House Committee Drastically Reduces SRF Budgets For Next Year

September 2013, Vol. 68 No. 9

Dan Hartnett, spokesman for the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, says a number of so-called "discretionary programs" across the federal government have been reduced substantially by initial House Appropriations Committee actions -- EPA programs perhaps more than most. "But I would be surprised if such low numbers hold up when the books are finally closed on the fiscal 2014 budget," Hartnett states. A final decision on the SRF budgets will not be made until September.

The Senate is unlikely to follow the House's lead. At hearings in May in the Senate Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) complained about a number of proposed EPA budget cuts to Bob Perciasepe, then the acting administrator. (Since, Gina McCarthy was subsequently confirmed by the Senate as EPA administrator.) Reed told Perciasepe that he was "most disappointed" in the Obama proposed cuts to the SRFs, which are not nearly as deep as the House cuts. "It is hard to understand how the President's proposed cuts square with the President's focus on job creation and infrastructure development," Reed stated.

Senate to consider pipeline permitting reform, too
It looks like the Senate will take up some form of pipeline permitting reform but the bill may not resemble the one the House was expected to pass. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released a broad statement on natural gas issues on July 25. Fleshing out the details in a speech hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, Wyden laid out four areas – infrastructure, transportation, exports and shale development – where he has begun working to find bipartisan agreement. With regard to infrastructure, he wants to speed up pipeline development while also plugging the methane leaks that threaten the climate advantage that natural gas can provide. “I’m going to look for ways to not just build more pipelines, but to build better pipelines,” Wyden said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the top Republican on the committee, is also interested in moving forward with some sort of pipeline legislation, but apparently is a lot less interested in some broader natural gas bill. "We are doing our due diligence and seeing whether legislation is needed or whether the FERC can improve the permitting process administratively," says Robert Dillon, spokesman for Murkowski. "Sometimes legislation leads to unintended consequences."