Democratic News

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the Obama administration released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2017 and recommended strong funding levels for several programs that U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has championed.

Cybersecurity – The president’s budget request acknowledges cybersecurity as “one of the most important challenges we face.” As a result, the request includes collaboration between government and industry to mitigate cyber and physical security risks to the grid. Overall, the funding for DOE programs on cybersecurity is increased by 3 percent. Sen. Cantwell has championed better resilience against cyber threats to the energy grid and introduced cybersecurity legislation as a part of the bipartisan energy bill (S. 2012) and the Democratic energy bill – the Enhanced Grid Security Act (S. 1241). This bill aims to secure energy networks, enhance monitoring tools, expand DOE’s cooperation with the intelligence community and designate DOE as the lead, sector-specific agency for the energy sector during cybersecurity incidents.

Hanford Cleanup – In the proposed FY 2017 budget, the Richland Operations Office would receive $800 million for the River Corridor project that is nearing completion. The Office of River Protection would receive $1.49 billion for the waste treatment tank and Low-Activity Waste Pretreatment System. For more than a decade, Sen. Cantwell has worked with federal, state and local officials for more to provide adequate resources for the waste cleanup of the nuclear site in Hanford, Washington. Sen. Cantwell plans to question Energy Secretary Moniz at an upcoming budget hearing about the proposed cuts for Hanford clean-up and to urge funding that work at current levels, at a minimum.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – President Obama’s 2017 budget request proposes investing $900 million to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps protect national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands, and provides important funding for state and local parks outdoor recreation opportunities. Specific to Washington, the proposed budget request includes:

  • $400,000 for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area;
  • $1.28 million for Lake Chelan National Recreation Area;
  • $991,000 for Willapa National Wildlife Refuge; and
  • $1.5 million for Washington Cascades/Yakima River Watershed: Okanogan- Wenatchee National Forest.

This Congress, Sen. Cantwell has introduced legislation to permanently authorize and fully fund the LWCF, in addition to writing Senate leadership and speaking  on the Senate floor on this issue. In December 2015, the Senate voted to authorize the LWCF for three years as part of the year-end omnibus bill.

Mission Innovation – The president’s proposed budget calls for doubling the nation’s current federal investments in clean energy R&D from $6.4 billion (FY 2016) to $12.8 billion (by FY 2021), as part of the international Mission Innovation program to double government R&D investments in clean energy innovation during the next five years.

These investments include $105 million for new commercialization initiatives such as expanded innovation partnerships with the national laboratories, like Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The president’s FY 2017 budget also includes $110 million for regional clean energy innovation partnerships that could support additional research at institutions such as Washington State University and the University of Washington, as well as the state, local and private institutions.

Sen. Cantwell advocated for investments in clean energy innovation in the Democratic energy bill and worked to include clean energy provisions in the bipartisan energy bill.

Puerto Rico – President Obama’s spending plan includes four significant proposals regarding mitigating Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis:

  • State-like treatment under Medicaid for individuals earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level; 
  • State-like treatment under the Earned Income Tax Credit program; 
  • Increased funding under the Medicare Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program that would increase payments to hospitals in Puerto Rico by about $70 million over the next 10 years; and
  • Congressional approval of a debt-restructuring mechanism for Puerto Rico.

Sen. Cantwell called for both a coordinated federal response to stabilize Puerto Rico’s debt crisis and for Congressional action during a committee hearing and in a Senate floor speech. She also led the Democratic delegation in the Senate in urging Leader McConnell to give Puerto Rico restructuring authority.

Water Management in the Yakima basin – The proposed budget includes nearly $15.8 million for the Yakima River Basin Enhancement Project (YRBWEP), an increase of nearly $3 million over FY 2016 for the YRBWEP program.  This increase would primarily fund federal contributions for fish passage at Cle Elum Dam.  Additional funding for YRBWEP projects could be made available through other funding sources in the budget, such as the additional $13.5 million that was made available for YRBWEP projects in the FY 16 budget through other funding pots. In November, Sen. Cantwell passed a bill (S. 1694) out of the committee to address long-term water and drought issues in the Yakima Basin. The bill takes an integrated approach to water management in one of Washington’s most productive agricultural regions to help restore ecosystems and endangered species, conserve and save water, and ensure water security for fish, families and farms.