California Capitol Hill Bulletin

Volume 16, Bulletin 7 -- March 6, 2009    [view online or pdf or go to previous]


To expand communications between Washington and California, the California Institute provides periodic bulletins regarding current activity on Capitol Hill that affects our state.  Bulletins are published weekly during sessions of Congress, and occasionally during other periods.  To subscribe to the Bulletin or other California Institute announcements, visit this link.


CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE:

Appropriations: Short-Term CR Buys 5 Days

Resources: House T&I Panel Marks Up Water Bill

Immigration: Homeland Security Committee Examines 287(g) Program

Budget: President Releases Budget Blueprint

Appropriations: House Passes FY09 Omnibus Appropriations

Children: Senate Committee on Agriculture Discusses Opportunities to Improve Children's Nutrition

Energy: Senate ENR Committee Assesses Progress and Opportunities of National Smart Grid

Energy: Energy & Natural Resources Committee Discuss Draft Legislative Proposal on Energy Research and Development

Environment: House Natural Resources Considers Off-Shore Drilling

Resources: House Science and Technology Committee Discuss Coordinated Federal Approach to Water Planning in the 21st Century

Water: Southern California Water Briefing



Appropriations: Short-Term CR Buys 5 Days

     On Friday, March 6, 2009, President Obama signed into law H.J.Res. 38, providing stopgap funding for FY 2009 appropriations through Wednesday, March 11. The Federal Government had been funded under P.L. 110-329, which was due to expire on March 6th at midnight. The resolution allows additional time for Congress to work on H.R. 1105, the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which provides funding for the nine FY 2009 appropriations bills that have yet to be enacted.


Resources: House T&I Panel Marks Up Water Bill

     The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment favorably approved H.R. 1262, the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009, on Wednesday, March 4, 2009. The bill incorporates provisions from four bills that were approved by the House of Representatives in the 110th Congress but were not taken up by the Senate.

     Among other provisions, the bill authorizes $13.8 billion in Federal grants over five years to capitalize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and provide low-interest loans to communities for wastewater infrastructure. H.R. 1262 also reauthorizes $250 million in grants over five years for alternative water source projects under the Clean Water Act, and authorizes $1.8 billion over five years in grants under the Clean Water Act to municipalities and states to control combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs).

     The Subcommittee approved the bill by voice vote.

     For additional information and background, go to: http://transportation.house.gov .


Immigration: Homeland Security Committee Examines 287(g) Program

     The House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, March 4, held a hearing entitled: “Examining 287(g): The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement in Immigration Law.” The 287(g) program was established in 1996 to allow local law enforcement agencies to work with federal immigration authorities to identify, apprehend, and remove undocumented criminal aliens who are involved in violent, serious crimes. The program has grown in recent years from 29 local jurisdictions in 13 states in 2006 to 67 jurisdictions in 23 states currently. There are also 42 state and local law jurisdictions on a waiting list to join the program. Funding has also increased for the 287(g) from $5 million three years ago to $60 million currently. Chairman Bennie Thompson called the hearing to examine the efficacy of the program and to explore the concerns of some critics that the program encourages racial profiling.

     In his opening statement, the Chairman raised concern that evaluating the program is difficult because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not have in place any performance measures for the program, and does not require local jurisdictions to collect or report specific data on the seriousness of the crimes for which the undocumented immigrants apprehended are accused.

     Witnesses were: Mr. William Riley, Acting Director, Office of State and Local Coordination. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security; Mr. Richard Stana, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, Government Accountability Office; Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, Frederick County, State of Maryland; Chief J. Thomas Manger, Montgomery County Police Department, State of Maryland; and Mr. Muzaffar A. Chishti, Director at the NYU School of Law Office Migration Policy Institute.

     Mr. Stana testified on GAO’s Report, “Immigration Enforcement: Controls over Program Authorizing State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws Should Be Strengthened,” released on January 30, 2009. GAO’s report found that ICE has implemented some management controls, such as the Memoranda of Agreement [MOAs] with participating agencies and background checks of officers applying to participate in the program. However, other important internal controls are lacking. “Specifically,” he said, “program objectives have not been documented in any program-related materials, guidance on how and when to use program authority is inconsistent, guidance on how ICE officials are to supervise officers from participating agencies has not been developed, data that participating agencies are to track and report to ICE has not been defined, and performance measures to track and evaluate progress toward meeting program objectives have not been developed. Taken together, the lack of internal controls makes it difficult for ICE to ensure that the program is operating as intended.” He also testified that in over half of the 287(g) jurisdictions that GAO reviewed, concerns had been raised by the communities that the program was being misused to apprehend undocumented immigrants for minor violations and was encouraging racial profiling.

     Mr. Riley detailed the advantages of the 287(g) program to ICE’s enforcement efforts and the ability to prevent criminal aliens from being released into the community, because local law enforcement can identify removable criminal aliens during the booking process and then assist ICE with processing those aliens for removal. In responding to GAO’s report, Riley stated that ICE concurs with all the recommendations made by GAO and, in some cases, had begun addressing some of the recommendations before the report was finalized. He outlined several changes which will be made to the MOAs in the future, such as: including the nature and extent of supervisory activities ICE officers are expected to carry out; outlining how and under what circumstances 287(g) authority is to be used by State and local law enforcement officers in participating agencies; and incorporating in each MOA ICE’s detention priorities to ensure that ICE’s finite detention space is used to detain the aliens who pose the greatest risk to the public.

     During questioning of the witnesses, Committee Vice Chairwoman Loretta Sanchez, who also chairs the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, expressed concern that there were no standards regulating the conduct of local authorities and clarifying what the agency’s responsibilities were under the MOAs.

     For testimony or the GAO report, go to: http://homeland.house.gov .


Budget: President Releases Budget Blueprint

     President Barack Obama on Thursday, February 26, 2009, released a blueprint of the Administration’s $3.6 trillion FY2010 budget. Traditionally, the President’s budget provides a detailed road map for how an Administration sees funding going forward. However, as is typical when the occupant changes in the White House, this FY 2010 budget release was only a broad-brush starting point. A more detailed and traditional budget is expected in April.

     To bolster health care, the budget blueprint would establish a $634 billion “reserve fund” over 10 years to cover expanding health care coverage. The budget does not detail specific health care reforms, but does assume that $316 billion of the increased costs would be paid for by Medicare and Medicaid savings. The rest would come from capping at 28 percent the tax rate at which taxpayers can take itemized deductions – raising $318 billion.

     The budget also assumes that a cap-and-trade market system will be enacted to reduce carbon emissions and that the proceeds from that system will bring in an additional $645.7 billion in federal revenues over 10 years. $120 bill of that would go to renewable energy programs, while the rest would be used to pay for the Make Work Pay tax provisions contained in the recently enacted economic recovery bill. The budget also calls for expanding the earned income tax credit at a cost of $32.9 billion.

     To bring down the deficit from its projected $1.2 trillion in 2010, the Administration also calls for letting tax cuts for upper-income individuals expire in 2010, thus raising $636.7 billion over ten years. Another $353.5 billion would be raised by closing corporate tax loopholes.

     Further information can be obtained by going to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/OMB .


Appropriations: House Passes FY09 Omnibus Appropriations

     Negotiations continued up to and past the March 6, 2009 expiration of the continuing resolution, which had funded most of the federal government since the fiscal year began on October 1, 2008.

     By a vote of 245-178, the House on Wednesday, February 25, 2009, passed the FY09 omnibus appropriations bill (H.R.1105). The bill includes the nine appropriations bill that were not considered last year. The $410 billion package must be approved before the Wednesday, March 11 expiration of the continuing resolution that is funding federal agencies for the current fiscal year.

     When passed previously, the deadline was March 6, but slow negotiations convinced Congressional leaders to pass a stopgap funding measure for an additional five days. The Senate has debated the measure, but it has yet to complete action.

     The California Institute will prepare an analysis of the Omnibus from a California perspective that will be available in the near future.

     Some of the major provisions in the bill as it passed the House are:

Justice

- State and Local Law Enforcement and Crime Prevention Grants: $3.2 billion, $495 million above 2008. From 2001 to 2006 these programs were cut by $1.9 billion ($4.7 billion to $2.7 billion).

     - Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): $550 million,

     - Office of Justice Programs: $2 billion, $321 million above 2008, for grants to state and local organizations, including Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, drug courts, and programs for at risk youth and missing or abused children.

     - State Criminal Alien Assistance Program: $400 million

- Meth Funding: $73 million to fight meth including targeted efforts in “hot spots.”

Science

- Science and Science Education: A total of $24.3 billion, $750 million above 2008

- National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $17.8 billion, $385 million above 2008

- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $4.4 billion, $468.7 million above 2008

Other Programs

- Economic Development Assistance: $240 million, to help local communities address economic challenges though innovation and competitiveness and to attract private investment to create jobs.

Energy

- $27 billion, $2.5 billion above 2008

- Office of Science -$4.8 billion, $755 million above 2008

     - Advanced Energy Research: $765 million, $268 million above 2008, for basic research to tackle major barriers to advancing energy generation and storage such as fusion energy and advanced batteries. This includes $100 million for 20-30 Energy Frontier Research Centers to perform breakthrough energy research, and $15 million to establish an Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).

     - New Tools and Facilities for Energy Research: $2.2 billion, $389 million above 2008, for labs and equipment necessary to perform the next generation of advanced energy research.

     - Climate Change Research: $178 million, $41 million above 2008, for climate change research including advanced computer modeling.

Army Corps of Engineers: $5.4 billion, $185 million below 2008.

     - Operations and Maintenance: $2.2 billion, the same as 2008, to address the over $1 billion backlog of operations and maintenance needs of navigation infrastructure critical to the U.S. economy.

     - Construction: $2.1 billion, $148 million below 2008, for projects including on-going flood protection efforts.

     - Investigations: $168 million, the same as 2008, to plan and design America’s next generation of water resource infrastructure.

     - Management Reforms: Continues management reforms instituted at the Corps of Engineers, including the requirement for five-year development plans to guide budget decisions and limitations on reprogramming and contracting methods.

Department of the Interior

- Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, the same as 2008, for dams, canals, water treatment and conservation, and rural water projects.

     - Title XVI, Water Reclamation and Reuse Program: $39 million, $15 million above 2008, to develop and expand the use of recycled water to increase water supplies - preserving overdrawn river and groundwater supplies, protecting the environment, and improving the overall security and reliability of water supplies.

Education

- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B State Grants: Increases the share of special education costs met by the federal government to 17.4 percent with $558 million above 2008 for a total of $11.5 billion.

- Pell Grants: increases the maximum Pell Grant by $119 to $4,360, $3 billion above 2008 for a total of $17.3 billion. With additional mandatory funding under the College Cost Reduction Act the maximum Pell Grant is $4,850, increased $800 since 2006.

- Student Financial Aid: Helps 1.4 million students go to school with programs including federal supplemental educational opportunity grants, Perkins Loans, and the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships programs, with total funding of $1.9 billion.

- Title I Grants for Low-Income Children: $648 million above 2008 with total funding of $15.0 billion.

- Head Start: $235 million above 2008, with total funding of $7.1 billion.

- Child Care Assistance: $65 million above 2008, with $2.1 billion in total funding.

- After-School Programs: $50 million above 2008 for a total of $1.1 billion.

Other Programs

- Social Services Block Grant: $1.7 billion

- Community Services Block Grant: $46 million above 2008 for a total of $700 million.

Transportation

- Federal Transit Administration: $10.1 billion, $773 million above 2008 including:

     - New Construction: $240.2 million above 2008 for Capital Investment Grants for commuter rail or other light rail systems

     - Transit Formula Grants: $493 million above 2008 for Formula and Bus Grants for on-going capital and operating needs of urban and rural transit systems, including funding for new buses, stations, intermodal facilities, and technology improvements

     - Highway Infrastructure: $40.7 billion, $484 million above 2008, for improvements and repairs

Other Programs

- Community Development Block Grants: $3.9 billion, $34 million above 2008, to fund community and economic development projects in 1,180 localities.

- Brownfields Redevelopment: $10 million, to clean up former commercial and industrial sites for economic development.

- HOPE VI: $120 million, $20 million above 2008, for competitive grants to revitalize neighborhoods with deteriorating public housing projects, including demolition of public housing and construction of mixed-income housing.

     Further information can be found at: http://www.appropriations.house.gov .


Children: Senate Committee on Agriculture Discusses Opportunities to Improve Children's Nutrition

     The Senate Committee on Agriculture held a hearing on Wednesday, March 4, 2009, entitled "Improving Nutrition for America's Children in Difficult Economic Times." The hearing addressed two primary issues: improving nutrition through the national school lunch and school breakfast programs and improving nutrition for children when they are not in school.

     Witnesses included: Katie Wilson, Director, School Nutrition, Onalaska Public Schools, Onalaska, Wis.; Susan Bartlett, Senior Researcher, Abt Associates, Cambridge, Mass.; Connie Boldt, School Food Director, Knoxville Community School District, Knoxville, Iowa; David Page, Professor, Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, Md.; Kenneth Hecht, Executive Director, California Food Policy Advocates, Oakland, Calif.; and Lucy Nolan, Executive Director, End Hunger Connecticut, Hartford, Conn.

     Kenneth Hecht, Executive Director of California Food Policy Advocates, a statewide food policy and advocacy organization devoted to improving the health and well-being of low-income individuals, stated that in California "close to half of the state's children between three and five years old (approximately 550,000 children) are enrolled in licensed child care. One-third of them are in full-time child care, and more than half attend child care at least 15 hours per week…child care is an exceedingly important and, for the most part, unexamined element in our children's nutrition environment." He went on to identify three recommendations to improve the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): 1) Congress should provide a higher reimbursement for CACFP meals and snacks and should direct USDA to quickly prescribe stronger nutrition standards, which bring meals and snacks into greater compliance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; 2) Federal regulations, memoranda, training, and materials relating to nutrition for CACFP should align with WIC's new nutrition messages and guidelines; and 3) Child care sites receiving reimbursement through CACFP should provide a healthier food environment and more physical activity.

     Full witness testimony can be found at: http://agriculture.senate.gov/ .


Energy: Senate ENR Committee Assesses Progress and Opportunities of National Smart Grid

     On March 3, 2009, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the progress being made on smart grid initiatives authorized in both EISA of 2007 and the stimulus, and the opportunities and impediments in installation of smart grid technologies.

     The grid is term given to the infrastructure network that delivers electricity from the point that it is generated to the point that it can be used by consumers. The delivery network includes both a distribution and transmission system; the transmission system delivers electricity from power plants to substations, and the distribution system delivers electricity from substations to consumers. In response to concerns about the aging and deteriorating condition of much of the existing U.S. transmission and distribution system, policy leaders in the 110th Congress worked with industry leaders and the administration to include in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (PL 110-140), a directive to departments and agencies to work towards the development of a national smart grid.

     According to the Department of Energy Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy, Patricia Hoffman, "a smart grid uses information technology to improve the reliability, availability and efficiency of the electric system: from large generation through the delivery system to electricity consumers and eventually to individual end-uses or appliances." Many consider efforts by the federal government to promote, encourage and support the development of a national smart grid are crucial to California's efforts to integrate renewable energy technologies, meet renewable portfolio standard targets, increase energy efficiency and ensure that electric utilities will be able to continue to provide electricity to their consumers.

     The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (PL 110-140), Section 1301, states that "it is the policy of the United States to support the modernization of the Nation's electricity transmission and distribution system to maintain a reliable and secure electricity infrastructure that can meet future demand growth and to achieve specific benefits." EISA 2007 promotes the increased use of digital technology to improve the grid's reliability, security, and efficiency; dynamic optimization of grid operations and resources, with full cyber-security; facilitation of distributed generation, demand response, and energy efficiency resources; and integration of "smart" appliances and consumer devices, as well as advanced electricity storage and peak-shaving technologies (including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles). The directives and support provided through EISA 2007, efforts by federal, state and local departments, agencies and industry were further advanced last month when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or the economic stimulus bill (PL 111-5), was signed into law by President Obama. The economic stimulus includes $4.5 billion appropriated to DOE for Smart Grid efforts.

     Witnesses at the March 3 hearing included Commissioner Suedeen Kelly, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Patricia Hoffman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability; Patrick Gallagher, Deputy Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Department of Commerce; Frederick Butler, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; Katherine Hamilton, GridWise Alliance; Edward Lu, Google Inc.; and, Evan Gaddis, National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Commissioner Kelly and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Director Hoffman provided testimony that outlined the activities and efforts of DOE and FERC to implement smart grid technologies.

      Deputy Director Patrick Gallagher, Commissioner Frederick Butler, Katherine Hamilton, Edward Lu, and Evan Gaddis discussed the challenges of and opportunities presented by the widespread implementation of smart grid technologies. According to Commissioner Butler, "(the government must) remember that the Smart Grid will only achieve its vast potential if consumers embrace it. While we can certainly see major improvements in efficiencies and reliability by upgrading the transmission and distribution backbone, we will not change consumers' habits and consumption if we are unable to convince them of its promise." Edward Lu, a program manager from California-based Google, Inc. stated that "the United States can build a "smart grid" and bring our 1950s-era electricity infrastructure into the digital age…(by) developing (the) grid in a way that spurs innovation, drives competition, and supplies maximum information to consumers." Lu advocated the development and deployment of smart grid technology in a manner that "empowers consumers with greater information, tools and choices about how they use electricity, including access to real-time energy information" and encouraged the committee to ensure that "energy information be made available based on open non-proprietary standards to spur the development of products and services to help consumers save energy and money."

     Testimony from the March 3, 2009 hearing can be found at: http://energy.senate.gov/ .

     Information about smart grid options can be found at: http://www.oe.energy.gov/smartgrid.htm . Information about California's efforts to implement smart grid technologies can be found at: http://www.energy.ca.gov/. Information about the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 can be found: http://thomas.loc.gov/. Information about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 can be found: http://thomas.loc.gov/ .


Resources: Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Discuss Resource Management Priorities for the 111th Congress

     On March 3, 2009, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Ocean and Wildlife held a hearing entitled, "Managing Our Ocean and Wildlife Resources in a Dynamic Environment: Priorities for the New Administration and the 111th Congress." In her opening statement, Chair Madeleine Bordallo stated that Congress "needs specific, practical, and constructive recommendations and priorities…to develop a new framework to support science-based, information driven, adaptive management of our fish and wildlife resources, both on land and in the ocean."

     Hearing witnesses included: Mark F. Rockefeller, Chairman, Board of Directors, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Peter Kareiva, Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy; Barton H. Thompson Jr, Director, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University and Robert E. Paradise, Professor of Natural Resources Law, Stanford Law School; John Baughman member, Sporting Conservation Council; Shirley A. Pomponi, Executive Director, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University; William Jackson, Deputy Director General, IUCN-USA International Union for Conservation of Nature Multilateral Office; Franklin W. Nutter, President, Reinsurance Association of America; and Brian Rothschild, Professor of Marine Science, School for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts.

     According to Stanford Professor Barton Thompson, "current Congressional legislation already provides many of the management tools and much of the authority and discretion that the government will need to address climate change and other emerging challenges in the coming decades…(but) to provide effective protection, however, the federal government will need to (1) adopt new management approaches focused on creating effective networks of land and ocean reserves and on adapting over time to climate change; (2) collect, analyze, and use information regarding the state of, and trends in, land and marine species and ecosystems in the face of climate change; and (3) coordinate and collaborate more actively among themselves and with state managers, conservation organizations, private landowners, and other local stakeholders."

     Other hearing witnesses, including Chairman Mark F. Rockefeller, agreed with Thompson, stating that "federal agency expenditures on conservation are also so broad and diverse, it is incredibly difficult to comprehend exactly what the Federal government's overall goal is for such spending. With the unanticipated and rapid decline in the economy and also major changes in he political climate, I believe the way to increase conservation funding from private sources is to: 1) Provide clear prioritization of federal goals and objectives; and 2) Create incentives to maintain and increase environmental giving by promoting the partnering of private and federal resources around common goals."

     Full testimony from the hearing can be found at: http://resourcescommittee.house/ .


Energy: Energy & Natural Resources Committee Discuss Draft Legislative Proposal on Energy Research and Development

     On March 5, 2009, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on future directions of energy research and development and the key scientific and technological hurdles that must be overcome to pursue those new directions.

     Witnesses included Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy; George Crabtree, Senior Scientist and Associate Division Director, Argonne National Laboratory; Bob Fri, Visiting Scholar, Resources for the Future; James Bartis, Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Corp.; Deborah Wince-Smith, President, Council on Competitiveness; and Mike Corradini, Director, Wisconsin Institute of Nuclear Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

     The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which President Obama signed into law last month, provides billions of dollars for energy related upgrades, technologies and investments. Included in the measure is $5 billion for low-income home weatherization projects, $4.5 billion to green federal buildings, $6.3 billion to support state and local energy efficiency efforts and renewable energy programs, $6 billion in lean guarantees, $14 billion in tax credits and grants, $2 billion for advanced battery manufacturing and $4.5 billion for grid modernization projects. Secretary Chu outlined the components of the stimulus and articulated a commitment to "getting (the) money into the economy quickly, carefully, and transparently." The Secretary identified steps to creating a stronger energy sector that was capable of addressing complex challenges. He testified: 1) that the government needs to increase funding, citing research by Dan Kammen at U.C. Berkeley that research and development is 3-percent of GDP on average, but only one-tenth that average for energy R&D; and 2) that the government needs to refocus its research dollars by focusing on developing new talent through education, looking to transformational research, and pursuing stronger and broader collaborations and partnerships.

     Full witness testimony can be found at: http://energy.senate.gov/ .


Environment: House Natural Resources Considers Off-Shore Drilling

     The House Committee on Natural Resources concluded its three-part hearing series on off-shore drilling on Wednesday, February 25, 2009. The hearings were aimed at exploring different perspectives on off-shore drilling and brought a wide range of witnesses to the table over a period of three days.

     The first hearing “Off-Shore Drilling: Environmental and Commercial Perspectives” was held on February 11, 2009. California witnesses included Ted Danson of Oceana, Philippe Cousteau of the Ocean Conservancy, Zeke Grader of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations, and Bruce Allen of Stop Oil Seeps California. All witnesses raised concerns over the expansion and continuation of off-shore drilling along the nation’s coastlines. Mr. Grader, who has testified to Congress on the issue of off-shore drilling before, indicated that it was the position of his organization, PCFFA, that Congress and the Administration should reinstate the off-shore oil and gas moratorium. He went on to conclude, that in the event that the moratorium is not reinstated, that North California and other areas of delicate coastline be removed from lease sales, that mitigation measure be established to protect fishing where new drilling is to occur, and that lease sales be consolidated around areas that oil and gas development is taking place to minimize disruption to fishing and coastal communities.

     The second hearing, “Off-Shore Drilling: State Perspectives”, held on February 24, 2009, included California witnesses Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Mike Chrisman. Congressman Sam Farr stated that the “proposed minimal benefits of new drilling operations do not outweigh the potential risks”, and that he disagrees with “concerns...that decreasing US fossil fuel exploitation would result in increased foreign fossil fuel exploitation”. Secretary Chrisman stated that there “should be no ambiguity about where California stands on the issue of off-shore oil and gas leasing off California’s coasts”, the state, under Governor Schwarzenegger has taken a firm stand of opposition. But, the Secretary did indicate that California is working the Minerals Management Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “evaluate options for sustainable off-shore energy production”, such as wave and ocean current technologies.

     The final hearing in the series -- “Off-Shore Drilling: Industry Perspectives”-- was held on February 25, 2009. Witnesses included: Marvin E. Odum, President, Shell Oil Company; Lamar McKay, Chairman and President, BP America, Inc.; Larry Nichols, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Devon Energy Corporation; Tim Cejka, President, ExxonMobil Exploration Company; Gary Luquette, President, Chevron North America Exploration and Production Company; and Karen A. Harbert, President & CEO, Institute for 21st Century Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Industry witnesses generally favored the expanding off-shore drilling and the opening of the outer-continental shelf, citing economic and national security benefits and limited environmental impacts as justification. Shell President Marvin Odum, citing a study recently released by ICF International, stated that “future OCS activities would produce more federal revenues...development of America’s oil and natural gas resources that have been kept off-limits (both offshore and onshore) could generate more than $1.7 trillion in government revenue, create thousands of new jobs and enhance our nation’s energy security.”

     Recorded video webcasts, witness testimony and Chairman Rahall’s opening statements for each of the hearings in this series can be found at http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/ .


Resources: House Science and Technology Committee Discuss Coordinated Federal Approach to Water Planning in the 21st Century

     House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon held a hearing titled "21st Century Water Planning: The Importance of a Coordinated Federal Approach", on March 4, 2009, to discuss current and future efforts relating to the nation’s water resources and to discuss the proposed National Water Research and Development Initiative Act. Witnesses included Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute; Mark Modzelewski, Co-Founder, Water Innovations Alliance; Henry Vaux Jr., Professor Emeritus, University of California at Berkeley; Nancy Stoner, Co-Director, Water Program, National Resources Defense Council; and Christine Furstoss, General Manager for Technology, GE Water and Process Technologies.

     Professor Vaux, Jr. indicated that demand for water may increase as a result of population growth, expansion of irrigated agriculture, and environmental protection. The annual federal investment in water research, according to Vaux, Jr. is approximately $700 million, which is the same in real terms as the annual federal investment in water research in the year 1975. He stated that Congress and the President have historically lacked information about the "size and shape of the entire federal water research portfolio; measures of magnitude and effectiveness of individual elements in the portfolio; an sense of national priorities of water research; and guidance about what might be an appropriate balance among research elements." Vaux, Jr. advocated the passage of the proposed National Water Research and Development Initiative Act because it would "1) require the establishment of a unified national water research agenda; 2) require coordination of water federal research, development, data collection and information dissemination activities; 3) encourage cooperation among federal agencies engaged in water research and technology development; 4) require technology transfer, communication and information exchange with state and local governments, industry and other stakeholders, and would establish an appropriate institutional arrangement, including a requirement for budget coordination in the Executive branch for accomplishing tasks."

     Full witness testimony and more information can be found at http://science.house.gov/ .


Water: Southern California Water Briefing

     At 10:00 am on Wednesday morning, March 11, 2009, representatives from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce will brief California Delegation Members and staff on Southern California’s response to the drought conditions impacting the state.

     To encourage Member attendance, Reps. Grace Napolitano, Ken Calvert, Xavier Becerra, and Lucille Roybal-Allard sent a Dear Colleague letter to the California Delegation urging Members to attend.

     Congressional staff are also invited. To RSVP, contact Jen Silva in Rep. Napolitano’s office at x55256 or Jen.Silva@mail.house.gov .