WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) today highlighted success in the areas of energy and the environment in the Omnibus legislation to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2016. While expressing strong reservations about certain aspects of the emerging legislation, Senator Cardin called the government funding bill an “overall positive for the nation.”
“This bill will provide stability in operations at federal agencies and improve investments in our federal workers, important to Maryland families and the effectiveness of agencies in accomplishing their missions,” said Senator Cardin. “These commonsense needs were neglected in the recent era of short-term budgeting, yet we must remain mindful of them if we are to inspire advances in energy security and safeguarding our natural environment.”
The Omnibus includes almost $28 billion for the Department of Energy, a $1.8 billion increase that restores $40 million for climate change research that House Republicans had attempted to cut. It expands funding for the Office of Science, the largest federal sponsor of basic research, by $279 million to $5.35 billion. And it provides $4.2 billion for the applied energy program – a $432 million increase – supporting research, development demonstration and deployment of a wide range of clean energy technologies.
“Thanks to hard-fought negotiations, the Omnibus preserves the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up our water and air. It expands funding for the Department of the Interior by $1.74 billion, increases funding for our national parks by 9 percent and provides $481 million for the National Wildlife Refuge system,” said Senator Cardin. “If you’re like me and like to hike on the C&O Canal towpath or explore the coastal marshes of Blackwater, this is big news. It’s also huge that the Omnibus reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years and funds it at $450 million — an increase of $144 million above the Fiscal Year 2015 enacted level. And it provides full funding of $26.5 million, an amount in line with my request, to continue the restoration of Poplar Island, a monument to the potential of restoration that now is again able to provide important habitat for seabirds, rockfish and the diamondback terrapin.”
Senator Cardin applauded funding levels in the Omnibus of $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, $2.2 million for the Captain John Smith National Historic trail, and $2 million for Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network. The senator particularly noted that the Omnibus includes $3.9 million for the conservation of neotropical migratory birds like the Baltimore Oriole.
Through the Omnibus, Congress also is bringing a greater degree of predictability to the solar and wind renewable energy markets through the reauthorization of tax incentives for these industries, important if we are to maintain recent international progress on climate change.
“As a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I’m also pleased that we have been able to keep this Omnibus Appropriations bill free of dangerous policy riders that would gut our nation’s foundational environmental laws. I led a group of 27 senators urging top appropriators and the president to bring us a bill free of these damaging riders.
“While the Omnibus has many positive components, I found it irresponsible that the bill includes a major policy decision on whether the United States should allow oil exports for the first time in decades. Given that this is such a monumental decision, it astonishes me that the Senate would move forward after so few hearings on the subject this session,” said Senator Cardin. “Both the House and Senate should have taken more time, separate from the appropriations process, to review and debate this issue, which will have wide-ranging implications for our energy policy, our economy and our environment across the country.”