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January 05, 2001   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
January 05, 2001

"WASHINGTON, D.C." U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Alabama, has been selected to chair the powerful House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. The appointment is great news for Alabama farmers, according to Keith Gray, a lobbyist for the Alabama Farmers Federation.

"This is an important appointment because we have so many miles of navigable waterways in our state," Gray said. "Agriculture depends on those waterways for movement of crops, grains and virtually all agricultural products."

Callahan's appointment also could help farmers handle future drought situations, Gray added.

"Last year's drought pointed out the need for better allocation of our water resources," he said. "Callahan will be in a key position to implement changes that we need."

For the past six years, Callahan has served as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs. Because House Republican Conference rules limit the terms of subcommittee chairmen to six years, it was necessary for Callahan to relinquish that position. The energy and water chairmanship became open when former subcommittee chairman Ron Packard, R-Calf., retired at the end of the 106th Congress.

"I enjoyed chairing Foreign Ops more than I ever imagined," Callahan said. "When I became chairman in 1995, I'll be the first to admit I had a lot to learn. I will remain on the subcommittee and intend to be quite active there."

The Energy and Water Subcommittee provides funding for all Corps of Engineers water resources projects, including Mobile Harbor, the Intracoastal Waterway, and maintenance of navigable rivers such as the Alabama-Coosa and Black Warrior-Tombigbee systems.

In addition, it has jurisdiction over several Interior Department programs, the Department of Energy, and a number of independent agencies. In FY 2001, the Energy and Water Development Bill provided a total of $23.59 billion in new discretionary spending authority for these programs.

In taking over the reins of Energy and Water, Callahan becomes the second Alabamian in the past decade to head this influential subcommittee. Former Rep. Tom Bevill, D-Jasper, became a legend in some parts of Alabama during the many years he chaired Energy and Water.

"Make no mistake, Tom Bevill was a good chairman," Callahan said. "He particularly knew how to look out for Alabama's best interests from this position," he said. "But in many ways, times have changed somewhat since Tom was in Congress. Today, the federal government is running a surplus, not a deficit. Moreover, there is a real commitment by the majority in Congress to paying off our federal debt."

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