overall deal would fund the government through Sept. 30, preventing another government shutdown. Since current funding expires Wednesday, lawmakers are expected to push through a stopgap measure to keep the government open until both chambers can vote on the spending plan.

The EPA would receive $8.2 billion, a drop of $143 million compared with enacted fiscal 2013 levels. DOE energy programs would get $10.2 billon, a bump of $620 million. The Interior Department, which oversees national parks and energy development on federal land, would get $1.1 billion, amounting to a $44 million increase.

Within DOE, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would have $1.9 billion to spend, falling short of the $2.78 billion President Obama requested in his fiscal 2014 budget proposal but still $102 million above fiscal 2013 levels. And fossil energy research spending would hit $562 million, a $28 million increase above fiscal 2013 levels and $141 million more than Obama's recommendation.

House Appropriations Republicans said the bill would maintain funds for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to complete a safety evaluation report for Yucca Mountain, which they said would enable "Yucca Mountain to maintain its viability for future use."

The statement is a bit of a misnomer — those previously appropriated dollars simply won't be rescinded from the High Level Waste Fund. It's enough to complete a safety evaluation report for Yucca, but would fall short of funding a full review, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said.

Yucca, the controversial proposed long-term nuclear waste storage site in Nevada, is in administrative limbo because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it doesn't have the money to complete its safety review. In August, a federal court ordered the regulator to restart consideration of the site, which Republicans support, to adhere to a 1982 federal law.

Republicans scored victories in blocking regulation of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions — shed of the technical vernacular, cow flatulence — and in weakening policies adopted by the Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation that made it harder to use public dollars to finance coal-fired power plant construction overseas.

Also gone — funding for the DOE's light bulb standard, which had effectively banned the production and import of most incandescent bulbs.

The policy raised the ire of Republicans in recent years, who said it amounted to regulatory overreach by taking the bulbs out of the market place. Still, prices for those more energy-efficient varieties have dropped as most manufacturers have retooled to bulbs aligned with the federal standards that former President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007 as part of a bipartisan energy bill.

The deal doesn't, however, include a proposal by House Republicans to prohibit the agency's proposed greenhouse gas regulations on electric utilities. The GOP was unlikely to succeed on that shot at those rules on power plant emissions for new and existing facilities, a cornerstone of Obama's second-term climate agenda.

Democrats counted that as a win, as they called it one of the "egregious policy riders" proposed by House Republicans that didn't make it into the final bill. Democrats also kept off a provision that would have handcuffed Clean Water Act protections.

Democrats also secured spending boosts for some coveted programs, including the high-risk, high-reward energy research program the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy — which rose to $280 million, up $15.5 million — and environmental cleanup activities, which increased by $111 million to $5.8 billion.

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