September 13, 2018

Federal Energy-Water Spending Bill Clears Senate with Wins for Rhode Island

Bipartisan provisions on coastal infrastructure projects, marine debris clean up, and carbon-free energy are included in final spending bill

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) succeeded in including several important provisions in the energy and water appropriations bill that cleared the Senate last evening.  The Whitehouse provisions will free funding for important carbon-free energy programs, and lay the groundwork for key coastal infrastructure projects. 

“Upgrading our coastal infrastructure and developing technology that can reduce carbon emissions will reap big returns for Rhode Island.  That’s why I’ve been working across the aisle on provisions to build a more storm- and flood-ready coastline, prepare for challenges like sea level rise, and allow carbon-free energy to compete on an even footing against the likes of coal and natural gas.  I’m glad to see many of my sensible water and energy provisions included in this bill,” said Whitehouse.

Whitehouse Provisions

Whitehouse succeeded in including:

  • Language calling on the Department of Energy to spend $12 million to continue research and development on carbon utilization.  This growing sector includes a number of businesses in Rhode Island that are coming up with new ways to take carbon pollution out of the air and either stow it permanently underground or turn it into usable products. 
  • An amendment offered with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) to provide $20 million in funds to support research and testing to create refabricated fuel for use in advanced nuclear reactors.  The Department of Energy estimates that spent fuel disposal costs could reach as high as $100 billion; the amendment could help alleviate some of that burden. 
  • An amendment directing the Army Corps of Engineers to pay special attention to urban waterways, like the Providence River, in executing its newly expanded marine debris removal authority. 
  • Language calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to explain the disparity in funding between inland and coastal infrastructure projects under the Flood and Coastal Storm Damage Reduction program, and assure coastal projects are not being shorted.
  • Language encouraging the Corps of Engineers to consider projects under its Continuing Authorities Program that enhance ocean and coastal ecosystem resiliency.
  • Language calling on the Department of Energy to study the potential gas and energy savings from natural gas demand response measures.  Natural gas demand response programs could compensate customers for cutting their energy use during times of high prices or when infrastructure reliability is threatened, like during a heat wave or cold snap.  This provision is based on a portion of the Energy Infrastructure Demand Response Act of 2018, which Whitehouse introduced in April.

This legislation’s passage follows a string of legislative and appropriation successes for Whitehouse during the 115th Congress, including:

  • $30 million for the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund to support work that helps Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and other coastal hazards.
  • Bipartisan legislation to spur investment in next-generation carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies, putting a dollar value on reducing carbon pollution driving climate change. 
  • Whitehouse’s legislation to extend permanently vital foreclosure protection for servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
  • $350 million to forgive student loan debt for teachers, first responders, social workers and others in public service, which was based on Whitehouse’s legislation to fix a glitch in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • Bipartisan legislation to increase collaboration between private industry, universities, and national laboratories in developing and bringing to market advanced nuclear technologies.
  • Bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), making important improvements to the way we treat young people in our criminal justice system.
  • Bipartisan legislation to address the marine debris epidemic affecting America’s oceans, shorelines, and inland waterways, as well as other coasts across the globe.
  • Bipartisan legislation to help behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals – adopt electronic health records.

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