Congress trimming domestic spending

February 1, 2005 By    

Federal spending on some energy programs will go down this year, with Congress trimming domestic spending. Final figures are slightly below earlier numbers, due to a 0.8 percent across-the-board budget cut in the omnibus appropriations bill.

 Charles Pekow, Washington Bureau
Charles Pekow, Washington Bureau

As of mid-January, not all federal agencies officially did the math to apply the cuts, so they were faced with a late appropriations bill (signed into law Dec. 9) and simultaneously had to prepare budget requests for 2006.

Numbers still aren’t official, but here’s what federal programs get this year:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) gets $29.9 million for its New Entrant Program to help new motor carriers comply with safety regulations. FMCSA can spend only $2.9 million itself, giving the rest to states.

FMCSA’s Hazardous Materials Permitting Program and Conditional Carrier Review Program each get $1.9 million. FMCSA also gets $11.1 million for Regulatory Development, $198,400 for HAZMAT Sampling and $496,000 each for HAZMAT Routing and to encourage commercial drivers to use safety belts.

FMCSA can give $20.8 million in Commercial Driver’s License Improvement Grants. Congress ordered the agency to initiate a rulemaking process by May 30 to require applicants to show proof of citizenship or legal presence in the United States. Congress also authorized FMCSA to fund projects to ensure that anyone convicted of disqualifying offenses don’t drive.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) gets $84.3 million, State Energy Conservation Grants $44.4 million and Weatherization $228.1 million.

The Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) will get $69.2 million instead of the requested $70 million, but it will hire four more pipeline inspectors.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program receives $1.9 billion for the regular account and $297.6 million for the contingency fund. The general fund includes $27.8 million for the Leveraging Incentive Fund.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced last December that it was releasing $100 million of the contingency fund already, and as Congress reconvened, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) introduced a bill that would limit up to 50 percent the amount of LIHEAP funds usable for heating.

Briefly Speaking

Notes from Capitol Hill

  • Decrease in random drug testing

The Research & Special Programs Administration stated that this year pipeline operators will have to test only 25 percent of employees randomly for drugs. Tests show less than 1 percent of employees use drugs and don’t justify a higher test rate.

  • HAZMAT regulations finalized

RSPA issued final rules harmonizing hazmat regulations with United Nations recommendations concerning shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, etc., that will cover international transit. Details: Dec. 20 Federal Register.

  • Delay in hazardous materials rules

RSPA announced the second delay in the effective date of its new rules regarding the applicability of the hazardous materials regulations to loading, unloading and storage. They won’t take effect until June 1 while RSPA continues to examine shippers’ concerns.

  • LP Gas consumption to rise

Consumption of LPG will rise an average of 0.9 percent a year over the next 20 years, predicts EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2005. The report noted a decline in consumption in 2003, but forecasts a rebound by 2010. EIA sees only a 0.5 percent annual growth in commercial use, but a 1.2 percent rise in industrial consumption and a 6 percent a year increase in transportation.

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