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House endorses current-year spending with $40 million for hydro R&D

The House passed a $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill Feb. 25 that includes $40 million for the Department of Energy's hydropower research and development program, an increase of $30 million over current appropriations for the program.

The House passed the new bill to fund the federal government through September -- the end of the current 2009 fiscal year -- on a vote of 245-178. The Senate is expected to take up its version of the bill March 2.

Congress last year failed to approve most major appropriations bills for the current year. As a result, it passed a "continuing resolution" to fund the government at existing levels into March 2009, after the new president took office. (HNN 9/29/08) That measure contained $10 million for DOE's hydro R&D program, the same amount Congress appropriated for fiscal 2008.

Lawmakers now face a March 6 deadline either to pass another continuing resolution to keep the government operating, or to pass an omnibus bill to fund the budget through the end of September.

The new spending bill would provide a total of $40 million -- the existing $10 million plus another $30 million in new money -- for research and development in tidal and ocean/marine renewable technologies, including demonstration programs, and for conventional hydropower research, development, and deployment. The new bill also instructs DOE to use its marine sciences laboratory to expand marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy programs.

Senate and House committees last year endorsed $30 million and $40 million for hydropower R&D in 2009 fiscal year, but those appropriations did not see floor action before final adjournment.

With the omnibus spending bill, the new Congress is trying to catch up with the current fiscal year just as President Obama is releasing the outline of his spending plan for the coming fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. He said Feb. 24 his new budget would invest $15 billion a year on renewables, mainly wind and solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient motor vehicles. Obama said he planned to double renewable energy production over three years and to erect thousands of miles of transmission lines to deliver remote renewables to load centers. (HNN 2/25/09)

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