Garamendi Votes Against Bill that would Escalate Modern Nuclear Arms Race and Make Shortsighted Cuts to Alternative Energy
Despite Serious Flaws, Bill Includes Local Water Projects that Garamendi Fought For
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) voted against H.R. 2028, the $35.4 billion Fiscal Year 2016 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. The bill passed by a 240-177 vote.
The bill includes $8.7 billion to maintain America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, $526 million more than FY 2015. Garamendi fears this increase in spending to support our already bloated nuclear weapons program, particularly in the context of delicate diplomacy with Iran and Russia, could trigger a chain reaction that would accelerate a modern nuclear arms race.
“While I fully support the water and flood protection projects in the bill, I strongly oppose the nuclear weapons appropriations, totaling $8.7 billion – $526 million more than Fiscal Year 2015,” said Congressman Garamendi. “I am extremely concerned that we are well into the first quarter of a nuclear arms race with Russia, China, and other nuclear states. The new warheads and delivery systems present a new and dangerous situation in which the cold war era systems of control fail. America is on the course to spend a trillion dollars on these weapons in the next 20 to 25 years. For this reason, I voted against the bill.”
Meanwhile, renewable energy programs are only funded at $1.7 billion, a cut of $279 million compared to FY 2015. The bill also includes language that would weaken the Clean Water Act in some circumstances. Garamendi believes our country invests far too little in clean energy research and American-made alternative energy production.
“By downgrading our nation’s investments in next generation alternative energy sources, this bill also makes us less safe by making us even less prepared to respond to the challenges presented by climate change,” Garamendi added.
Garamendi Amendments on the Modern Nuclear Arms Race
Congressman Garamendi introduced three amendments related to our growing nuclear arms race. The House rejected all three.
The first amendment the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Weapons Activities Account for the W80-4 Life Extension Program by $25,000,000, applying this savings to deficit reduction. This technology is used in our Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) weapon. 136 Democrats and 13 Republicans voted for this amendment. 226 Republicans and 46 Democrats voted against it. Video of the Congressman’s remarks in support of the amendment is available here.
“The rebuilding of the life extension program for our nuclear weapons is a part of the reconditioning of our entire nuclear enterprise,” Garamendi explained. “The United States is now involved in a very significant total restructuring and rebuilding of our entire nuclear deterrence system. We are engaged in a new nuclear arms race.”
The second amendment Reduces the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Account’s Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility by $125,000,000, and applies the savings of $105 million to the Defense Environmental Cleanup Account. This amendment failed by voice vote. Garamendi introduced a similar amendment during the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) amendment markup on Wednesday.
The final amendment would prohibit funds from being used to expand plutonium pit production capacity at the PF-4 facility at Los Alamos Laboratory. This amendment failed by voice vote. During the HASC amendment markup, Garamendi introduced a related amendment that sought explanation for why the NNSA wants to expand it plutonium pit production capacity from 5-10 to 50-80 pits a year when America already has a stockpile of more than 10,000 plutonium pits. Video of the Congressman’s remarks in support of the amendment is available here.
“We have 10,000 unused nuclear plutonium pits – the heart of a nuclear bomb – that came out of nuclear weapons that have been dismantled as a result of the various arms treaties that have been in place over the past 30 years, all for the good,” he said. “Nobody knows what you’re going to do with pits, but they want to build a facility to ramp up production anyway. We might need it someday? God willing, we’ll never need it someday. 5-10 a year: more than we need. 50-80: the military doesn’t know what to with it!”
While an imperfect bill, Garamendi is generally pleased with the water projects included in this legislation. If the energy and water components of H.R. 2028 were separated, Garamendi would have voted ‘yes’ on the water language. The bill makes substantial investments in local water projects that Congressman Garamendi has been closely working on. These projects include desperately needed levee improvements.
“While I cannot vote for this bill out of fear of accelerating a nuclear arms race, the legislation includes funding for water projects that will directly help many communities in the 3rd District. I’ve spent countless hours fighting for these water investments, and I’m thankful to the Republican and Democratic appropriators who fairly evaluated the merits of these projects and included them in the final bill,” Congressman Garamendi said. “For 3rd District residents who live or work near a waterway, at least one of these improvements will likely sound familiar: the Sacramento River Bank Protection, American River, Yuba River Basin, Hamilton City J-Levee, Suisun Bay Shipping Channel, Lower Cache Creek, and the Port of Stockton. The bill also requires the Sites Reservoir feasibility study to be completed by next year, moving forward one of my biggest priorities in this Congress. I wish I had an opportunity to vote on the water funding separately, but that is not the vote presented to me.”
The bill requires the Secretary of Interior to complete the feasibility studies for all CalFed storage projects, with a deadline of November 30, 2016 for the Sites Reservoir feasibility study. Congressman Garamendi, working with Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), introduced a bill earlier this year to accelerate the completion of this study. Sites Reservoir, located in the 3rd Congressional District, is a proposed off-stream reservoir that would store as much as 1.8 million acre feet of water for cities, agriculture, and the environment.
The report language also encourages the Bureau of Reclamation to continue its focus on building fish screens for high-priority agricultural diversions, many of which lie in the 3rd Congressional District.
- American River Common Features, Natomas Basin: The Corps will be continuing preconstruction engineering and design of the first construction section which will improve levees that protect the Natomas Basin. FY 2016 funding at $3,500,000, up from $1,500,000 in FY 2015.
- Lower Cache Creek: This money is to continue with the feasibility study to provide flood protection to the City of Woodland. The Corps is currently studying a number of design options for the project and will be identifying a design to move forward with in June/July. FY 2016 funding at $570,000, was at $800,000 in FY 2015.
- Sacramento Bank Protection (General Reevaluation Report): The Corps will be scoping this General Reevaluation Report to focus on improving the Sacramento and Fremont Weirs and expanding the capacity of the Yolo Bypass. FY 2016 funding at $500,000, up from $200,000 in FY 2015.
- Yuba River Ecosystem Restoration: The Corps and nonfederal sponsor will initiate a three year study on improving the fish passage in the Yuba River. FY 2016 funding at $700,000, up from $300,000 in FY 2015.
- Hamilton City: The J levee project will advance with the construction contract for levees this summer and also initiate restoration this summer. FY 2016 funding at $15,000,000, up from $3,800,000 in FY 2015.
- Yuba River Basin (Ring Levee): The Corps will advance the design of all remaining sections. FY 2015 funding at $7,361,000, up from $5,000,000 in FY 2015.
- Sacramento Bank Protection: The Corps will continue to reduce stream bank erosion along the Sacramento River levees to minimize the threat of flooding. FY 2016 funding at $6,000,000, up from $1,000,000 in FY 2015.
Operations and Maintenance Funding
- Suisun Bay Shipping Channel: The Corps will keep the channel operational using dredging and maintenance measures. FY 2016 funding at $3,250,000, was at $4,900,000 in FY 2015.
- Yuba River Basin: This money will be used by the Corps for dam operations on the Yuba River. FY 2016 funding at $1,450,000, was at $1,438,000 in FY 2015.
- Port of Stockton/San Joaquin River: Funding will be used for dredging and maintenance of the port to ensure it that is remains operational for commerce. FY 2016 funding at $4,442,000, was at $5,152,000 in FY 2015.
- Sacramento River 30 Foot Project: Money will be used to maintain the 30 foot depth of the Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel, ensuring the passage of large vessels. FY 2016 funding at $1,100,000, was at $1,300,000 in FY 2015.
Other Elements of the Bill
Nuclear Weapons – The bill provides a total of $12.3 billion for Department of Energy’s nuclear programs, most of which goes to nuclear weapons. This is a $922 million increase above the fiscal year 2015 level. This includes:
- $8.7 billion for Weapons Activities – $526 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level (Garamendi believes much of this money is better spent, but his amendment to reduce this account was rejected);
- $1.3 billion for Naval Nuclear Reactors – $86 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level; and
- $1.9 billion for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation – $291 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level.
Army Corps of Engineers – The Army Corps of Engineers is funded at $5.6 billion. The bill focuses funding on activities that will have an immediate impact on public safety, job creation, and the economy, including those that help ensure our waterways stay open for business. For example, the bill provides:
- $2.4 billion for navigation projects and studies, including $1.178 billion in funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund and full use of estimated annual revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, to help advance American competitiveness and export ability; and
- $1.6 billion to support public health and safety by funding flood and storm damage reduction activities – including $310 million for the most critical dam safety improvements.
Environmental Cleanup – Included in the legislation is $5.9 billion for environmental management activities. This includes $5.1 billion for Defense Environmental Cleanup to safely clean sites contaminated by previous nuclear weapons production, as well as additional funding for various other non-defense related nuclear sites.
Energy Programs – Funding for energy programs within DOE is $10.3 billion – $1.3 billion below the President's request. Renewable energy programs, which are funded at $1.7 billion in the bill, are cut by $279 million from last year’s enacted level. Garamendi thinks this cut is a mistake and supports increased funding for proven clean energy programs.
Science Research – The bill includes $5.1 billion for science research. This funding will help strengthen the nation’s science and technology innovation by supporting basic energy research, development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of clean energy sources. This basic research will lay the groundwork for more efficient and practical domestic energy solutions to help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and help promote future growth in American businesses and industries.
Bureau of Reclamation - The legislation contains $1.1 billion for the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation to help manage, develop, and protect the water resources of Western states.