Federal Update – Congressional Recess Version

The Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition E-Brief

Energy Policy Modernization in the Express Lane

In a stunning turnabout, S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, moved quickly in its return to the Senate floor after two holds were dropped and is now headed to conference committee with the House, which had passed a similar measure, H.R. 8.  When complete, this bi-partisan measure will be the first significant energy update in seven years.  A lot has changed, and the Coalition is comparing the two bills so that we can recommend the provisions most important to the Great Lakes/Midwest.  If you can bring the Coalition’s support for the Act to your lawmakers’ attention during the break this week, that would be ideal.  Contact Ed Wolking, ewolking@detroitchamber.com or 313-596-0304, for any information that you need.

Also lurking in the background is the unresolved litigation over the Clean Power Plan.  For the latest in-depth report on where things stand in the courts – and where this critical issue for the Midwest economy is likely headed – check out this K&L Gates Legal Insight.  The future is murky for both sides, made even more so by the death of Justice Scalia and the stalemate over his replacement.




Appropriations Muddling Along

But when they move, they can move fast


As legislators recess this week for the pause that hopefully refreshes, Congress remains tied-up in knots over the appropriations process.  The House – where appropriations are required to start – is still without a budget, as ultra conservatives seek to remove about $30 billion in non-defense discretionary spending from last year’s bi-partisan budget agreement.  Appropriations subcommittees are moving ahead on their own, with that agreement as their reference point.  Senate appropriators have begun to move bills passed by the House, using them as shells into which they pour appropriations.

Against this backdrop, the Senate’s Energy and Water appropriation, which had been moving like a runaway freight train, is now stalled on the Senate floor over a proposed amendment to prohibit the U.S. purchase of “heavy waters” produced by Iran’s nuclear program. That bill has $1,282.5 billion for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), which is north of the Coalition’s recommendation of $1,263 billion.  The House Energy and Water appropriation, now awaiting floor action, is currently at $1,284 billion.  The Coalition’s number is currently in a good spot.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) – another priority of the Coalition and part of the Energy and Water appropriations process – is also in pretty good shape. The Senate’s bill provides $632 million for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fossil Energy program, the same level provided for fiscal year 2016 and $32 million more than the President’s FY 2017 request of $600 million. The House bill provides $645 million for Fossil Energy, $13 million more than last year and $45 million more than the President’s FY 2017 request. Both levels indicate strong support by their committees for fossil energy programs at DOE and NETL.



GLRI Authorization Passes the House

It’s great for programs to have funding, but not so great if they don’t obtain authorization, because at some point if they don’t, they may not get the money.  That’s what makes this Great Lakes Restoration Initiative authorization so important.  The popular bill shepherded by Congressman Joyce (R-OH) passed the House by voice vote last week and now moves to the Senate for consideration.  Just prior to the vote, the Coalition joined other supporting groups which sent strong statements of support to representatives from the Great Lakes.  View the letter at this link:

Coalition Letter Supporting GLRI Authorization

If you are with your Congressmen this week, please thank them for their support; odds are that they voted ‘aye’ in the voice vote.



WRDA Bills Taking Shape

The two Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) reauthorizations are critical to the Great Lakes/Midwest agenda because among other key provisions, they also contain the language that specifies the share of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to be allocated by the Corps of Engineers to the newly-created Great Lakes Navigation System (GLNS) in 2014, which the Coalition was instrumental in securing.  Heavy commodities – upon which the region’s highly competitive manufacturing, agriculture and construction sectors depend – move almost exclusively on the Great Lakes.

A recent House Great Lakes Task Force letter to the T&I Committee requesting that this year’s WRDA bill include our GLNS language generated 35 signatures – a solid total – and observers credit much of that success to Coalition messaging during the March Fly-In.  We are expecting a WRDA introduction in the House soon.

Last week, the Senate’s WRDA bill, S. 2848 was introduced, marked-up and passed out of committee by a 19-1 vote.  The bill does not include the Coalition-favored proposal to extend the GLNS allocation to both baseline and priority funding, and with Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) the only Great Lakes member of the committee, there was not an opportunity to pursue an amendment.  We will assess the chances for getting an amendment downstream, either on the floor or in conference.

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