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Baldwin Provisions to Protect the Great Lakes and Strengthen Wisconsin’s Innovation Clears Major Senate Hurdle

Language included in appropriations bill passes through committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committees, today applauded the inclusion of several of her provisions in the bipartisan FY16 Energy and Water Development funding legislation, which passed through the committee by a vote of 26-4. The spending bill now heads to the Senate floor.  

“I was proud to include several priorities in this legislation that work in part to protect our Great Lakes and strengthen Made in Wisconsin innovation,” said Senator Baldwin. “However, I have serious concerns that this appropriations bill does nothing to roll back the devastating cuts we’ve seen due to sequestration. Unless Congress can come together on a bipartisan deal to raise these thoughtless budget caps, I have severe reservations about supporting this legislation moving forward.”

Senator Baldwin’s priorities included in the FY16 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill are as follows:

Oil Trains – The increasing prevalence of oil train explosions is especially concerning to Wisconsin.  The state has quickly become one of the most traveled oil train routes in the nation. And while the Obama Administration recently issued new rules to make tank cars shipping oil safer, it took no action on what Senator Baldwin viewed as the most important contributor to these explosions—the volatility of Bakken oil. By the Department of Transportation’s own admission, oil from the Bakken contains high levels of combustible gases that make the crude more dangerous. Senator Baldwin included language in this bill to study the characteristics of crude oil transported by rail. This data will be used to inform our work of setting the national crude-by-rail volatility standard that we so desperately need.

Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) – The committee included language in the legislation requested by Senator Baldwin on NESP, which represents a vital and unique partnership between the commercial, recreational, and environmental advocates of our nation’s inland waterways. Despite bipartisan support over the last decade, we are no closer to NESP implementation. In fact, the program is so delayed that new economic cost benefit analyses must be performed before the program can move forward. Senator Baldwin is concerned that the Army Corps of Engineers has reprogrammed funding into its NESP account, yet has not produced an updated economic analysis.

Asian Carp – This bill will help address a major threat to Wisconsin’s economy—the threat of Asian Carp entering the Great Lakes. This bill presses the Army Corps to move forward more quickly with interim steps to block the northward progress of the carp.  The Great Lakes fishery is a $7 billion industry, and this is just one more step in Senator Baldwin’s efforts to press for action to protect this critical resource.    

Energy-Water Nexus –This bill includes important provisions that will support the work that water and energy manufacturers and researchers in Wisconsin are doing to improve water and energy efficiency.  The bill calls for the Department of Energy to gather better data on water use and track water and energy savings—key information for Wisconsin’s water technology innovators at the Water Council, the Midwest Energy Research Consortium, and elsewhere.  Water scarcity and the need for greater energy efficiency are issues that will define our economic progress in the decades to come. Investing in research and development of energy-water nexus technologies is critical, and the investments in this bill will support Wisconsin companies, researchers, and public-private initiatives that are leading this work.

Supercomputing – This bill makes critical investments in supercomputing for public research and for defense, which will allow us to continue to advance American leadership in supercomputing, provide critical technology to our most difficult research and computational questions, and accelerate the deployment of new computer technology into commerce to benefit the economy. Cray Computing of Chippewa Falls has been building the world’s leading supercomputers for decades and will be competing to develop and build the next generation of supercomputers.

Medical Isotopes – Medical isotopes are critical to American health care, and our country is facing an impending shortage that could compromise medical care for heart and cancer patients, leave doctors without important diagnostic information, and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. This bill takes steps to get our domestic production back on track to ensure we have at least two domestic sources of these essential molecules in 2018.

Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund - Each year, over 160 million metric tons are moved on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway navigation system. The Great Lakes navigation system helps support the domestic economy by reducing transportation costs for manufacturers and lowering the cost of raw materials and goods purchased by consumers and utilities. Unfortunately, a backlog of maintenance and modernization work within the Great Lakes navigation system such as overdue dredging, aging locks, and deteriorating breakwaters and piers reduce the efficiency of the system, causing disruptions, delays, and increased transport costs. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) is an essential tool for addressing the backlog, within the Great Lakes and nationwide. After years of being raided for other expenses, this bill ensures that harbor maintenance tax revenues are increasingly spent on their intended use—harbor maintenance.