Agriculture and Energy Update

A Federal Information Service of the NCSL Standing Committee on Agriculture and Energy 

Fall Forum Highlights

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) held its annual Fall Forum Nov. 29th, to Dec. 2nd, in Tampa, FL.  During the forum, three new policy directives and one new resolution were adopted under the committee’s jurisdiction:

Committee members also attended the following informative sessions and material from the meeting, including speaker presentations, can be found here. 

  • Deficit Reduction & the Farm Bill – What’s on the Horizon?:  This session highlighted how the ongoing deficit reduction conversation may impact programs set for reauthorization by Congress in FY2012, such as the upcoming Farm Bill Reauthorization. 
  • Mining Energy Efficiency, the Nation’s Most Affordable Fuel: This session reviewed opportunities for mining energy efficiency and explored policies that can help utilities, consumers and businesses tap into this large energy resource. 
  • Regulating Regulations: This session explored the cumulative impact of pending and final rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when and how cost benefit analysis comes into play during the development of EPA regulations, and efforts in Congress to reign in EPA regulations. 
 

FY 2012 Appropriations Update 

12/23/2011: Before their end of the year recess, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 (H.R. 2055), an omnibus appropriations bill, which includes $915 billion in discretionary spending.  While most FY 2012 funding for agricultural programs was addressed in November through the Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act of 2012 (PL 112-55), the most recent omnibus did include approximately $4 billion in funding for the U.S. Forest Service, as well as funding for energy, water, and environment programs. 

For energy and water programs, the Department of Energy (DOE) – as well as related agencies - received $25.7 billion in funding, a 1percent reduction as compared to FY 2011. This allocation provided increases in spending for nuclear defense programs, nuclear energy research, and energy related science programs. The State Energy Program (SEP) remained flat-funded at $50 million in FY 2012.  The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) received $69 million in funding, a 61percent percent reduction over FY2011 funding. 

For environmental programs, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received $8.5 billion for general EPA programs and management, a 3 percent less than FY 2011. This reduction will impact several EPA grant programs.  The Clean Water State Revolving Fund received approximately $1.5 billion, a 3.6 percent reduction in funding as compared to FY 2011.  The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund received $918 million, 4.7 percent less than FY 2011 funding. The omnibus also contained provisions preventing EPA from regulating livestock related greenhouse gas emissions or from imposing greenhouse gas emission reporting requirements.

The conference report for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 (H.R. 2055) can be found here

 

From the Department of Energy (DOE) 

12/12/2011: DOE released more than $7 million to fund four programs in California, Washington and Oregon for innovative hydrogen storage technologies in electric vehicles. 

12/01/2011: DOE released $12 million to attract developers to solar energy with their Rooftop Solar Challenge Program.

 

From the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

12/29/2011: EPA recently updated its Pesticide General Permit (PGP) website with the following:

  • A series of webinars were held and are now archived addressing the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court’s decision on the Clean Water Act National Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and reviewing EPA-state partnership in implementing the NPDES permit requirements for pesticide discharges. EPA will hold additional webinars that will be announced via EPA’s NPDES Training Courses and Workshops website.
  • A fact sheet providing information specifically for agricultural stakeholders on the Pesticide General Permit. 

12/27/2011: EPA released their finalized 2012 renewable fuel standards for four fuel categories. The final 2012 overall volumes and standards are: 

  • Biomass-based diesel (1.0 billion gallons; 0.91 percent)
  • Advanced biofuels (2.0 billion gallons; 1.21 percent)
  • Cellulosic biofuels (8.65 million gallons; 0.006 percent)
  • Total renewable fuels (15.2 billion gallons; 9.23 percent) 

12/21/2011: EPA issued the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), the first national standards regulating power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. This is the first standard to meet the 20-year old requirement calling for a reduction in smokestack emissions

 

From the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 

12/13/2011: USDA announced changes to its national conservation practice standard for nutrient management with a goal of improving water, air, and soil quality while saving agriculture producers money and enhancing agricultural sustainability.


Additional Resources and Reports of Interest 

NCSL has posted several new or updated issue briefs covering issues of interest for the committee.

New American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Study: The Economic Impact of Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment InfrastructureThis is the second of a series of reports released by ASCE that take a closer look at the economic impacts of our failing infrastructure in America.