Beltway: House Questions Global Warming, Renewables Budgets

By Published On: March 2, 2012

In parsing the 2012 federal budget, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy & Power and Subcommittee on Environment & the Economy questioned during a joint hearing Feb. 28 whether the Environmental Protection Agency should continue funding its greenhouse gas reduction efforts. “Greenhouse gas reduction is one of our top priorities,” replied agency administrator Lisa Jackson. In total, the proposed budget for taking action to decrease global warming and improve air quality is $1.1 billion. The total agency budget is $8.3 billion. While most of the committee condemned the agency’s pursuit of controlling emissions leading to global warming, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) supported the agency’s proposed budget. “Climate change is the greatest environmental threat we face . . . certainly in the power sector,” he said. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) backed the agency’s efforts to build energy and environmentally sustainable communities, along with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Housing Administration. Some Republicans did not support EPA’s community efforts. They questioned litter awareness programs and singled out a grant for Camp Kumbaya as examples of unnecessary spending. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development the same day questioned Department of Energy secretary Steve Chu on his agency’s proposed budget. While less controversial in the Republican-led House than the Environmental Protection Agency, members called on Chu to explain why the nation should spend $5 billion to develop clean energy and $350 million to “fundamentally” change the way we use energy. Members also questioned cutting fossil fuel research by 21 percent. Representatives also keyed in on the demise of the federal repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The department called off its development in March 2010. Since then, the termination has been the subject of many federal hearings in an effort to restart the facility. Meanwhile, nuclear plants like Diablo Canyon and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station built temporary on-site storage for high-level radioactive waste, until, and if, the federal government develops a centralized facility. Chu could not escape questions about the failed loan guarantee for Fremont-based Solyndra. “There was a very very rapid change in the solar [economic] ecosystem,” he explained. He supported more loan guarantees, promising Congress that the department is “monitoring these things very close.”

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