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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Back to Work: Supporting Energy and Infrastructure

Earlier this spring the Senate passed the Energy and Water (E&W) Development Appropriations Act (H.R. 2028) with vast bipartisan support – by a vote of 90 to 8.  Passing this appropriations bill was a welcome sign that the Republican-led Senate was making progress in its goal to fund the federal government through regular order, which culminates in Congress sending 12 appropriations bills to be signed into law.

The E&W Development Appropriations Act funds the Department of Energy (DOE) programs as well as critical infrastructure projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation. This year, the E&W funding bill also provides added resources to strengthen the U.S. nuclear deterrence posture and prepare for existing and future nuclear threats.  It also prioritizes America’s energy security and supports our economic competitiveness. 

Most importantly, it includes many priorities for Oklahoma, such as improving water supply and quality in western Oklahoma and funding the Risk-Based Data Management System that supports Oklahoma’s FracFocus program at the Ground Water Protection Council. Here are those provisions in more detail:  

Red River Chloride Control

Language in the bill directs the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize projects in drought-stricken areas that would alleviate water supply issues, including projects that focus on treating brackish water. Authorized in the Flood Control Act of 1966, the Flood Control Act of 1970, and the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, the Red River Chloride Control Project seeks to control chloride and sulfite brine emissions that naturally occur in the upper Red River basin of Oklahoma and Texas. By removing chloride salts from the tributaries to the Red River, water quality will be improved for use by local and downstream communities. With the recent drought in Western Oklahoma, all avenues to increase water supply need to be explored and utilized to ensure our communities and military bases have the water they need when the next drought comes.

Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS)

The appropriations bill would continue to fund the Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS) within the Department of Energy. RBDMS, managed by the Ground Water Protection Council, operates in state oil and natural gas environmental agencies allowing them to provide many services regarding public transparency of State oil and gas related data, including FracFocus which provides public access to reported chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing within their area.

Ground Water Protection Council – Gateway for the Energy Information Administration (EIA)

The appropriations bill would direct the EIA to use available funding to build the interface of the National Oil and Gas Gateway. The EIA is a quasi-independent agency within the Department of Energy established to provide timely, objective, and accurate energy-related information to Congress, the executive branch, state governments, industry, and the public. However, the EIA has not kept pace with state-run databases and interfaces to provide near real-time statistics on production of oil and natural gas and well integrity. The Natural Oil and Gas Gateway will work in concert with state-run databases providing accurate and accessible information.

McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System

Despite President Obama’s request to cut the Army Corps budget, the appropriations bill would fund key Corps projects, including 20+ lakes in Oklahoma that provide essential water resources for drinking and agriculture purposes. It also would fund the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which is essential to maintaining Oklahoma’s ability to export products ranging from natural resources like oil and coal, agriculture products, and manufacturing components.

What’s next for this legislation? While this critical appropriations bill passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, the House’s version is stalled due to House Democrats trying to add unrelated amendments onto the bill that advances their liberal social agenda.

Funding the government through 12 appropriations bills, passed by both the House and the Senate, is about enforcing transparency in how your taxpayer dollars are being spent. This has been our goal in the Republican majority and is what we will continue working towards in September as we quickly approach the end to another fiscal year.

I hope you will continue tuning in during the month of August to my e-newsletter series on the 12 appropriations bills the Senate is working on and the priorities that I am securing for Oklahomans. If you would like to encourage a friend to subscribe, click here and send along this link