How the DOE Funds Your Paycheck: Part One

If you are an atomic worker, your paycheck is dependent on federal government funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) and the agency’s allocations for clean-up activities.

Of course, your paycheck directly comes from the DOE contractor, but the contractor gets its funding for cleanup and other projects from the agency.

The funding process is like a maze and subject to administrative and congressional policies, priorities and politics. Now that Congress and President Trump have signed a two-year budget deal, they have until October 1—the beginning of the federal government’s fiscal year—to pass 12 funding bills. Whether that happens depends on the political and policy roadblocks along the way.

House Passes Energy Funding Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives took the first step by passing 10 of the 12 funding bills. This included on June 19 a package of four appropriations bills that will fund federal departments, including the DOE, from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020.

Under the House bill the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) would receive $7.175 billion in funding for nuclear waste cleanup at 16 sites—an amount equal to money received for fiscal year 2019, but an increase of $706 million above President Trump’s budget request.

Uranium enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) work would receive $873 million, an increase of $32 million above the fiscal year 2019 level and $158 million above the President’s budget request.

Funding Process

Ten of the 12 funding bills contain provisions Republicans oppose, so it may be unlikely these bills will pass the Republican-controlled Senate.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has not taken action on any of the 12 funding bills, and with the House and Senate recessed for August, there will only be three weeks after Congress returns to resolve funding issues.

This is a short timeframe considering the appropriations process. The House and Senate appropriations committees divide the budget resolution allocations among 12 appropriations subcommittees in each chamber. These subcommittees hold public hearings and prepare appropriations bills. Next, the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate vote on each subcommittee’s funding bill. Then, the full House and Senate vote on each appropriations bill.

A House-Senate conference committee would resolve any differences between the House and Senate appropriations bills. Then, they would go to the President to sign or veto.

If Congress and the President cannot reach a formal funding agreement, Congress will have to pass and the President will sign a Continuing Resolution (CR) or an omnibus bill containing any unfinished funding bills to prevent a government shutdown. The CR funds the government at 2019 levels to give negotiators more time to get a funding deal. It usually goes into early or mid-December, setting up another funding deadline before the holidays.

Next Steps

The media reported that Senate Republicans are thinking of merging three appropriations bills—defense; labor, health and human services; and energy and water development—during Senate debate in September. If this happens and the Senate passes the bills, a large chunk of the federal government would be immune to a shutdown.

At the 2019 National Cleanup Workshop on Sept. 10-12 in Alexandria, Va., Congressional leadership and staff will discuss current and future funding for DOE’s Environmental Management program.

The DOE then determines how much money to allocate to each cleanup site, and its budget gives an idea of its priorities. Read about the DOE’s budget and factors influencing the money allocated to each site in Part Two of “It is Time to Fund Your Paycheck” next month.

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