Senate and House appropriations committees are taking different stances on fiscal year 2013 funding for Army Corps of Engineers civil works and Dept. of Energy defense environmental cleanup programs, with the Senate panel recommending small hikes and the House committee calling for modest reductions.
Amendments added to the House committee’s energy and water programs bill, which the panel cleared on April 25, have drawn criticism from architecture industry and environmental groups.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s energy-water measure, which it approved April 26, would increase the Corps civil works budget by less than 1%, to $5 billion, and lift DOE’s remediation account by 1%, to slightly more than $5 billion.
By comparison, the House committee’s version would pare Corps civil works 4%, to $4.8 billion and trim the DOE defense cleanup budget by 2%, to $5 billion.
The year-over-year comparisons for Corps civil works exclude the $1.7 billion the agency received earlier this year in emergency spending for disaster relief.
The next steps for these bills are floor votes in the House and Senate.
Final 2013 numbers for the Corps, DOE and other major federal construction programs won’t be known for months, but the committee's recommended funding levels give construction industry firms a signal of where lawmakers are heading.
Senate energy-water subcommittee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) noted, “For the first time since 2009, the committee is including a limited number of new studies and project starts for the Corps.” Specifically, the Senate panel’s measure provides for five new studies and three construction starts, which the panel left up to the Corps to select.
The House committee’s energy-water bill has no new starts.
The two committees also took different tacks on nuclear waste disposal. The Senate panel included a provision to set up a pilot program for DOE to begin what Feinstein termed a “consent-based process” to develop one more interim storage sites for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.