On 21 July 2009, the House of Representatives passed legislation to authorize funding for seven National Environmental Research Parks (NERPs) by a vote of 330 to 96. The NERPs have existed since as early as 1972, and since then have been used by Department of Energy (DOE) scientists for long term ecological studies investigating the environmental risks posed by energy technologies, and studying environmental remediation and restoration techniques. Sponsored by Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), HR 2729 authorizes consistent funding for the parks for the purpose of sustaining and expanding research activities. The legislation authorizes $5 million to be appropriated through the Office of Science for each NERP for each of the fiscal years 2010 through 2014. The seven parks collectively represent six major ecosystems and are located in Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington states. The bill now awaits action by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Another change for the DOE would be the establishment of a new social sciences research program. Sponsored by Representative Brian Baird (D-WA), HR 3247 would authorize $10 million annually over six years for a social and behavioral sciences research program within DOE. A goal of the program would be to better understand why people make certain decisions about energy technologies in an effort to spur greater market adaptation. The bill passed the House Science and Technology Committee on 30 July 2009 on a 22-10 party line vote.
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