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Statement on Signing the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, 1991

November 05, 1990

Today I signed H.R. 5019, the "Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, 1991." I am concerned about the reduced funding provided for the Superconducting Super Collider and basic research programs. These reductions are especially unfortunate because they were used to finance large numbers of economically unjustified water projects in the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.

I do recognize that the Congress kept the funding contained in this Act at a level consistent with the Budget Summit Agreement. It is my hope that one of the features of the caps in the agreement is that it will force a competition for limited funds based on merit. I will be asking the Congress in future budgets for funding based on national priorities rather than narrow interests.

In this regard, I am deeply concerned that the Congress has chosen to reduce programs in scientific research while protecting $170 million of funds earmarked by the Congress for special interest projects. Nowhere is our responsibility to apply Federal funds to our highest national priorities more crucial than in the area of scientific research. Research projects should be selected after competitive evaluation on the basis of merit and research priorities, not on the basis of parochial interest.

Sound public works projects form an important part of our Nation's infrastructure. They should be funded in a manner that minimizes total project costs and fulfills our commitments to nonfederal cost-sharing partners for orderly project development. A number of the Act's provisions and projects relating to the Army Corps of Engineers depart from this principle and concern me deeply.

-- First, many of the dollars are for low-priority projects that are not in the national interest.

-- Second, this Act provides Federal funding for work that in the past has been the responsibility of the local sponsor or property owner.

-- Third, I am concerned that this Act initiates work that the Corps may not be able to finish due to the budget constraints agreed to by this Administration and the Congress for FY 1992 and beyond. I am, therefore, advising the Congress that continued funding of many of these projects may not be accommodated in future budgets.

It is clear that the Congress intends to continue funding construction on some elements of the Garrison Diversion project. However, as recognized by the House, the irrigation features remain a major concern. A task force under the auspices of the Secretary of the Interior has been reviewing possible alternatives. The task force recommendations reinforce Administration policy to not support Federal funding for the completion of irrigation facilities or related principal water supply works. The Administration will consider funding for other features of the project, consistent with budgetary constraints.

Sections 506 and 510 of the Act also raise serious concerns. Section 506 of the Act provides that none of the funds appropriated by H.R. 5019 or any other legislation may be used to conduct studies concerning "the possibility of changing from the currently required `at cost' to a `market rate' or any other noncost-based method for the pricing of hydroelectric power" by Federal power authorities. Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution grants the President authority to recommend to the Congress any legislative measures considered "necessary and expedient." Accordingly, in keeping with the well-settled obligation to construe ambiguous statutory provisions to avoid constitutional questions, I will interpret section 506 so as not to infringe on the Executive's authority to conduct studies that might assist in the evaluation and preparation of such measures.

Section 510 of the Act prohibits the use of appropriated funds to change certain employment levels determined by the Administrators of the Federal Power Marketing Administrations. This provision must be interpreted in light of my constitutional responsibility, as head of the unitary executive branch, to supervise my subordinates. I note in this regard that section 510 does not purport to interfere with my authority, insofar as the Administrators of the Federal Power Marketing Administrations are subject to my direction and control, to direct them to establish and maintain certain employment levels. Rather, it only circumscribes the ability of other executive branch officials to alter such levels once they have been set in a manner satisfactory to me.

George Bush

The White House,

November 5, 1990.

Note: H.R. 5019, approved November 5, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 514.

George Bush, Statement on Signing the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, 1991 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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