Issue Date: February 28, 2011
House Slashes Federal Funding
In the wee hours of Feb. 19, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would deeply cut federal spending, including support for key science agencies. The legislation would continue funding the government through Sept. 30, the end of the 2011 fiscal year.
This week, the Senate will take up its version of the spending bill. The two chambers have until March 4 to reach an agreement. If they fail, a stopgap 2011 funding bill that was passed late last year, which funds the federal government at 2010 levels, will expire, and the federal government will have to shut down.
The House-cleared bill would slash $61 billion from 2010 levels for discretionary programs. Democratic leaders in the Senate say the cuts are too great and that they will not support the bill. President Barack Obama is unlikely to sign it if it were to clear Congress.
Pushed by conservative Republican members, the House considered hundreds of amendments, and the final legislation drastically cuts funds for many agencies and removes federal authority for many regulations that industry dislikes.
Within the Department of Energy, the House bill would cut overall funding by approximately $3 billion and reduce funding for the Office of Science by $900 million to $4 billion. Funding for renewable energy programs would drop by $800 million to $1.5 billion, and loan guarantees to help develop projects for solar and wind power would be eliminated.
Some DOE programs fared better. Fossil energy research would remain at current levels, and nuclear projects would retain government loan support.
Another target of the House measure is the Environmental Protection Agency, which would have its budget cut to $7.3 billion, down from the $10.3 billion the agency got in 2010.
The legislation would bar EPA from using fiscal 2011 funds to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from large industrial sources, such as power plants and chemical manufacturing facilities. The bill also prevents the agency from regulating emissions of five other types of greenhouse gases: methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. The American Chemistry Council is among industry groups that strongly back this provision of the bill, but environmentalists criticize it.
The measure would also halt U.S. support for the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), who introduced this part of the legislation, calls the international panel “an entity that is fraught with waste and fraud and engaged in dubious science.”
The bill would block the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol. Last October, EPA granted a request from ethanol producers to raise the 10% cap for ethanol levels that can be blended into gasoline (C&EN, Oct. 18, 2010, page 22). The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association praised the House for this move.
The House legislation also slashes budgets of research agencies. Both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health would get approximately $300 million less than they did in 2010, and the National Institute of Standards & Technology’s lab services and industrial services would see some $70 million less. In addition, the measure would prevent the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration from consolidating its climate-change activities into a planned National Climate Service.
Senate leaders have said they will accept budget cuts, but not as deep as those in the House bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) says he will push for another temporary funding bill, this one for just 30 days, to give the two bodies time to hammer out a deal. However, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) says that to gain Republican support even for a stopgap funding measure, it must include significant cuts.
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