Brief

DOE will shutter office focused on international clean energy development

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Energy is closing down the Office of International Climate and Technology (OICT) and eliminating 11 positions there, according to multiple media reports. 
  • The office coordinated DOE participation in international forums that focus on clean energy and the environment, but federal officials say the efforts were duplicative and can be better handled in other offices.
  • The closure comes alongside other efforts from President Trump to pull the United Sates out of the global conversation over climate change. Earlier this month, the White House announced it would withdraw from the United Nations Paris climate accord, sparking widespread criticism. 

Dive Insight:

A federal office focused on international climate change issues will be closed, with the decision announced just before Energy Secretary Rick Perry left for the a Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in China in early June.

OICT plays a lead role in organizing that event, NYT pointed out, and has helped India move forward with programs meant to help the country modernize lighting. 

Since taking office, President Trump has been working to roll back rules and restrictions on energy production, and has weakened the United States commitment to global climate change work. Federal officials say the country remains involved in the efforts, but must ensure it is not stifling economic development.

The Paris accord, for instance, was signed by 195 nations at the end of 2015 under President Obama. But Trump called the accord a "bad deal for Americans" that "disadvantages the United States at the exclusive advantage of other countries."

The global agreement aims to limit global warming to 2°C this century.

A DOE spokeswoman told The Hill that the work done by OICT can be handled in other offices. “The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has an International Affairs team, while the International Affairs Office has a renewables team,” Shaylyn Hynes  said. 

Eliminating OICT also comes as President Trump has proposed significant cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, slashing the agency's budget by $2.6 billion to $5.7 billion — a cut of more than 31%. And the White House is also proposing cuts to research at the Department of Energy. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see a 69% budget cut compared with 2016 levels; the Office of Fossil Energy budget would be reduced 44%; the Office of Nuclear Energy budget would decline by nearly 30%

The budget would close down 50 programs and lay off about 20% of the agency's 15,000 employees. Already, reports emerged that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed to reserve $12 million for voluntary buyouts and early retirements.

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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy
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