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Excerpts from the House Debate on the FY 2010 DOE Funding Bill

Richard M. Jones
Number 99 - July 28, 2009  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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During House consideration of the FY 2010 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill earlier this month Members discussed funding for the DOE Office of Science; the Thomas Jefferson Laboratory upgrade; the Energy Innovation Hubs; funding for Laboratory Directed Research and Development; and LANSCE, the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. Selections from the floor debate follow:

Office of Science Funding

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL):

“I rise today in support of the fiscal year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. I want to commend Chairman [Ed] Pastor and [Subcommittee] Ranking Member [Rodney] Frelinghuysen and their subcommittee for putting together a balanced bill that clearly recognizes the importance of scientific research and energy security to our Nation’s competitiveness.

“There are several provisions of this bill I’m proud to support. Chief among those is the increase for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. I, along with 70 of my colleagues, asked appropriators for an increase consistent with the President’s request to double the investment in the basic sciences within the next decade. The committee provided for $170 million more than the fiscal year 2009. This funding is critical to our basic research infrastructure and national laboratory work, like that of Argonne in my district.

“The innovations and solutions that will enable us to overcome many of our greatest challenges from our economic crisis, environmental concerns, dependence on foreign energy, and escalating health care costs all start with basic research investments. Economic experts have concluded that science-driven technology has accounted for more than 50 percent of the growth of the U.S. economy during the last half century.

“In recent years, Congress has come to recognize that science will be the foundation to address those needs and keep America globally competitive. As evidenced by the American COMPETES Act in 2007, both Democrats and Republicans support efforts to increase basic research in the physical sciences to meet the needs of our growing population. I will insert a copy of our letter in the [Congressional] Record.”


Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory Upgrade

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA):

“I, along with my colleague from Virginia [Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA)], would like to briefly discuss the importance of fully funding the Thomas Jefferson Lab's 12 GeV Upgrade.

“This important project received accelerated funding in the Recovery Act. It is vital that this project receive the administration's full request of $22 million in this bill. If full funding is not in place for the upcoming fiscal year due to stringent controls in how Recovery Act funds are spent, there is little flexibility for the lab to meet their construction project without costly scheduling delays or potential elimination of physics-related work. I would hope that the gentleman from Arizona [Rep. Pastor] will work with me and Mr. Wittman to ensure that this project is funded at the administration's request for fiscal year 2010.”

Rep. Wittman:

“I rise in support and to echo the remarks of my colleague from Virginia [Rep. Scott]. The Thomas Jefferson Lab is a world leader in nuclear physics research and education. The lab is currently in the midst of a major upgrade to their accelerator facility. Fully funding the accelerator upgrade will significantly expand the facility's research potential and will lead to a greater understanding of atomic particles, the building blocks of all matter. Research at Jefferson Lab will continue to expand our knowledge of nuclear physics that lead to many exciting scientific advances. I respectfully request that the gentleman from Arizona would work to fully fund this important project at Jefferson Lab.”

Rep. Pastor:

“I thank the gentleman for bringing this important issue to us. You have made a case that the administration request for $22 million for the continuous electron beam accelerator facility is merited. You have my personal commitment to work with you and Mr. Wittman going forward to see that this project receives the funding it needs and deserves.”

Rep. Scott:

“I thank you for your commitment and thank you for your willingness to work on this important issue and thank my colleague from Virginia for his support and look forward to working with you in [the House and Senate final appropriations] conference.”

 

Energy Innovation Hubs

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO):

“I, along with my colleague Mr. [Rep. Russ] Carnahan [D-MO] rise to enter into a [prearranged conversational] colloquy.

“Mr. Pastor, several weeks ago the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition met with the Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu. He shared his vision of eight energy innovation hubs that would deliver transformational energy technologies. This bill only funds one of those important hubs.

“When these hubs were first discussed with the committee, DOE’s action plan was not fully developed. Since that time, they have made necessary revisions to develop the concept. While we support funding only proposals that are fully developed, we hope that you will work with the members of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition and the Department of Energy to continue working to fund this initiative as this process continues.”

Rep. Carnahan:

“As co-chair of the Congressional High Performance Building Caucus, I know firsthand that improvements to our built environment are some of the lowest hanging fruit in terms of energy efficiency gains.

“In the long term, we would work with you, Mr. Chairman, to see that all eight energy innovation hubs are fully funded. In the short term, as we enter into [the final appropriations] conference with the Senate, we would like to work with you to ensure that the Fuels from Sunlight Hub and the Energy Efficient Building Systems Hub are fully funded. I submit for the [Congressional] Record letters from Members and organizations who also support funding of the energy efficient building systems. I thank you, Mr. Pastor, for your willingness to address this issue, and I look forward to working with you.”

Rep. Pastor:

“First of all, you are both correct in that when the [Energy] Secretary appeared before the subcommittee, this is and was presented as a work in progress. And knowing that we are going to proceed forward with the administration and with the Secretary, we thought that it was in the best interest to fund one hub. And as the Secretary and the administration goes forward in developing these hubs, we look forward to working with you.”

“So we look forward to working with you and Mr. Carnahan because it’s an idea that obviously will expand, will grow, and we want to make sure that the committee, the subcommittee has the opportunity to work with the Secretary to see its development. So we look forward to working with you.”

 

Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD)

Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM):

“ I offer this amendment [to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill] in strong support of research and development at our national laboratories. Specifically, my amendment provides a 1 percent increase in the Laboratory Directed Research and Development, which is commonly referred to as LDRD. LDRD increases the ability of laboratories to retain expertise and pursue innovative projects by providing additional discretion for Department of Energy laboratories to select research activities. These high-risk, high-reward projects yield cutting-edge advancements in science and technology and produce some of our most successful research and development initiatives. These are projects with an immediate relevance and a direct impact on national security and our goal of energy independence.

“Many LDRD projects have formed the basis of some of the national labs’ most successful research initiatives. For example, at Sandia National Laboratories in my district, an LDRD researcher developed the chemistry for a decontamination foam that is used by our military to protect us against chemical and biological attacks. In fact, this was the foam that was used to decontaminate the Senate Hart Office Building after the anthrax attacks of 2001. We know all too well that those who wish our country harm are constantly adapting their methods, making these LDRD projects vitally important to our national security.

“LDRD is equally relevant to our goal of energy independence. An LDRD project developed a manufacturing process that will substantially reduce the cost of highly efficient LED light bulbs. These LED light bulbs have the potential to decrease electricity consumed in lighting by a full 50 percent by 2025. This will translate into meaningful cuts in utility bills for our working families and real savings for our small businesses. Energy independence is a critical element of our national security, and LED efficiency will significantly reduce our demand for energy. These advancements represent just two examples of the multiple innovative science and technology achievements made through LDRD initiatives.

“Under the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill, our labs were granted authority to use up to 8 percent of their budgets for LDRD initiatives, yet the [FY 2009] bill before we today would reduce that amount for 2010 to only 6 percent. My amendment would allow our labs to dedicate up to 7 percent of their budgets to LDRD. It is important to note that my amendment does not require any additional spending, as the LDRD funding percentage is derived from the
labs’ overall funding level, nor does my amendment cut any other program. Simply put, my amendment encourages innovative research and development that will promote our national security and help us to reach our goal of energy independence. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.”

Rep. Pastor:

“First of all, I’d like to thank the gentleman from New Mexico for yielding to me and to inform him that we will support the amendment as offered. However, I have some concerns about increasing the percentage of laboratory directed research at this time. I hope that this increase in lab directed research and development will, in this tight budget environment, produce a net increase in the national security output of the laboratories. I look forward to working with you to ensure this increase is tightly mission-oriented and will be compatible with meeting other challenges of the laboratories. With that, I will inform you that we are supporting this amendment.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ):

“I would like to associate my comments with Chairman Pastor. These are tight budget times, and I think we worked hard to provide the right balance for priorities on our Energy and Water bill. Many of us would have liked much more, shall we say, money spent on the safety and security of our nuclear weapons stockpile; but quite honestly, that was not to be. We all had to compromise, and this package is a fair, balanced one.

“A few comments about the LDRD, the Lab Directed R&D programs. These programs often allow our laboratories to skirt congressional priorities laid out in our legislation. Historically these funds have been used by labs to perform research and development on issues that at times are not at all germane to the Department of Energy. I have seen it firsthand. At the same time, these programs can be most innovative and give our researchers creative opportunities for work. So I don’t oppose the amendment. But I want to make it clear that all members of the committee, I am sure, will be watching very carefully to ensure that these funds are used to support the mission of the department.”

Rep. Heinrich:

“I want to add real quickly that the gentleman mentioned our nuclear stockpile. One of the other LDRD programs that I think was particularly important was the creation and assembly of safety devices for our [nuclear] stockpile, like the gel mylar capacitors that are used in the W76–1. I think the bottom line is that these programs represent some of the most cutting-edge research that we do. They are critical to our national security. They are critical to our energy independence, and I would urge the support of my colleagues.”

The House approved the amendment by a vote of 424 yes votes, 1 present, and 14 not voting.

 

LANSCE, The Los Alamos Neutron Science Center

The Administration requested no funding for LANSCE. The House bill provided no funding.

Rep. Ben Lujan (D-NM):

“I would first like to commend my good friend from Arizona (Rep. Pastor) for the strong commitment this bill shows toward shoring up both science and the national security of this country. The strong support for the Office of Science will be well received in my home State of New Mexico.

“I’m seeking the commitment of the gentleman from Arizona to work with me on refurbishing LANSCE, the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. This facility plays a crucial role in providing one-of-a-kind experimental capabilities to further the lab’s science mission. In addition, it’s a key draw for new scientific talent in Los Alamos National Laboratory and high-tech research into northern New Mexico. The capabilities resident within the LANSCE facility cannot be duplicated in a cost-effective manner anywhere else in the country. The investment in the capabilities the refurbishment will sustain will pay for itself many times over.”

Rep. Pastor:

“First of all, I want to thank you for raising this important issue, and you have my personal commitment to work with you as we go forward to find a solution that best serves the national security. We’re well aware of the capabilities and the value of Los Alamos National Laboratories.”

Rep. Lujan:

“Again, I would like to commend my friend, the gentleman from Arizona for this legislation, and I thank him for his willingness to work with me on this important issue.”

Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
rjones@aip.org
301-209-3095