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CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 4733, ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2001 -- (House of Representatives - September 28, 2000)

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the gentleman just said, and I think that that is a very good procedure and the right direction, but is it not true that the bill appropriates an additional $2 billion for a variety of unknown works, and that it is $32 million

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below the requests for energy conservation and alternative energy as requested by the President; is not that true?

   Mr. PACKARD. Reclaiming my time, the $2 billion figure has been thrown around several times today. It is an inaccurate figure. We have increased the funding for this bill to the tune of $1.6 billion, not $2 billion. But the fact is we have readdressed the alternative fuel issue, and we have increased it substantially this year over last year. That is moving in the right direction and in the direction the gentleman has addressed.

   Mr. HINCHEY. But it is $32 million less than the President requested.

   Mr. PACKARD. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. KNOLLENBERG), a valued member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

   Mr. KNOLLENBERG. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California (Chairman PACKARD) very much for his great work. I, too, want to join my colleagues in extending to the gentleman the very best. Three words come to mind when I think of the gentleman from California (Mr. PACKARD) as to the style in which he operates, one is temperament and another patience and the third is attentiveness. The gentleman ranks high on all three of those.

   Again, my thanks also to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. VISCLOSKY), the ranking Member and the staff that contributed so much to this bill.

   Let me just say that this is a good bill. It is a good conference report. It exercises a proper balance between spending for the Nation's important water, energy and national security projects while still maintaining adequate fiscal restraint. Furthermore, the bill sets aside a sizable amount of money, sizable amount of the budget surplus to go towards paying down the Federal debt.

   As we all know, the Nation is facing a period of exceptionally high energy prices. Unfortunately, the Clinton-Gore administration has decided to tamper with our national security by releasing oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve instead of correcting what can only be called their antienergy policy of the last 8 years.

   Mr. Speaker, this measure takes some of the necessary steps toward bringing a proper balance to our national energy mix. It provides for a variety of important research and development projects that I hope will deliver some of the break-through technologies to fuel America's future energy needs.

   It is clear that electricity is the source that drives our burgeoning information economy, and we need to recognize that nuclear power now provides over one-fifth of our total electric demand. Along these lines, this bill provides vitally required funding for nuclear energy research under the NERI, the NEPO and the NEER programs; and it enhances the ability of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to perform its mission. And nuclear technology provides more than just power. Nuclear technology right now is being used to take excess weapons material and making it available for life-saving cancer treatment.

   It likewise keeps the Department of Energy on its path towards completing nuclear cleanup as some of the Nation's old cold war weapon sites by the year 2006, and it funds the development of the Yucca Mountain spent fuel repository.

   The measure also invests in fusion as a future energy source, and it addresses the need to bring ever-greater computing capabilities through the advanced scientific computing research initiative to our national laboratories and universities. Finally, in addition, the vital water infrastructure projects that the Corps of Engineers performs are, I believe, sufficiently addressed.

   Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California, the chairman of the subcommittee for yielding me the time.

   Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Michigan (Ms. KILPATRICK), a member of the full committee.

   (Ms. KILPATRICK asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)

   Ms. KILPATRICK. Mr. Speaker, let me first thank the gentleman from California (Mr. PACKARD), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development for his leadership and for working with us as we try to work together to serve the people of America. I thank the gentleman very much and I wish him well in his retirement.

   And I would like to thank our ranking member, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Visclosky), for his work in yielding time to me this morning.

   Mr. Speaker, I voted for this bill, as some 400 others did as it went through the House in June, June 28, I do believe. At that time we thought it was a good bill, needed improvement, but we were willing to work with the chairman and our ranking member to see that we can address America's problems.

   The Interior bill should have included, and did not, a provision that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would be used in the case of an emergency. The Interior bill did not have that in the House. It did not have that in the Senate. This House passed a bill that would give the President authority to release those reserves in an emergency. Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, that bill has not been acted on in the Senate.

   The Committee on Appropriations took action to put an amendment on this bill that would give our President the authority, should he need it, to release those reserves. This House adopted that amendment, as well as one that said that the Northeast Corridor could also secure the oil reserves they need.

   We are now 2 days from a new fiscal year, and much more than that or, just as important, we are on our way in the Midwest and the Northeast part of our country in a severe weather winter season.

   Mr. Speaker, this bill has stricken the language for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and I think that is unfortunate. It has also stricken the language that would help the people in the Northeast meet their heating bills. At a time when our economy is booming, we find many people on fixed incomes, seniors, who will not have the dollars it will take to heat their homes; families who will not have the dollars they will need to send their children to school from a heated healthy home.

   Mr. Speaker, I think it is unfortunate 2 days before the new fiscal year ends that we have not approved permission to our President to release the oil reserves.

   It is important with 2 days left that we act for the people of the Midwest, for the people of the Northeast Corridor who are about to embark on the winter season, when they do not have the resources. Oil prices are high. It is unfortunate that since we announced and since the President acted on releasing some of the 30 million barrels of oil that oil prices have begun to come down now because this Congress is not acting, because we have stricken the language in this bill.

   Oil prices are on the way up. Now why is that? The demand is high. Can we not as Members of Congress do what we need to do to make sure, A, the President has the authority, B, that oil prices begin to come down, and that people on fixed incomes, middle-income people with families have the right to heat their homes and drive their cars to get back and forth to their employment with oil reserves that this country can make available to them.

   Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the work of the gentleman from California (Mr. PACKARD) and the work of the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. VISCLOSKY). It did not get in the Interior bill. We passed it in this full House. We ought to do it today. I urge my colleagues to adopt it.

   Mr. PACKARD. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. WAMP), a member of the full committee.

   (Mr. WAMP asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

   Mr. WAMP. Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the gentleman from California (Chairman PACKARD), who is just simply a class act. He will be sorely missed here. He is a real gentleman and a credit to this institution. I want to commend the staffs on both sides of the aisle. They are professionals, specifically Bob Schmidt, the staff director, an excellent job. I do not think there is a staffer on the Hill who is more thorough, efficient, fair or tougher than Jeanne Wilson, I thank her. I thank Eric Mondero and Nora Bomar for their cooperation.

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   Thousands of Tennesseans work in national security, science, and environmental management every day on behalf of our country. The Department of Energy needs oversight. We need to be tough with them. We need to hold them accountable. This committee does both. They fund them, but they hold them accountable.

   This bill is the product of both of those things. We thank our colleagues for the priorities that they set to carry out the critical missions of national security, major science investments for future generations, and environmental cleanup. The work this bill will do in those areas is the best product in the last 6 years that this Congress has passed out, but it comes with tough love and oversight of the Department of Energy, which is very needed. A job well done, everyone should support this conference report.

   Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. BENTSEN) and would point out that his work on the Brays Bayou flight control project and the Houston Ship Canal has been critical.

   (Mr. BENTSEN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

   Mr. BENTSEN. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. VISCLOSKY), the ranking member. I also want to congratulate the gentleman from California (Mr. PACKARD), chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development for his work and for putting together an extremely good bill.

   Mr. Speaker, I strongly support this bill, and I want to point out three items that are in it. First, the bill fully funds for the second consecutive year the Brays Bayou project which runs through my congressional district, that affects tens of thousands of homeowners, the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world and Rice University, all in my district. This is part of a new authorization that the gentleman from Texas (Mr. DELAY) and I worked on and had passed, that gives more local control. And we think this is going to be a very good project for the taxpayers and for providing public safety.

   It also fully funds the Simms Project, which runs in part through my district. And it fully funds the Port of Houston project, which is an ongoing project which will continue economic growth in our area. Most particularly, it includes legislative authorization for barge lanes along the Houston Ship Channel project that I and others have been working on trying to get for the last year and a half.

   This will enhance the barge business in our districts but also provide great safety. So I appreciate it.

   In closing, let me say I strongly support this bill. I think it is a well-done bill. It would be very good for Texas and for the Nation.

   Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4733, the FY 2001 Energy and Water Appropriations Conference Report. Chairman RON PACKARD, Ranking Member PETER VISCLOSKY, and all other conferees deserve recognition for their hard work on this important legislation. I would also like to thank my good friend from Texas, Mr. EDWARDS, for all the help he and his office have provided me.

   I strongly support the decision of the conferees to provide the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with vital funding to continue their work in the areas of flood control and navigational improvement. This funding is necessary for the critical economic and public safety initiatives contained within the legislation. Because many flood and navigation projects located in and around my district are on accelerated construction schedules, full funding by the conferees leads to expedited completion at great savings to the taxpayers and reduced threat to public safety.

   I am very pleased with the support this legislation provides for addressing the chronic flooding problems of Harris County, Texas. H.R. 4733 provides vital federal assistance to flood control projects in the Houston area on Brays, Sims, Buffalo, Hunting and White Oak bayous. I am confident these projects will safeguard tens of thousands in my district from flood waters and safeguard taxpayers from potential disaster relief expense.

   Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege of representing Harris County, one of the original sites for a demonstration project for a new federal reimbursement program which was authorized by legislation introduced by Representative TOM DELAY and myself as part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1996. Much of the flood control project design, contracting, and maintenance in my district is undertaken by an extremely competent local agency, the Harris County Flood Control District, which is at the forefront of integrated and effective watershed management. This unique program strengthens and enhances Corps/Local Sponsor relationship by giving the local sponsor a lead role and providing for reimbursement by the federal government to the local sponsor for the traditionally federal portion of work.

   I am most gratified that the conferees, for the second consecutive year, decided to fully fund the Brays Bayou project at $6 million for FY '01. This project will improve flood protection for an extensively developed urban area along Brays Bayou in southwest Harris County including tens of thousands of homeowners in the floodplain and the Texas Medical Center and Rice University by providing three miles of channel improvements, three flood detention basins, and seven miles of stream diversion resulting in a 25-year level of flood protection. Originally authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 1990 and reauthorized in 1996 as part of a $400 million federal/local flood control project, over $16.3 million has already been appropriated for the Brays Bayou Project. It is important that the Congress fully fund its match now that the local sponsor has approved the final design.

   I am also gratified that the conferees decided to fully fund the Sims Bayou project at a level of $11.8 million. This project is necessary to improve flood protection for an extensively developed urban area along Sims Bayou in southern Harris County. Authorized as part of the 1988 WRDA bill, the Sims Bayou project consists of 19.3 miles of channel enlargement, rectification, and erosion control and will provide a 25-year level of flood protection. The Sims Bayou project is scheduled

   to be completed two years ahead of schedule in 2004.

   Flood control projects are necessary for the protection of life and property in Harris County, but improving navigation in our Port an integral step for the rapid growth of our economy in the global marketplace. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that this legislation provides the full $53.5 million for continuing construction on the Houston Ship Channel expansion project. I also commend the Committee for including legislative language directing the Corps of Engineers to design and construct new barge levees in the Houston Ship Channel as part of the deepening and widening project. I and others have worked very hard over the last year and a half to obtain this authorization to ensure that the increasingly important barge traffic can be conducted safely and without disruption. Upon completion, this entire project will likely generate tremendous economic and environmental benefits to the nation and will enhance one of our region's most important trade and economic centers.

   The Houston Ship Channel, one of the world's most heavily-trafficked ports, desperately needs expansion to meet the challenges of expanding global trade and to maintain its competitive edge as a major international port. Currently, the Port of Houston is the second largest port in the United States in total tonnage, and is a catalyst for the southeast Texas economy, contributing more than $5 billion annually and providing 200,000 jobs.

   The Houston Ship Channel expansion project calls for deepening the channel from 40 to 45 feet and widening it from 400 to 530 feet. The ship channel modernization, considered the largest dredging project since the construction of the Panama Canal, will preserve the Port of Houston's status as one of the premier deep-channel Gulf ports and one of the top transit points for cargo in the world. Besides the economic and safety benefits, the dredged material from the deepening and widening will be used to create 4,250 acres of wetland and bird habitat. I congratulate the conferees on continuing a project supported by local voters, governments, chambers of commerce, and environmental groups.

   I sincerely thank the conferees, Chairman, and Ranking Member for their support and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

   Mr. PACKARD. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. BLILEY), the chairman of the Committee on Commerce.

   Mr. BLILEY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. PACKARD) for yielding me the time.

   Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to the conference report before the House. We are supposed to be considering an appropriations conference report today. Instead, what we have before us is a legislative outrage.

   Mr. Speaker, who knew that instead of funding energy and water programs this year, we would be bailing out the nuclear industry to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Well, that is exactly what this bill does, by dramatically changing the fee structure that the industry pays to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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   That is not all. Who knew that not only would we be funding the Department of Energy this year, but we would be legislating major changes to the agency that safeguards our nuclear secrets? That is right. This conference report contains substantial amendments to the National Nuclear Security. The NNSA has not been doing such a great job in the last year, does anyone really think that legislative on the fly like this is going to improve our nuclear safety?

   It is conference reports like this, Mr. Speaker, that have gotten the American people sick and tired with Washington politics. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote against the conference report.

   Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. GREEN), who also has been indispensable in working on the Houston Ship Channel Project.

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