Committee Advances Energy and Water Funding Bill

Promotes Critical Infrastructure and Energy Innovation, Affordability & Security

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voted to advance the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020. The bill provides funding for Department of Energy (DOE) programs and critical infrastructure projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).

Murkowski secured provisions to build on energy needs and opportunities in Alaska’s Arctic, which will improve energy efficiency, reliability, and affordability. Her requests within the bill will also provide investments to ensure the viability of regional ports and waterways. The full Appropriations Committee passed the bill unanimously, sending it to the Senate floor for further consideration. 

“This bill demonstrates our commitment to promoting energy research and technologies to lower costs and increase deployment. I’m pleased we were able to show strong support for advanced nuclear energy, which has tremendous promise to lower energy costs. We also invest in the Office of Indian Energy, which is working to lower energy costs in rural Alaska,” Murkowski said. “We also prioritized our responsibility to grow America’s presence in the Arctic region and funded critical projects for agencies like the Denali Commission to address infrastructure needs for communities facing coastal erosion—something affecting far too many in Alaska.”

Click here for audio of Senator Murkowski speaking in the Appropriations Committee markup today.

(Note: Numbers are nationwide program funding levels.) 

Arctic Opportunities

  • Arctic Energy: Report language directs the Department of Energy to support a renewed focus on the Arctic region and to reestablish the Arctic Energy Office. Once reconstituted, the office will serve as a centralized area to support the use of energy resources and innovative activities, including microgrids and integrated energy systems.
  • Methane Hydrates: Earlier this week, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that Alaska’s North Slope contains an estimated 54 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas resources within gas hydrate formations. These resources could add to the viability of Alaska’s efforts to commercialize its natural gas and provide a secure supply of energy for decades to come. The bill includes $25 million for methane hydrates, as well as report language encouraging the Department of Energy to perform a long-term methane hydrate production test in the Arctic.

Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency

  • Nuclear Energy: Provides $300 million in new funding for an advanced nuclear reactor demonstration program. A total of $200 million is directed to help demonstrate two advanced reactors by 2025, and the bill also funds regulatory development and safeguards. This funding closely tracks the provisions within S. 903, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which Senator Murkowski introduced earlier this year.
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): Increases funding to $428 million for emerging, pre-commercial technologies to make energy more affordable, reliable, clean, diverse, and secure.
    • Residential Wood Heaters: For many Alaska communities, burning wood is the most affordable option to stay warm. The bill provides $5 million to develop cleaner and more efficient residential wood heaters. Senator Murkowski and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) are sponsoring the Wood Heaters Emissions Reduction Act, which aims to incentivize a voluntary transition to efficient, clean-burning wood heaters. 

Infrastructure Protection

  • Denali Commission: Includes $15 million for the Commission tasked with coordination of construction and infrastructure efforts in rural Alaska. The Denali Commission also assists communities facing coastal erosion, such as the village relocation of Newtok to Mertarvik.
  • Utqiagvik Alaska Coastal Erosion Project: As Utqiagvik’s utility corridor is currently in danger of washing away due to the coastal erosion, the bill includes report language on the importance of this project and directs the Corps to complete the erosion project report expeditiously and to proceed to project engineering and design. 
  • Shore Protection Projects: Language is included urging the Corps to prioritize projects in areas where there is risk to life, public health, and safety, as well as risk of environmental contamination.
  • Small, Remote, Subsistence Harbors: Senator Murkowski secured language to create one new start investigation for a remote subsistence harbor.
  • Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response: Provides $179 million for the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) at the Department of Energy, which addresses emerging threats to our nation’s energy supply by improving energy infrastructure security.

Energy Development and Affordability

  • Weatherization Assistance Program: Increases funding to $303.5 million to improve the energy efficiency of low-income families’ homes.
  • State Energy Program: Provides $55 million to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and emergency preparedness.
  • Office of Indian Energy (OIE): Increases funding by nearly 50 percent, to $25 million, for a key program that assists tribes with energy needs and projects on their lands. Also includes report language tasking DOE to prioritize state entities in Alaska for technical assistance and directing OIE to design funding opportunity announcements that do not exclude tribes based on land ownership structures. This program recently awarded grants for projects in Iguigig, Kwethluk, and Togiak.