Reps. Huffman & McClintock Slam Inclusion of Zombie Coal Earmark in 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill

May 11, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) slammed the House Appropriations Committee for reviving a “zombie” coal earmark in the newly released 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill. On a bipartisan basis, the House voted last year to approve a Huffman-McClintock amendment to ensure that the Defense Department would not need to spend money to unnecessarily ship Pennsylvania coal 3,000 miles to American bases in Germany. In drafting the fiscal year 2017 bill, however, the Appropriations Committee once again included language with the same practical effect in a discussion draft, which will be considered by the committee today.

The “zombie” earmark, which was first included in the defense spending bill in 1972, costs millions of dollars annually by requiring the Department of Defense to purchase anthracite coal from Pennsylvania to heat military bases at Kaiserslautern, Germany. Until the Huffman-McClintock effort last year to bury the nearly half-century old earmark, Congress had approved the congressional earmark every year since 1972.

Unfortunately, despite the House’s clear rejection of the policy in 2015, the Appropriations Committee has now resuscitated this earmark. While the new legislative language has the appearance of bolstering U.S. energy exports generally, its practical impact remains the same: spending taxpayer dollars to ship coal 3,000 miles to American bases in Germany.

“Last year, Congress finally acted to save taxpayers millions of dollars each year by ridding ourselves of this zombie earmark. But like a bad sequel it’s back this year, sneaking into the 2017 Defense Appropriations bill under a new name. Even though Congress worked on a bipartisan basis last year to bury this bad idea, it just won’t die,” Huffman said. “There’s no reason we should burn dirty coal—and our taxpayer dollars—to power our military bases, and I look forward to working once again with my Republican colleagues, along with taxpayer and environmental groups, to ensure that this wasteful and earmark is removed from the final Defense Appropriations bill.”

“I don’t support the war on coal, but I do support the war on waste.  The congressional mandate that one Air Force Base in Germany must purchase Pennsylvania anthracite coal, at a price much more expensive than commonly used coal – and then pay to have it delivered across the ocean – is waste at its worst.  This provision was finally removed by House action last year, but inexplicably has reappeared in the discussion draft of the defense appropriations bill,” McClintock said.  “The Pentagon and successive Presidents have consistently protested this waste, but these protests have fallen on deaf ears in Congress even while we’re told that our defense spending has been cut to the bone.” 

For years, the Department of Defense and the annual President’s budget have urged Congress to remove this earmark and allow the use of cheaper fuel to power its military bases. Huffman and McClintock’s amendment in 2015 was supported by the following national organizations:

·         Taxpayers for Common Sense

·         Taxpayers Protection Alliance

·         National Taxpayers Union

·         Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW)

·         The Coalition to Reduce Spending

·         EarthJustice

·         League of Conservation Voters

·         Sierra Club

·         Environment America

·         Public Citizen

·         Peace Action West