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Subcommittee Approves Bills to Control Harmful Algal Blooms, Improve Solar Technology, and Examine the Link between Energy and Water Resources

Sep 30, 2009
Press Release

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Committee on Science and Technology’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee approved bills to prevent and control harmful algal blooms; to create a roadmap process for a comprehensive solar technology research, development, and demonstration program; and to research the link between energy and water resources.

The Subcommittee approved H.R. 3650, Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2009 by voice vote. H.R. 3650, authored by Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) and Research and Science Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), requires federal agencies to create a comprehensive and integrated strategy to address and reduce harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. 

“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 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to implement research strategies and plans to better understand and respond to these blooms and hypoxic events.” 

Harmful algal blooms are a rapid overproduction of algal cells that produce toxins which are hazardous to animals and plants. When the blooms occur, they block sunlight in water and use up the available oxygen in the water, which causes hypoxia, severe oxygen depletion. The toxins the alga create can be dangerous to people when they drink or swim in the contaminated water or consume seafood that have ingested these toxins. Environmental changes in water quality, temperature, and sunlight or an increase in nutrients in the water can cause blooms to increase dramatically.  

The Subcommittee approved amendments to H.R. 3650 from Subcommittee Chairman Baird and Subcommittee Ranking Member Ehlers (manager’s amendment) and Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Vice Chairwoman Donna Edwards (D-MD).

“I support Chairman Baird's efforts in introducing this bill and establishing a national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program,” said Subcommittee Vice Chairwoman Edwards.  “I am pleased that my amendment,   which would ensure that this program addresses this problem in all of our waterways, specifically the Chesapeake Bay, was adopted.  The Chesapeake Bay is the largest fresh water estuary in the country, and the health and welfare of the Bay is a top priority of mine.”   

The Subcommittee approved H.R. 3598, Energy and Water Research Integration Act by voice vote.  H.R. 3598, authored by Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), directs the Secretary of Energy to integrate water-related issues into the Department of Energy‘s (DOE) existing energy and energy efficiency research, development and demonstration programs. In addition, the bill directs the Secretary of Energy, in coordination with other relevant federal agencies, to establish the Energy-Water Architecture Council (EWAC) to provide improved energy and water resource data collection, reporting and technological innovation. DOE would lead EWAC.

“To meet our future demands for both energy and water we will need to better understand the critical linkages between these two important resources,” said Committee Chairman Gordon.  “After five Committee hearings on water, including one specifically related to the energy-water nexus, this legislation is the result of serious investigation by the Committee.  H.R. 3598 has been informed by witness testimonies and reports from the National Academies, the Government Accountability Office, the National Science Technology Council, and the Department of Energy. This legislation provides additional tools in a national effort to address the growing problems related to supply and quality of water and energy, and augments the interagency coordination effort laid out in my other bill, H.R. 1145, The National Water Research and Development Initiative Act of 2009.”

Water is needed to generate energy and produce fuel, and energy is needed to pump, treat, and distribute water.  The need for energy is growing at the same time that water supply shortages are predicted.  Research, development and demonstration of technologies that will meet the needs for both resources is necessary.

The Subcommittee approved a manager’s amendment to H.R. 3598 from Committee Chairman Gordon.

“The manager’s amendment makes a series of changes throughout H.R. 3598 to clarify the intent of the legislation and to incorporate recommendations from witnesses. In addition, this amendment is the product of good suggestions put forward by the Minority, and we thank you for those insightful comments,” added Committee Chairman Gordon.   

The Subcommittee approved H.R. 3585, Solar Technology Roadmap Act by voice vote.  H.R. 3585, Sponsored by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a comprehensive roadmapping process for solar research, development, and demonstration activities which would include input from both the public and private sectors. DOE’s solar technology program includes research in photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, solar hot water, solar space heating and cooling, solar lighting, solar manufacturing, and integration of solar technology in buildings. Overall, this roadmap will use research dollars as effectively as possible. 

“The Solar Technology Roadmap will help take solar research and development in the United States to a new level,” said Giffords. “It is rooted in the common sense belief that we need a detailed plan in place to tackle the energy technology challenges confronting our nation. In the private sector, success is built on a business plan. We need to follow that example. My legislation is aimed at charting the course for federally-funded solar research, development, and demonstration projects. It will help the Department of Energy to allocate research and development funds wisely, thereby helping to advance emerging solar technologies quickly and effectively.”

The Subcommittee approved an amendment to H.R. 3585 from Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD).

All three bills passed 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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111.118

111th Congress