Committee on Science and Technology
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Press Releases :: October 7, 2009

Committee Passes Legislation to Prevent and Control Harmful Algal Blooms, Improve Solar Technology, and Research the Link between Water and Energy Resources

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology approved three bills (H.R. 3650, H.R. 3585, H.R. 3598) to create interagency strategies and comprehensive regional plans to prevent and control harmful algal blooms; improve solar technology research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) programs; and understand the link between water and energy resources.
 
“These three bills target several important research needs. As always we appreciate the Minority offering a number of valuable ideas and suggestions, and we have worked hard to incorporate almost all of them in an effort to improve these bipartisan bills,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN)
 
H.R. 3650, Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2009, passed the Committee by a voice vote.  The bill, co-authored by Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) and Research and Science Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), requires an Interagency Task Force to create a National Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Program to address and reduce marine and freshwater harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.
 
Harmful algal blooms are rapid overproduction of algal cells. The algal cells produce toxins that are hazardous to plants, animals, and humans. Humans can become ill from drinking or swimming in this water or from consuming seafood that is contaminated from the toxins. Harmful algal blooms and hypoxia cost the U.S. seafood and tourism industries approximately $82 million annually, according to a conservative estimate from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
 
“Our oceans are dying right before our eyes. Fifty percent of the air we breathe, or every other breath we take, comes from oxygen created by the ocean. Harmful algal blooms present a terrifying problem that could prove catastrophic to the Northwest economy, and out personal health. Unfortunately, despite years of research, the frequency and duration of the harmful algal blooms and hypoxia are on the rise, and affecting more of our coastlines and inland waters,” said Baird. “This bill directs NOAA to implement research strategies and plans to better understand and respond to these blooms and hypoxic events.”
 
The Committee approved a manager’s amendment from Subcommittee Chairman Baird and Subcommittee Ranking Member Ehlers.
 
“The manager’s amendment responds to some of the concerns of NOAA, EPA, and the many groups represented by the expert witnesses we heard from a few weeks ago. The amendment also makes changes to provide clarifications for the intent of the language,” said Baird. “This amendment is the product of discussions between majority and Minority staff.  The amendment strengthens the bill to ensure an effective approach to addressing both marine and freshwater harmful algal blooms.” 
 
H.R. 3585, Solar Technology Roadmap Act, passed the Committee by a voice vote. This legislation would require the Secretary of Energy to create a comprehensive process for creating a roadmap for solar RD&D activities. The roadmap will cover a broad range of important research areas, including solar power, solar manufacturing, solar heating and cooling, and integration of solar technologies into buildings. It will incorporate expertise from both the public and private sectors to provide recommendations on ways to address short-term, mid-term, and long-term RD&D needs.
 
“The United States has some of the best solar resources of any industrialized country in the world – enough to power the whole country several times over. This country actually invented the first photovoltaic technologies, and we still have some of the smartest, most talented people in the world working to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar cells today. But in order to use our precious research dollars as effectively as possible, these people need a long-term plan,” stated bill author Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). “This bill would require DOE to engage diverse stakeholders in the solar community and work across programs to create a comprehensive plan – a roadmap – to guide funding for the research needed to make the U.S. theglobal center for solar innovation.”
 
The Committee approved amendments from Subcommittee Chairwoman Giffords, Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI), Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Vice Chairman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL),Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA).
 
“We worked very closely with the Minority in crafting this amendment, and the vast majority of the text was suggested or provided by my colleagues and their staff on the other side of the aisle,” said Giffords. “Beyond technical changes, the amendment adds important language to address potential issues of conflicts of interest among the Roadmap Committee members, and it provides further guidance on establishing a photovoltaic materials database.”
 
“There is a great potential to revitalize the American manufacturing base by strengthening the domestic solar industry.  While states like Michigan and many others certainly have the existing infrastructure and workforce to manufacture more solar technologies, the United States continues to lag behind China, Japan, and Europe in the production of solar energy materials.  We must invest now to take advantage of the full economic benefits of a growing solar industry.  My amendment states that the Secretary will strongly consider projects utilizing solar technologies manufactured in the United States in carrying out DOE’s demonstration program, and consider states with the highest unemployment rates when providing awards under this program,” said Peters.
 
“States like New Mexico are positioned to be leaders in solar energy production. But we must invest in technology that will make it easier to transfer power from region to region with minimum energy loss. My amendment expands the long distance transmission research and development provision of the Solar Technology Roadmap to encourage the development of advanced direct current and superconducting technologies that have the potential to carry significant levels of power over long distances,” stated Luján.
 
H.R. 3598, Energy and Water Research Integration Act, passed the Committee by a voice vote.  The bill requires the Secretary of Energy to integrate water-related issues into DOE’s current energy and energy efficiency RD&D programs. Water and energy go hand in hand. Water is required to generate energy and produce fuel, and energy is required to process, pump, and distribute water. Both resources are expected to be in greater demand in the coming years. In addition, this bill creates the Energy-Water Architecture Council (EWAC), a program within DOE, to coordinate with the industry, academics and other relevant federal agencies to collect and report interagency data.
 
“The country faces immense challenges with increased demand on our energy and water resources.  H.R. 3598 will provide us with new tools to meet specific technical challenges occurring at the nexus of energy and water,” said bill author Chairman Gordon. “This legislation is the product of several recommendations from five Committee hearings on water and several reports from the National Academies, the Government Accountability Office, the National Science Technology Council, and the Department of Energy.”
 
The Committee approved amendments from Chairman Gordon, Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Vice Chairwoman Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Ranking Member Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).
 
“The manager’s amendment makes a series of changes throughout H.R. 3598 that are the result of good suggestions put forward by the Minority staff, and we thank you for those insightful comments,” added Chairman Gordon. “Section 2 of H.R. 3598 is amended to ensure the Secretary of Energy minimizes wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars by collaborating and coordinating with other agencies and within the programs of the Department to avoid duplication of research efforts. The amendment makes certain that the Secretary shall not unnecessarily delay or disrupt programs or projects of the Department.”
 
“This amendment takes a simple and effective step to ensure we make the best use of our water and energy resources,” said Dahlkemper. “Conservation goes hand in hand with cost-saving and fiscal sustainability. My amendment helps ensure that conservation of our resources is a priority in water and energy system planning as our infrastructure is upgraded now and in the future.”
 
“Texas can provide the rest of the United States with an affordable, American source of energy—natural gas,” said Johnson, whose amendment would improve technologies to treat and utilize produced waters from natural gas. “My amendment ensures that we are doing what we can to efficiently and effectively access this valuable resource.”
 
On September 30, all three bills passed the Energy and Environment Subcommittee by voice vote and were reported favorably. 
 
For more information, including on the Committee’s work on harmful algal blooms, solar technology, or the integration of energy and water, please see the Committee’s website.
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