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Legislative Watch, 11/21/05 November 21, 2005 3:52 PM

Natural Resources Defense Council's


November 21, 2005

This is a status report on congressional action on the environment. The
information in this bulletin is also available on our website at (the web version links to the text
of bills and congressional web pages). To take action on these and other
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The House and Senate passed separate versions of the fiscal year 2006 budget
reconciliation bill, with the Senate including language to open the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling and the House omitting such a
provision. Both the House and the Senate continue their push to wrap up FY06
appropriations bills.



In the early morning hours of 11/18, the House narrowly passed its version of
the budget reconciliation bill (H.R. 4241), 217-215. Under pressure from
Republican moderates, House leaders did not include provisions that would allow
drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or protected coastal areas.
Numerous other troubling provisions remain, however, including a wholesale sell-
off of public lands and elimination of federal programs that support farm-
related energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The Senate approved
its version of the budget reconciliation package (S. 1932) on 11/3. Unlike the
House bill, the Senate version includes a provision, passed by a vote of 52-47,
that would allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Sen. Cantwell's (D-
WA) amendment (S.Amdt. 2358) to strip the Arctic drilling language from the
bill failed, 51-48. The differences between the two bills will need to be
resolved in a House-Senate conference committee before a final vote.

On 11/14, the Senate approved the conference report for the FY06 Energy and
Water Appropriations bill (H.R. 2419), 84-4. The most significant development
in the $30.5 billion bill was the slashing of $127 million for the proposed
nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. The conference report includes
language requiring the Department of Energy to start a nuclear fuel
reprocessing, or recycling, program and to set up a competition to determine if
any communities or states will volunteer to host such as facility. Nuclear
waste reprocessing produces large quantities of weapons-grade plutonium,
heightening the risk of nuclear proliferation. The bill also provides $6.2
billion for defense site cleanup, $177 million above the Bush administration's
request, but below the $6.8 billion FY05 level. Army Corps of Engineers
projects received a record $5.4 billion, largely in response to the heavy
scrutiny the corps received in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Other parts
of the bill provide $1.8 billion for energy supply and conservation programs,
$557.6 million for nuclear energy programs and $598 million for fossil fuel
energy programs. In a win for the environment, a provision to create a new
nuclear weapons research program for small "bunker buster" bombs was cut from
the bill. The House approved the conference report on 11/9, 399-17.

On 11/3, the Senate voted 81-18 to approve the FY06 agriculture appropriations
conference report, sending the $100 billion bill (H.R. 2744) to President Bush
for his signature (the House approved the report on 10/28 by a vote of 318-63).
While farm conservation spending was increased over previous appropriations,
the overall spending level is lower than that authorized in the farm bill. The
bill allots $259 million for the Conservation Security Program, the Agriculture
Department's new project that pays farmers for making environmental
improvements on working lands. The final bill does not include two previously
proposed harmful environmental riders. One would have exempted factory farms
from Superfund and community right-to-know laws, and another would have limited
appeals lodged against potentially harmful Forest Service projects.

On 10/28, President Bush asked Congress to rescind $2.3 billion from "lower-
priority federal programs," including wildfire management accounts, sewage
infrastructure loans and nuclear waste cleanup efforts, to fund Hurricane
Katrina recovery. In all, President Bush asked that 55 government programs not
receive the full funding previously appropriated by Congress. House and Senate
appropriators have indicated that they will consider the president's request,
but ultimately Congress will determine exactly which programs will face budget
cuts to help fund Katrina recovery. A third emergency spending bill for
hurricane recovery is also expected.


For information on the environmental voting records of members of Congress, see
the League of Conservation Voters' National Environmental Scorecard at

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 November 21, 2005 3:53 PM

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About NRDC

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a nonprofit environmental organization
with more than one million members and online activists, and a staff of
scientists, attorneys and environmental experts. Our mission is to protect the
planet's wildlife and wild places and ensure a safe and healthy environment for
all living things.

For more information about NRDC or how to become a member of NRDC, please
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